How to Quit Smoking – 4 Proven Strategies

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With every decision to stop smoking comes a collective sigh of relief from friends and family.

Although many things we ingest have been linked to cancer, the connection between smoking and ill health is so irrefutable that experts do not even recommend smoking in moderation.

If you’ve been smoking cigarettes for some time, you may find it difficult to stop.

You may have even tried before without success.

Here’s the good news: you are fully capable of quitting cigarettes.

If you’re feeling discouraged because of past failures, don’t.

What works for some people may not work for others.

That’s why there are so many ways to quit smoking.

It’s all about making the commitment and sticking to it as you try various ways to wean off tobacco.

Browse the following list of ways to quit smoking to see which you would like to try first.

Remember, if one doesn’t seem to be working, all is not lost; simply try another method.

 

Quitting Cigarettes Cold Turkey

 

This method is about as harsh as it sounds, but according to the American Cancer Society, 90% of smokers who try to quit do it by going cold turkey.

This means that they aren’t using any sort of nicotine replacement or behavioral therapy.

This doesn’t mean that it works for 90% of smokers.

Actually, it only works for about 4% to 7% of people.

If you want to go cold turkey, all you have to do is stop smoking.

We can certainly file that under the category of easier said than done, but it does work for some strong-willed people.

You should know that you run the risk of experiencing the most severe withdrawal symptoms by quitting cold turkey.

Nicotine detox symptoms include:

  • Headaches
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of concentration
  • Irritability
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Heightened stress
  • Nausea
  • Constipation

 

Behavioral Therapy

 

Depending on whether your insurance covers behavioral therapy for addiction, this may be an expensive option.

It involves talking with a counselor to come up with a personalized approach to quitting.

It includes finding your personal triggers and formulating a plan to avoid them.

Similar to detoxing from alcohol or other drugs, many people find that it’s helpful to have some emotional support to help them through the process.

You may opt for a private counselor or you may wish to attend group sessions.

You can also combine behavioral therapy with other methods of quitting like nicotine replacement.

 

Medication

 

Medication is rarely the first choice in anyone’s journey to quit smoking.

Because side effects can be severe, prescription medications are usually used as a last resort for smokers who have unsuccessfully tried all other methods of quitting.

The following are prescriptions that are given to help people stop smoking.

  • Bupropion – This medication is used as an anti-depressant and a smoking cessation aid. Common side effects include allergic reactions, skin rashes, chest pain and trouble breathing, eye pain and seizures.
  • Varenicline – This medication is also known by the brand name Chantix. It’s usually used as part of a comprehensive program to help someone stop smoking. Common side effects include allergic reactions, skin rashes, chest pain and trouble breathing, hallucinations and seizures.

 

Nicotine Replacement Therapy

 

When you quit smoking, there are almost always side effects of withdrawal.

Some people choose to deal with them until they’re gone (see cold turkey above), but most people find a better success rate when they use nicotine replacement products.

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) provides your body with small amounts of nicotine through gum, sprays, patches, inhalers or lozenges.

The benefit to these NRT products is that you’re only getting nicotine instead of all the other harmful chemicals in cigarettes.

The small release you get from NRT products should be enough to keep the withdrawal symptoms to a minimum.

This therapy is often used in conjunction with behavioral therapy or group meetings because NRT doesn’t address the emotional aspects of quitting.

You’re a good candidate for nicotine replacement therapy if you are showing signs of dependence, including:

  • Smoking more than a pack a day
  • Smoking while sick
  • Waking up to have a cigarette
  • Having your first cigarette within 5 minutes of waking

Nicotine Replacement Therapy is safe for all adults who want to quit smoking with the exception of pregnant women.

If you’re pregnant and need help quitting, talk to your doctor about your options.

You can start with NRT as soon as you finish your last cigarette.

There’s no need to wait, and you may increase your chances of success if you don’t allow your body to start craving the nicotine.

Do not use NRT if you intend on smoking cigarettes or other tobacco products.

These products are monitored by the FDA and they have not been approved to be used in this way.

If you smoke fewer than 10 cigarettes a day, NRT may not be as effective for you.

However, if you need help quitting, it may be worth a shot.

Talk to your doctor about the appropriate dosage for you.

Nicotine replacement therapy is relatively safe, but it is possible to overdose on nicotine.

Always use NRT products as directed on the label.

When you use them as directed, your NRT product should give you about the same amount of nicotine you were getting from cigarettes.

The following are common nicotine replacement products you may want to consider.

Nicotine Patches

You can buy nicotine patches at the pharmacy, grocery store or big box chain without a prescription.

They work by delivering a measured dose of nicotine through the skin.

Over a course of a few weeks, you will switch to lower dose patches until your body no longer needs nicotine.

If you’re a light or average smoker, the 16-hour patch may work well for you.

It doesn’t deliver nicotine at night, but it is less likely to cause side effects.

If you notice that your nicotine withdrawal symptoms are extreme in the mornings while on the 16-hour patch, you may want to try the 24-hour patch.

The 24-hour nicotine patch delivers a steady flow of nicotine, so your body avoids any highs and lows.

If you’re experiencing bad withdrawal symptoms in the morning, the 24-hour patch should help.

You should know that it does come with more side effects than the 16-hour patch.

Start with a full-strength patch every day for four weeks.

On your fifth week, switch to a weaker patch.

Continue at this strength for another four weeks.

You’ll need to change your patch daily to continue getting nicotine into your system.

Nicotine patches are FDA approved to be used for three to five months, so you should plan to quit within that time.

You may not have any side effects, but some common ones include:

  • Skin irritation
  • Dizziness
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Sleep problems
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Muscle aches and stiffness

Nicotine Gum

You can buy nicotine gum at the pharmacy, grocery store or big box chain without a prescription.

Unlike the nicotine patch, nicotine gum is a fast-acting replacement.

It works well when withdrawal symptoms start to emerge because it will deliver a quick fix of nicotine that should help keep you from smoking.

Nicotine gum comes in two and four-milligram strengths.

Chewing nicotine gum is slightly different than chewing regular gum.

As soon as you get a peppery taste or tingle in your mouth, you’ll stop chewing and store the gum between your jaw and cheeks until the taste is gone.

Then you’ll chew it again until you get that peppery taste or tingle and repeat.

You can follow this pattern for up to 30 minutes.

Try not to eat or drink during that time because food and beverages can impact how the nicotine is absorbed.

Never chew more than 24 pieces of nicotine gum in one day.

Plan to stop using the gum altogether within six months.

Your goal will be to taper down the amount of gum you chew daily until you can stop.

When you first quit cigarettes, schedule your nicotine gum doses to one to two pieces per hour.

This will help keep the withdrawal symptoms from derailing your efforts.

As you become less dependent on nicotine, you can get more relaxed with the schedule and start using the gum to treat withdrawal symptoms if they occur.

Possible side effects of nicotine gum include:

  • Bad taste
  • Nausea
  • Sore throat
  • Mouth sores
  • Hiccups
  • Nausea
  • Jaw discomfort
  • Racing heartbeat

Nicotine Nasal Spray

You can only get nicotine nasal spray by prescription, so if you think it’s a good fit, talk to your doctor.

Nicotine nasal spray quickly delivers nicotine to the bloodstream as it is absorbed through your nose.

This is one of the fastest ways to deliver nicotine and stop withdrawal symptoms.

The nasal spray is easy to use and very effective. Most people dose at two to four sprays per hour.

One dose is two sprays (one for each nostril).

When you first quit smoking, you may need up to eight doses a day, but you should never exceed 40 doses.

Nicotine overdose is rare but it is possible.

Nasal sprays for nicotine are approved to be used for up to six months, but your doctor may not prescribe it for longer than three.

Talk to him or her about your plan and dosage to ensure you’re on the same page.

Potential side effects of nicotine spray include:

  • Runny nose
  • Watery eyes
  • Sneezing
  • Throat irritation
  • Nasal irritation
  • Coughing
  • Racing heart
  • Nervousness
  • Headache

Nicotine Inhalers

Much like nasal sprays, this form of NRT is only available by prescription.

The inhaler itself is a thin plastic tube that contains a nicotine cartridge.

To use a nicotine inhaler, simply puff on the inhaler.

The cartridge will instantly deliver nicotine vapor into your mouth.

This is where the nicotine gets absorbed.

Unlike other inhalers that deliver medicine to the lungs, nicotine inhalers work through the mouth.

From here, the nicotine is absorbed into the bloodstream.

People tend to like nicotine inhalers because the action used to take this NRT is almost like the act of smoking cigarettes.

Unfortunately, inhalers are expensive and not easy for most people to obtain.

It’s worth noting that nicotine inhalers are not the same as e-cigarettes or vaping.

These things have not been approved by the FDA to help anyone quit tobacco.

You may use a nicotine inhaler cartridge all at once or over a twenty-minute time frame.

If you’re prescribed an inhaler to help you stop smoking, your doctor will tell you how often to use it throughout the day.

The recommended dose is usually anywhere between four and 20 cartridges a day.

Like other forms of NRT, you should expect to taper your dose off over three to six months until you are able to stop.

Some potential side effects of the nicotine inhaler include:

  • Coughing
  • Mouth or throat irritation
  • Runny nose
  • Upset stomach
  • Racing heart
  • Nervousness
  • Headache

Nicotine Lozenges

You can buy nicotine lozenges at the pharmacy, grocery store or big box chain without a prescription.

Much like nicotine gum, lozenges are available in two strengths: two and four milligrams.

If you typically smoke your first cigarette within 30 minutes of waking, you’ll take the higher dose.

You’ll find instructions on the package of lozenges, but they work much in the same way as other OTC nicotine replacement therapies in that you start with a higher dose and taper it off over time.

The first dose is one lozenge every one to two hours for six weeks.

Over time, you will taper down to one lozenge every four to eight hours and then stop entirely.

Avoid eating or drinking while taking lozenges because these things may impact how the nicotine is delivered.

Nicotine lozenges should only be used for up to 12 weeks.

If you surpass 12 weeks and still feel a desire to smoke, talk to your doctor.

Some potential side effects of nicotine lozenges include:

  • Nausea
  • Hiccups
  • Sore throat
  • Coughing
  • Heartburn
  • Headache
  • Gas
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Racing heart

 

Conclusion

 

It’s not easy to quit smoking, but it is something everyone can do.

If you’ve tried unsuccessfully to quit in the past, try another over-the-counter method or talk to your doctor about getting a prescription.

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