If you smoke, you’ve probably been asked to stop by nearly everyone you know. We all know it can be harmful to health, but oftentimes, quitting can be tough. You may make initial plans to quit, but life happens, and our cravings and withdraws are more powerful, sometimes, than our strength of conviction. If you want to quit, here’s what you should know to be prepared for the process, and some resources to help you through it.
1. Lungs and breathing trouble increases.
2. Risk of heart attack and stroke increase by 2-4x
3. Cancer risk increases 4-23x
Nicotine, the active component in cigarettes, acts as a drug to boost mood, reduce your appetite, temporarily improve concentration, and reduce anxiety. Nicotine uses similar chemical pathways in the brain as alcohol, morphine, and cocaine, leading to addiction. When you quit, as with all substances of this nature, you’ll likely have some side effects and symptoms of withdrawal. But don’t worry - after quitting smoking, most symptoms will ease and resolve in as little as a week.
1. Weight Gain - Smoking suppresses the appetite, so when you quit, naturally you may become more hungry and snack more. When you stop smoking, your taste buds and sense of smell will return to normal. This is great, except that you may crave food more often, or crave foods higher in fat and sugar, even if you didn’t crave these things before.
How to handle it:
2. Coughing, sore throat: A cough caused by smoking often known as a smoker’s cough, which is chronic, and has a distinct sound. It is usually caused by increased mucus in the throat that the body releases in response to irritants in the airway, sometimes worsened by aggravated asthma or other breathing problem. When quitting smoking, usually one develops a sore throat, and their cough may change because they’ll naturally have less irritants in the airway, less mucus, and more dryness. It subsides several weeks after quitting smoking.
How to handle it: drinking fluids frequently may help. You may also try sugar-free gum or candy
3. Irritability, Anxiety, or Depression: quitting smoking means we no-longer have those fake mood-boosting feelings flooding our neurons, potentially leading to depression, irritability or anxiety. When we are nervous, anxious, irritable, or depressed, we may also have other symptoms more often, like increased sweating, headaches, insomnia, trouble concentrating, constipation, nausea, or also stomach cramping
How to handle it:
1. Quitting slowly. Quitting ‘cold-turkey’ may lead to more withdraw symptoms, and be tougher to actually commit to.
2. Managing Medications. The most popular kind of medication regimens for people who want to stop smoking are nicotine replacement therapies.
Surround yourself with support. Having a support system around you of people to keep you honest, keep you on-track, and get you back on track if you are struggling.
Learn more about what happens in the hours, days, and years after you quit smoking.
Overcoming nicotine withdrawal is often the most difficult part of quitting smoking. Many people have to try more than once to quit. The more you try to quit, the more likely you’ll succeed. Avoid stressful triggers that may make you more tempted to backtrack, like stressful situations, driving, or socializing with certain people in specific environments. Regardless of how many attempts you’ve made to quit in the past, being prepared with the potential symptoms of withdrawal, and having tools and support handy to help you through tough times will make your journey a little easier. Talk to your doctor if you plan to quit and you are prone to depression, have bipolar disorder, had trouble quitting in the past, or smoke more than 10 cigarettes per day, as these may be indications that you need some help from your physician to monitor or adjust certain medications for you.