Many people struggle with quitting smoking, and the American population is no exception, with around 14 per cent of U.S. adults being regular smokers. It’s incredibly tough to resist the cravings that are a part of tobacco addiction, as they can be very intense and continue for days.
Luckily, not all is lost, as there are plenty of proven smoking cessation methods that everyone can turn to. Understandably, most smokers are looking for a way that will cause them to experience as few withdrawal symptoms as possible. And while there’s no one-size-fits-all magical solution that can ensure an easy experience, some ways of quitting smoking can come with fewer unpleasant side effects than others. These range from some forms of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) to different types of pharmacotherapy or even replacing tobacco products with vapes and e-liquids.
Read the article below to learn more about some of the most effective practices to help you quit smoking and minimize the negative side effects that are often a part of the process. With their help, you should be able to win with your smoking habit once and for all.
What Is Tobacco Withdrawal?
Tobacco withdrawal can be defined as all the physical, mental, and emotional symptoms you go through when the nicotine leaves your body. All tobacco products include nicotine, whether it’s cigarettes, cigars, hookah, or IQOS (you can learn about the differences between IQOS vs. vaping here). When you use them, your body and brain get used to nicotine, which is a highly addictive drug comparable to substances such as opioids or alcohol.
That’s why if you suddenly decide to cut back or quit using products that contain nicotine altogether, its lack can cause your body to go through an array of uncomfortable symptoms. They often include the urge to smoke again, nausea, headaches, or overall irritability. Moreover, these symptoms typically begin as quickly as just a few hours after your last dose of nicotine and can last days or even several weeks. The good news is that things should get easier with each passing day.
With the experience of tobacco withdrawal explained, let’s move to some of the most effective smoking cessation methods that are the most likely to make this process easier.
E-cigarettes, also known as vapes, are battery-powered devices that work by releasing the vapour of flavoured nicotine that comes from a liquid, which gets heated by the device’s coil. They have become a popular aid for people trying to quit smoking in recent years. Some even pick up vaping solely with quitting their tobacco addiction in mind.
The results of multiple clinical trials published in 2019 show that e-cigarettes can be highly effective when used to quit smoking. However, it still doesn’t change the fact that people have different opinions on the subject. Some argue that vaping turns the quitting process into a costly ordeal. In contrast, others say that some tobacco smokers might quit one habit but develop another and become addicted to vaping instead.
The main advantage of using vaping as a smoking cessation method is the fact that the experience of using e-cigarettes is much less harmful but still similar to smoking. As proven by the clinical trials mentioned above, it can gradually help you stop reaching for cigarettes while sparing you from experiencing the most severe nicotine withdrawal symptoms due to its presence in most flavoured e-liquids.
Nicotine patches are one of the most popular methods of quitting smoking, mainly because they are highly effective and are available in almost every drug store. Nicotine patches work by providing your body with small doses of nicotine but without tobacco. They might be an excellent choice for those smokers who have a hard time resisting the initial intense cravings to smoke. However, they don’t make that urge go away completely.
According to a study published in 2018, using nicotine patches can increase your chances of successfully quitting tobacco addiction by 50%. Of course, the dosage and overall effectiveness of this method depend on the severity of your addiction. Still, thanks to the patches actually administering the small doses of nicotine, you should be able to manage the withdrawal symptoms better and resist the strong cravings.
Some smokers find that the best way to minimise the effects of tobacco withdrawal is to attend behavioural therapy and get help from qualified professionals. Because your brain gets addicted to nicotine in the same way as your body, it might be in a good sense to start fighting your addiction from there.
For instance, Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy focuses on identifying negative thoughts. It aims to change the way you think about different situations in which you reach for a cigarette and helps look at them from a different perspective. This method can help smokers learn how to deal with stress which in many cases is one of their biggest triggers.
Once the patient manages to overcome the mental dependence on tobacco, they may find that the withdrawal symptoms they’re experiencing are much less severe or some of them even aren’t there, to begin with. Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy can be especially effective when combined with other methods.
Two FDA-approved non-nicotine drugs can help smokers quit: bupropion (Zyban) and varenicline (Chantix). However, when considering using them to fight your own addiction, you should always talk to your doctor first. They’re prescription-only, but it’s also simply a wise thing to do before trying any new medication.
Bupropion can affect the chemicals in your brain responsible for nicotine craving. It reduces the urge to smoke and makes nicotine withdrawal symptoms less severe. Usually, it’s taken in the form of a tablet for a period of 12 weeks. If you manage to quit smoking at this time, you can take the drug for longer to reduce the possibility of relapsing.
The second drug, varenicline, can reduce pleasure from smoking tobacco and decrease the unpleasant symptoms of nicotine withdrawal. Similar to bupropion, it is used for 12 weeks but can be taken longer.
It’s crucial to keep in mind that using these drugs includes risks such as behavioural changes, aggression, hostility, or even depressed mood and suicidal thoughts. Though effective in reducing the withdrawal symptoms, they should never be used without consulting and keeping in touch with a doctor.
Quitting cigarettes is undoubtedly a challenging task, but it doesn’t have to be a daunting one. As long as you develop your own plan and find the method that works best for you, overcoming nicotine dependence is entirely possible.
Methods such as vaping, nicotine patches, behavioural therapy, or using non-nicotine medications can help you achieve your goal. Their main advantage is that they are regarded as causing the least amount of withdrawal symptoms. Each of them works in its unique way, but once you find the right one, it can be a true game-changer.
Also, remember that while there’s no rule saying that you should limit yourself to only one method, it’s best to consult a doctor before making any decisions. They will be able to answer your questions and provide you with professional advice. Good luck!
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