There are some misconceptions about quit support products, specifically surrounding the ‘support’ part! Take Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) for example. As tobacco treatment specialists, we sometimes hear "My NRT is not working". Let's look at the role NRT plays for a basic overview of what to expect. NRT does not make you quit smoking. It does not remove the habitual want to smoke, or the emotional need to smoke. NRT does not eliminate withdrawal symptoms, nor does it prevent the detox process from occurring.
So what does NRT do? It takes the edge off cravings so you can focus on breaking your lifelong habitual, behavioral and emotional attachment to the daily ritual of smoking. NRT supports your efforts by reducing the physical cravings and withdrawal symptoms so you are more likely to stick with the quit process long enough to succeed.
NRT is not designed to match your smoking habit nicotine consumption milligram for milligram, but rather to reduce cravings by delivering a slow, steady dose of nicotine in your system based on the average amount of cigarettes you smoked prior to your quit date. This slow, steady dosing avoids the rapid and addictive 'rush/crash/crave' cycle that smoking provides (and makes quitting so difficult). NRT helps by lessening the intensity of physical withdrawal symptoms. Physical withdrawals will still occur as your body detoxes, heals and adjusts after years of inhaling toxic, chemical filled smoke, tar and gasses into your lungs and throughout your entire system. Nicotine is just one of the many thousands of chemicals in cigarette smoke.
NRT is advised to be used for at least the first 8 weeks of your quit while stepping down gradually. Stepping down as directed ensures minimal cravings and maximum quit support. Why 8 weeks? Research shows it takes a good 8 weeks of practicing new behaviors, habits and coping tools to learn a new habit, such as being a nonsmoker! Doing so with overwhelming physical cravings often leads to relapse before any of the learning new behaviors or habit breaking part takes place. Nicotine and temporary cravings are a small part of the Big Picture. Long term quit success comes from having 8 weeks of practice and actively working to learn new behaviors and coping tools, not from 'using NRT'. The Quitter must actively work their quit process in order for NRT support to be most effective.
So, how do you work your quit process? Start by identifying your top 3 tobacco triggers. Then, come up with effective new coping tools that will work for You. This is where you want to put your time, energy and focus during the next 8 weeks you have NRT support. Practice getting through stress, boredom, relationships, disappointments and day to day life situations without using tobacco. Practicing new coping tools ensures your quit process gets easier as time goes by. No amount of NRT can do this particular part of the quit, which is a good thing! It forces the newly quit to start really thinking about living their day to day lives without a cigarette. In each of those moments where you choose to do something else instead of smoke, you will be laying the foundation for becoming a nonsmoker.
The key to success is to let NRT do it's job by using it correctly as directed, while you do your job - actively work your quit process! Along the way, you'll discover lots of new things to do as you enjoy your healthy, smoke free lifestyle.
Master Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist
Don't quit alone! We can help:
Many people make New Year's resolutions, with quitting smoking being high on the list. One of the most common questions I get from people is: "What is the best way to quit smoking?"
While there is no simple answer to this question, one thing is for certain: the greatest factor in quitting successfully is YOU. You make your quit work. The most effective quit programs will capitalize on multiple tools: a quit medication (to help take the edge off of cravings and withdrawal), coping strategies, and support.
Using an FDA approved quit medication can potentially double (if not greater) your odds of quitting. These include nicotine replacement therapy (nicotine patch, nicotine gum, nicotine lozenge, nicotine inhaler, and nicotine spray), Bupropion (Zyban, Wellbturin), and Varenicline (Chantix, Champix). But like all medications, quit medications have both benefits and side effects to their use. Also not all of these medications are available over-the-counter; some require a doctor's prescription. Regardless of over-the-counter availablity, it's a good idea to let your doctor know that you are quitting. You and your doctor can come up with an effective and tailored quit plan that will be right for you.
Choosing a quit method involves taking into consideration different factors, including:
- Cost. Some medications are more expensive than others to use. What fits into your budget? Note: although the upfront costs of quitting may seem costly, in the long run, quitting is by far less costly in terms of cost of cigarettes, health, and work time lost.
- Convenience of use. Quit methods come in a variety of forms (pill, patch, lozenge, gum), doses & frequency, and required skill of use (i.e. you have to "chew" and "park" the nicotine gum). What method seems to best fit your lifestyle? For example, if you have trouble remembering to take pills, maybe Wellbutrin or Varenicline are not the best options for you.
- Medical history. Any medical conditions that might rule out the use of a quit method (unstable high blood pressure? uncontrolled diabetes? etc.)
- Nicotine dependence/use. Do you light up regularly? Or intermittently? If you smoke regularly, you might consider using a method that provides more continual support (i.e. nicotine patch) VS a medication that can be used "as needed" (i.e. nicotine gum or nicotine lozenge).
- Interest. What are YOU interested in using? Read up on various quit methods. What appeals to you most?
Ultimately there is no perfect quit method. There is only the perfect quit method for YOU. Cheers to a happy, smoke-free New Year!
Master Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist