Whether you just started smoking or have been smoking for years, quitting smoking is one of the most important things you can do for your health. Smoking leads to disease and disability and harms nearly every organ system of your body. It is also the leading cause of preventable death.
But while quitting smoking can provide numerous health benefits now and in the years to come, millions of people struggle to kick the habit.
If you or someone you know is having a hard time quitting smoking, it might be time to seek help from a medical professional.
The Risks of Not Quitting Smoking
Not only does using tobacco not provide any health benefits, it can cause cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung disease, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD) like emphysema and chronic bronchitis. It also increases your risk for tuberculosis, certain eye diseases, and problems with your immune system, including rheumatoid arthritis.
More than 16 million people live with at least one disease caused by smoking, and 58 million nonsmoking Americans are exposed to secondhand smoke.
According to the US Surgeon General, smoking cessation “represents the single most important step” smokers can take to enhance the length and quality of their lives. And that enhancing of your life can start minutes after you put out your last cigarette.
Just 20 minutes after quitting, your heart rate returns to normal. Twelve hours later, the carbon monoxide levels in your blood are back to normal. As little as two weeks later, your lung function improves.
It’s not hard to understand the benefits of quitting smoking.
Doing it can be another story, however.
Why It’s So Hard to Quit Smoking
Tobacco contains an addictive chemical called nicotine. Cigarettes are designed to deliver nicotine rapidly to your brain, where it triggers the release of another chemical called dopamine, which makes you feel good. Over time, your body builds up a tolerance and a physical dependance on nicotine. You’ll feel like you need nicotine just to feel OK — and you’ll need more and more of it. Without it, you’ll likely get anxious or irritable. You might not be able to concentrate or sleep. These withdrawal symptoms can last a long time.
You may attempt quitting several times before you’re successful. Often, it takes the help of a clinician and anti-smoking medication to quit for good.
How Quit-Smoking Medicines Work
If you’ve tried quitting multiple times and nothing has worked, quit-smoking medications can help make quitting easier, less painful, and more successful.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved several varieties of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) and other medicines to help you quit safely and effectively.
Worn daily on the skin, the nicotine patch can give you a steady level of nicotine that can reduce your cravings and withdrawal symptoms throughout the day. Fast-acting nicotine lozenges and gum can quickly combat cravings. Inhalers and nasal sprays are also available by prescription. Some people have success quitting via one or more of these methods. Many people do not.
Available in pill form, bupropion SR and varenicline and help you quit smoking without nicotine.
Taken twice a day — and started one to two weeks before you plan to quit smoking — Bupropion SR is a non-nicotine medication that helps you quit smoking by reducing your withdrawal symptoms.
Varenicline is a medicine that “attaches” itself to the same parts of your brain that are stimulated by nicotine. It essentially blocks nicotine from attaching to those places, making it harder for you to get a nicotine “buzz” and reducing the enjoyment that you get from smoking. It is also started a week or more before you quit smoking, and provides the strongest chance of success of any quit-smoking medicine.
The Lung Docs: Specialized Smoking Cessation Care
The Lung Docs provide specialized, state-of-the-art care to our patients looking to quit smoking in Chattanooga and the surrounding Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia areas.
During your visit, we will perform a detailed physical examination, inquire into your family and personal medical histories, review your previous cessation attempts, and create a personalized plan — including medications, therapies, and other tips — to help you kick the habit once and for all.
Dr. Mike’s Approach
I’m Dr. Mike Czarnecki, “The Lung Doc,” and I’m trained in all areas of pulmonary health, including helping patients find the most effective smoking cessation methods. I will work with you to formulate a personalized plan to help you quit smoking so you can live, laugh, love, and breathe better again! To get started, schedule an appointment online or call our office to speak to someone directly. We look forward to meeting you!
Click here to get tips on quitting smoking, build your personalized quit plan, access your state’s tobacco quitline, and much, much more.