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Want to Quit Smoking? Understand Your Options

What Is Smoking Cessation

You probably know that smoking cigarettes can increase your risk of lung diseases, such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis. It can also put you at a higher risk of developing lung cancer. But nicotine addiction is sometimes very challenging to overcome. Fortunately, there are various methods of smoking cessation to help you kick the habit.

Smoking cessation refers to quitting smoking. Quitting smoking is not always easy due to the psychological and physical dependence on nicotine. But, the vast majority of people that smoke want to quit at some point in their life. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — in the United States, about seven out of ten smokers reported they wanted to quit.

The good news is that it’s possible to quit smoking successfully. Thousands of people stop every year. Finding the best method for you may take a little trial and error, but it is worth the effort to be smoke-free.

Smoking Cessation Methods

There is not a “best” smoking cessation method. Specific strategies may help some people and not others. Studies have shown the effectiveness of certain methods, such as nicotine replacement therapy. However, research does not prove all alternative treatments are as effective. In some instances, a combination of smoking cessation methods may be the most helpful.

The decision to quit smoking is one of the best things you can do to take charge of your health. Below are several smoking cessation strategies to consider.

Nicotine Replacement Therapy

Nicotine replacement therapy is one of the most frequently used smoking cessation methods. It helps decrease the symptoms of withdrawal by slowly weaning you off nicotine with a controlled dose.

Symptoms of nicotine withdrawal can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Increased appetite
  • Headaches
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Irritability

People that are trying to quit may return to smoking due to withdrawal side effects. When side effects are minimized, it may be easier to break the habit.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the following forms of nicotine replacement therapy:

  • Gum
  • Skin patches
  • Lozenges
  • Nasal sprays
  • Inhalers

Nicotine replacement therapy in the form of nasal sprays and inhalers requires a prescription. Gum, skin patches, and lozenges can be bought over the counter. Each type of nicotine replacement therapy comes in different strengths that can be gradually reduced.

Nicotine replacement therapy helps decrease cravings by releasing a lower dose of nicotine that is also more slowly absorbed. It also does not expose you to the other chemicals found in cigarettes.

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Hypnosis

Hypnosis is an alternative method for quitting smoking. Although clinical studies have not proven that hypnosis works for smoking cessation, it may be useful for some people. It is also an option for people that do not want to use medication or nicotine replacement therapy.

The theory behind hypnosis for smoking cessation is that it will relax your mind, make you more open to the power of suggestion and induce a negative association with smoking. If you want to give hypnosis a try, be sure to find a licensed therapist that does hypnotherapy.

Prescription Medication

A few different prescription medications are available to help you quit smoking. Bupropion (Zyban) works on the chemicals in your brain involved in nicotine cravings. At the same time, it increases other chemicals in the brain, which decrease withdrawal symptoms. The drug is taken for 12 weeks.

To prevent a relapse, it can be continued for another three to six months.
Another option is varenicline (Chantix). Varenicline affects the nicotine receptors in the brain and decreases both nicotine withdrawal symptoms and the desire for cigarettes. It is also taken for 12 weeks and can be continued for another three months to reduce the risk of relapse.

Both medications can cause side effects, including: depressed mood, irritability and aggression. It’s important to talk with your doctor to weigh the risks of the medication with the benefits of quitting smoking.

Cognitive Behavior Counseling

Cognitive behavior counseling (CBT) is a drug-free way to quit smoking. CBT can help you identify negative thought patterns that influence your actions and replace them with positive thoughts. This type of counseling is used to treat various issues including anxiety, phobias and substance abuse.

CBT for smoking cessation helps you identify triggers for smoking and develop ways to deal with cravings. It may also involve finding new ways to cope with stress instead of smoking. Studies have shown that counseling, in addition to nicotine replacement therapy, is more effective than nicotine replacement therapy alone.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture has been used for centuries to treat various conditions including pain, infertility and substance abuse. Acupuncture promotes relaxation and it may trigger the production of endorphins, which are natural pain relievers. To help with smoking cessation, it’s thought that acupuncture may reduce nicotine withdrawal symptoms.

Studies have not proven the effectiveness of acupuncture to quit smoking. However, it may be worth a try for some people that want alternative methods.

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