Have you selected your New Year’s resolution yet? If not, here’s one to consider: quit smoking. It’s a brand new day, after all, and that means it’s a great time to look at bettering your health by putting an end to an unhealthy habit. If you’re a smoker, you probably already know that smoking cigarettes has serious health consequences. Smoking increases one’s risk of lung cancer, heart disease, stroke and can have negative effects on almost every organ in the body. Quitting smoking, however, can reverse these negative effects. For instance, within a year of quitting, your risk for heart disease drops significantly, and other health risks decrease over the following years, as well. If you smoke, quitting is the best thing you can do for your health.
Psychiatrist Dr. Julia Wood from Blount Memorial Parkway Psychiatric Service says if you are considering quitting smoking, there are two important things to remember. “First, you want to look at when you want to quit,” Wood said. “I suggest people pick a ‘quit date,’ and write it down. Share this date with friends and family members who will support your efforts to quit. If your co-workers typically invite you to smoke on a break, let them know you are quitting. Smoking is a strong physical addiction, and minimizing being around others while they smoke is important. It is hard to quit, but trying to do so while you watch others indulge makes it even harder,” she explained.
“The second thing to consider is how you’ll quit,” Wood continued. “Once you pick a date, plan your method of quitting. While going ‘cold turkey’ can work, most people prefer to use other methods to help ease symptoms of nicotine withdrawal and cravings for cigarettes. There are three medication treatments that have been well studied in helping people quit smoking. They include nicotine replacement therapy, also known as NRT; bupropion, which go by the trade names Wellbutrin or Zyban; and varenicline, which you probably know as Chantix. These treatments have shown to be equally effective in scientific studies. The latter two, varenicline and buproprion, can only be obtained through a prescription. However, nicotine replacement therapy can be obtained over the counter at a pharmacy without a prescription,” she explained.
“If you choose to use nicotine replacement therapy, pharmacists often can be helpful in guiding you through your choices,” Wood said. “Generally speaking, patches come in three strengths with the highest strength, 21mg, being equivalent to one pack of cigarettes daily. The most-common side effects include irritation at the site of patch application and vivid dreams. Some people remove the patch at night to avoid the dreams, however, the first cigarette of the morning is the hardest to kick, and removing the patch at night can make this more difficult,” she added.
Wood says sometimes it also can be beneficial to tackle the habit in multiple ways at once. “I always recommend that people combine the nicotine patch with nicotine gum or lozenges,” she said. “While the patch offers a steady stream of nicotine, people often have breakthrough cravings that can be managed with gum. It is, of course, important to follow the proper instructions for using nicotine gum. It is not simply chewed. Rather, it is chewed and then placed between the gum and cheek to deliver nicotine in to the bloodstream,” she explained.
“Over time, most people are able to decrease the strength of nicotine patches, come off of them entirely and also stop chewing the gum,” Wood said. “Still, it is not uncommon for people to have to make several tries before they actually succeed in quitting smoking entirely. The important thing to remember is that, if you don’t succeed the first, second or third time around, just keep trying. Quitting smoking is a gift to yourself, to your family and, in the long run, to your pocketbook,” she added.
Wood sees patients at Parkway Psychiatric Service, located at 220 Associates Blvd. in Alcoa. For more information or to schedule an initial appointment, call Parkway Psychiatric Service at 865-980-5377.