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Most Popular Techniques to Quit Smoking

Updated on March 22, 2010

How To Quit Smoking - Review of Popular Techniques

There are many techniques that are used to quit smoking. Here is an outline of some of the most popular:

1. Cold turkey

Going "cold turkey" means setting a date and stopping immediately and completely, without using aids such as nicotine replacement therapy. This is tough, but with enough motivation can be successful.

2. Cutting down

This technique allows you to cut down gradually until your specified quit date. This is a difficult (and often unsuccessful) way of quitting and we do not recommend this strategy.

3. Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)

This strategy helps you kick the psychological addiction to smoking while supporting you with the physical aspect of nicotine addiction.

Most people who smoke on a regular basis are addicted to the nicotine in tobacco. Stopping the regular supply of nicotine to your brain and body may make you feel tense, irritable and unable to concentrate. The addiction that most smokers have is not just the physical addiction to nicotine alone. There is also a "psychological addiction" that can be just as hard to break. Many people who smoke associate their habit with positive and relaxing situations, for example after a nice meal, during break time or while socializing. This psychological addiction can be just as hard to break as the actual physical addiction your body has to nicotine.

To help you overcome some of these feelings, we suggest using a nicotine replacement product. This way, your body and brain can get used to lower levels of nicotine before you cut off the nicotine completely. Studies have also shown that smokers who use NRT are much more successful in their attempts to quit smoking.
There are now many different nicotine-containing products to choose from. Your local pharmacy is the best place to purchase these but it might be worth talking to your physician first to make sure you pick the right option for you. Here is a list of some of the products you can use:

i) Nicotine patches: These are like bandaids that you stick on your skin. The nicotine contained within the patch passes through your skin into your blood stream and provides your body with a constant supply throughout the day. Patches come in 16- and 24-hour varieties and different strengths. The higher strength patches are designed for heavier smokers (20 cigarettes a day or more), with the 24-hour patches being most appropriate for people who feel like smoking as soon as they wake up in the morning. There are a number of brands available including Nicorette, Nicotrol, and store brands such as Walgreens and Rite Aid.

One of the most common side effects from nicotine patches is skin irritation. The manufacturers recommend placing the patch in a different position each time to minimize the chances of irritation to the skin, however itching, redness and blistering can still occur. If this happens it may be worth trying a different brand. If this does not work then trying a different type of nicotine replacement product might help.

Having a constant supply of nicotine entering your bloodstream does not mimic the "real world" effects that smoking has on your body. When you smoke your blood stream receives a sudden "burst" of nicotine, which gradually wanes over 30 to 60 minutes. When your levels of nicotine become low your brain starts to tell you that it's time for another smoke! Because of this some people find that nicotine patches don't suit them and they still crave that "burst" of nicotine.

ii) Nicotine chewing gum: This is chewing gum that contains nicotine, which is absorbed into your blood stream through the lining of your mouth. Nicotine chewing gum comes in different strengths, for heavy and not so heavy smokers, and as regular and mint flavors. Look for Nicorette and store brand gum.

Some people find that nicotine chewing gum gives them mouth ulcers and makes them feel bloated. One of the advantages of nicotine chewing gum is that it more closely mimics the way your body normally receives nicotine when you smoke. You get the "burst" of nicotine when you first start chewing the gum, very much like when you smoke a cigarette.

iii) Nicotine lozenges and tablets: These are nicotine-containing tablets that are either sucked on or left to dissolve under the tongue. They gradually release nicotine, which is absorbed into the blood stream through the lining of the mouth. As with the gum, they can cause irritation and occasionally ulcer formation in the mouth.

There are some nicotine replacement products that are only available with a prescription from your physician. These include:

iv) Nicotine inhaler: This is a device that looks like a cigarette. You put it in your mouth and inhale through it. Because there is a nicotine "plug" in the device, the air that you breathe in contains nicotine. This type of device also provides you with a "burst" of nicotine when you feel the urge to smoke and like nicotine gum, mimics the effects you get when smoking. A possible drawback is that it does not allow you to stop the physical habit of putting a cigarette-like object in your mouth when you feel like smoking.

v) Nicotine nasal spray: This is a spray that you squirt into your nostrils when you feel like smoking. The spray contains nicotine and is absorbed very quickly into your blood stream though the lining of the inside of your nose. Some people find that the spray irritates the inside of their nose and can cause nosebleeds. Like the gum and inhaler, it can provide you with a burst of nicotine when you get a craving. Like the nicotine inhaler this product is available with a prescription.

Finding the kind of NRT that suits you may take a little trial and error so don't give up if you don't like the first one you try.

4. Medications to prevent cravings

Bupropion (Zyban/Wellbutrin SR) is a medication that has been shown to improve your chances of stopping smoking that is taken in tablet form for around eight weeks. It works by interacting with receptors in the brain to reduce the cravings usually associated with stopping smoking.

You begin taking the drug when you're still smoking and set a quit date about eight days after starting the treatment.

There have been some concerns about the safety of bupropion. It appears that a small number of people (about 1 in every 1000) can develop seizures on the higher tablet doses. So it is recommended that all people who take it start with the lower dose (150 milligrams). Anyone who has had a seizure in the past should not take bupropion. It’s also not safe for use during pregnancy or while breast-feeding.

More common possible side effects include dry mouth, stomach pain, insomnia, tremor, headaches, and increased skin sensitivity.

Studies have shown that people who take bupropion plus a nicotine product are about twice as likely to stop smoking than people who use NRT alone.

Varenicline (Chantix) is a newer prescription drug that was introduced in May 2006. It works by reducing the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal and blocks the effects of nicotine if the person taking it smokes again after quitting.

Research suggests taking Chantix could double the chances of a person giving up. And it may be more effective than bupropion, at least in the short-term. The initial course of treatment lasts 12 weeks but doctors may prescribe another 12 weeks to increase the likelihood of long-term success. Chantix should not be used in combination with other quit smoking products.

There have been some reports of people taking Chantix feeling suicidal or attempting suicide, but it is difficult to know whether this is because of the drug itself or because stopping smoking can make some people feel depressed.

More common side effects can include headaches, nausea, vomiting, gas, trouble sleeping and mood changes. You should also take care when driving or operating machinery until you know how quitting with Chantix may affect you.

5. Alternative therapies

Many people use acupuncture and hypnosis to help them quit smoking. Although there is no clear scientific proof that these therapies are of benefit, some people do find that they provide a useful additional way of focusing the mind on the task at hand.

6. Increasing your physical activity levels

It is believed that people who combine increasing their physical activity levels with quitting smoking tend to have a better success rate than those that don't.

7. Quit with a friend

Quitting smoking with a friend may improve your chances of succeeding. If you have a friend or family member who smokes and who would like to stop smoking with you, arrange to quit together. You may be able to give each other encouragement and help when the going gets tough.

If you don't know someone who wants to stop smoking with you, it is still worthwhile asking a close friend or family member to be your "Quit buddy". Be sure you choose someone who doesn't smoke but who will give you encouragement and help along the way.

8. Telephone and face-to-face support

Phone-based counseling has been shown to increase a person’s chances of giving up. It typically involves the smoker working with a trained counselor to plan a quitting strategy specific to their smoking habits and lifestyle.

Clinics and self-help groups are also available across the US and improve a person's chances of giving up compared to going it alone. If you think attending a group might help you, talk to your doctor who should be able to recommend a reputable service in your area.

Hope this helps you. Remember, quitting smoking also saves you money.

Find out if you are dependent on nicotine.

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