Proven Ways to Kick the Habit
If you have a cigarette, cigar, or pipe habit, it is essential that you quit smoking. In addition to being an expensive practice with increasing social stigma, smoking is a strong risk factor for a number of diseases including heart disease, cancer and stroke, the major killers of men. The persistence of the habit in the face of its widely known health risks makes it obvious how difficult it is to quit. Even U.S. President Barak Obama, who promoted and signed into law strong anti-smoking legislation, admitted “falling off the wagon” in his effort to stop smoking. Clearly, breaking the habit is difficult, but it is well worth the effort because smoking cessation yields great rewards in terms of a man’s health and the health of his family and friends.
Follow these Steps to Successfully quit smoking:
- Make the decision to quit
- Set a date that you will quit
- Select a quitting plan
- Find a way to cope with the difficulty of withdrawal
- Fight against picking up the habit again
When selecting your quitting plan, consider the following methods, which based on smoking-cessation studies, have been the most effective for breaking the habit:
- Get help from a no-cost phone-based program to quit smoking: All U.S. states run no-cost phone-based smoking cessation programs, which double the chances of successfully quitting. The American Cancer Society (1-800-ACS-2345) runs a Quitline® program that connects you to smoking cessation counselors who plan an individually-tailored program using printed materials, medicine, classes, support groups, or family and friends.
- Enlist the support of family and friends in your effort to quit smoking: Friends and family can provide support and encouragement. Spend more time with friends and family members who do not smoke.
- Join a support group: You can check with your health insurance company or local hospital for support groups in your area. Or call the American Cancer Society to help you find a group.
- Join a smoking-cessation program: The most effective programs meet for at least 20-30 minutes 4-7 times over a period of at least 2 weeks and involve individual or group counseling. Nicotine Anonymous sponsors free 12-step programs. Call the American Cancer Society for information about programs run by it local branches, the American Lung Association, or your local health department. Avoid programs that charge high fees, involve pills or shots, promise an easy cure, or fail to provide references from satisfied customers.
- Talk to your doctor about nicotine replacement therapy: Nicotine addiction is a prime reason that quitting smoking is so difficult. Nicotine stimulates the brain's reward center, giving the smoker pleasurable feelings. As nicotine levels drop, pleasure is replaced by withdrawal symptoms: headache, nervousness, irritability, sleeplessness, anxiety, depression and compulsive eating. Thus, one approach to getting people off smoking is to supply an alternative source of nicotine and taper consumption to zero over a period of time. This serves to ease the pain of nicotine withdrawal - a major reason for failure to quit smoking. However, even though some nicotine delivery systems are available over-the-counter, nicotine replacement therapy should be used only under the supervision of a doctor. If you have existing heart disease, your doctor may decide that the risks of nicotine therapy are not worth the benefits.
Studies indicate that Nicotine replacement therapy increases the chance of quitting smoking by 50-70%. The nicotine dosage is usually tapered to zero over a period of 8 weeks to 5 months. Alternative nicotine delivery systems include a patch, chewing gum, lozenge, nasal spray, or inhaler. Only the latter two require a prescription. The patch is adhered to the body and replaced at least once a day. The chewing gum or lozenge should be taken every 2 hours, and can cause some unpleasant sensations in the mouth and stomach. The nasal spray is taken at least 8 times per day, and can cause unpleasant symptoms in the nose, throat, or eyes. It also comes with a relatively high risk of dependency. Cigarette-shaped nicotine inhalers are used 16 times per day, and may be accompanied by mouth and throat irritation and coughing.
- Ask your doctor about anti-smoking prescription drugs: While mens-fitness-and-health.com prefers natural solutions, the benefits that smoking-cessation provides to a man‘s health may warrant the use of prescription medication if all natural means fail. A number of different drugs have been used for this purpose. For example Varenicline (Chantix™) has been shown to more than double the chance of successfully quitting. However, it can have some severe psychological side effects including nervousness, depression, bizarre vivid dreams, and suicidal thoughts. It can also cause headache, vomiting, gas and sleeplessness. Another drug, Bupropion (Wellbutrin, Zyban), can have similar side effects and is not recommended for people who have had seizures, head trauma, anorexia, or drinking problems.
- Beware of methods with little or no evidence of success: The following smoking cessation methods have little or no evidence of effectiveness. If you really want to try one of these methods, go ahead. But if it doesn‘t work, don’t give up. Try one or more of the methods listed above.
- cold laser
- anti-smoking diets
- herbal supplements
- atropine/scopolamine therapy
- nicotine delivery methods other than a patch, chewing gum, nasal spray, inhaler, or lozenge
- Consider using more than one of the recommended methods: A study found that people who had the most success at quitting used the greatest number of different strategies.
Note: Some of the information on this page is from an article, "Breaking free from nicotine dependence" in the Harvard Mental Health Letter (vol. 27, no. 10, April 2011).
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