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Tobacco: a hard habit to break

Smoking tobacco is a habit. Smokers know smoking is unhealthy. But putting off quitting may seem easier than putting up with the pain of withdrawal and the fear of saying goodbye to a longtime love-hate relationship with cigarettes. Nicotine addiction coupled with smoking’s psychological hold and ritualistic associations make quitting a scary, unwelcome proposition. Even if you want to quit, you may find yourself short on motivation.

Tobacco: damn habit! The replacements

Going cold turkey may seem noble, but it’s not likely to yield success in the long run. Nicotine – long thought of as more addictive than heroin or cocaine – produces a high and reinforces dependence. But the added chemicals that make up a cigarette – the carcinogens that are released and ingested when a cigarette is burning – are most harmful to the body. Nicotine replacement therapy, then, is preferable to continuing to smoke. Using a nicotine patch or gum, or both, can be an effective means to curbing the deeply embedded physical and psychological desire to smoke.

If you’re trying to quit, you’re likely to feel restless, irritable and depressed. Withdrawal can be severe if you’re coming off cigarettes. Lozenges, gum or patches combined with counseling around quitting can double your chances of success. And if those interventions aren’t working for you, consider prescription medication to assist you in quitting.

Accept help

White-knuckling the quitting process without asking for help may knock you off your game sooner than you think. Tell your family and friends you are quitting. Ask for support from those who are willing to be compassionate and non-judgmental. And consider enlisting the help of a counselor or therapist who can work with you to develop successful stop-smoking strategies.

The cold, hard realities

Yes, you’ll probably miss smoking. And yes, quitting is hard. Nicotine is a powerful drug, the benefits of which no one wants to herald. Nicotine improves reaction time, memory and concentration. With each drag off a cigarette, the brain is flooded with dopamine and other neurochemicals that reach the brain’s pleasure centers. The message your brain sends under the spell of nicotine is that it needs more.

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American Cancer Society

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