It’s hard to kick a habit you’ve been doing most of your life. Many people begin smoking as a teen, and if you’re in your 60’s or older now, you might remember how glamorous smoking was believed to be. In fact, some believed that nicotine helped to clean out toxins in your body.
Of course, all of this has changed. It’s known that nicotine doesn’t help your body; instead it can cause cancer and create ill health. And it’s rarely, if at all, seen as glamorous. Today, smoking is frequently seen as an unhealthy habit that comes with an unpleasant odor. And for some parts of the country currently experiencing severe droughts, such as California, smoking can be a fire hazard. More and more people are seeing reasons to quit.
If you’re a recovering addict you might know the challenges of being addicted to a substance. In fact, one study found that nicotine receptors in the brain actually improved mood in certain types of depression. This study also found that those who smoke are more likely to have symptoms of depression than those who do not. Depression is associated with an increased risk for smoking, and research has found that smoking is often a behavior that depressed adults engage in as a way to soothe their symptoms. In addition to the physical dependence, for some, there is also a psychological dependence to nicotine.
In fact, someone with anxiety might also find relief cigarette smoking. Research shows that when an individual smokes, nicotine raises levels of attention and triggers a flood of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a chemical that relaxes and temporarily relieves anxiety. Like other drugs that activate dopamine, the result of regular nicotine intake turns off the natural switch for dopamine, and the long term supply of this brain chemical decreases over time. Despite the perceived ease of symptoms from depression and anxiety, research also indicates that nicotine actually increases anxiety over time.
If you’re ready to quit, there are many methods to do so. Just like quitting drugs and alcohol, it’s going to require your willingness. And it might even require a firm decision that you’re going to do it. You might need to mark on a calendar the day you’re going to quit and the tools you’ll need to do it. Here are a few tools that can help you slowly wean off nicotine:
You might also try talking to your doctor. He or she can prescribe medication to help you quit. For example, antidepressants are sometimes prescribed to help quite smoking. Because nicotine tends to help lift one’s mood, taking an anti-depressant might actually replace the need for nicotine. Bupropion is a drug that is sometimes prescribed to help people resist the urge to smoke. Keep in mind that side effects include insomnia, dry mouth, dizziness, headaches, and nausea.
Another drug to try is Varenicline. This drug was specifically designed to address nicotine dependence. Although this drug is successful for some people, it comes with some serious health warnings from the Food and Drug Administration.
With a firm decision to quit, willingness to meet the initial discomforts, and the above tools, it’s possible to bring your nicotine addiction to an end.
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