Sep 29, 2022 11:00:00 AM | 6 Min Read

September is Addiction Awareness Month: Smoking Cessation

September is Addiction Awareness Month: Smoking Cessation

According to addiction experts, tobacco (nicotine) addiction is the most common substance addiction worldwide. This is because cigarettes are legal, cheap, easy to obtain, and the side effects of smoking are immediately very mild.

In fact, because the side effects are so minimal, most people may not even consider smoking to be an addiction. But the truth is that tobacco use contributes to more deaths than any other addiction in the form of lung cancer and multiple different types of cancers, heart disease, and more.

It isn’t a secret that tobacco is unhealthy, so why do so many people continue to use it — even though they are aware of its effects on not only their bodies but those around them?

Even though most tobacco users will at some point have the desire to quit, most will find themselves unable to, a clear sign of an addiction. Most tobacco users have used it for at least one year and often over several. It is overwhelming and scary for many people to decide to quit tobacco.

Getting Started with Quitting Tobacco

The biggest thing to remember is you do not have to quit by yourself. It is recommended to ask your physician, family, and friends to help you. Quitting is HARD, but a health coach can work with you and your primary care provider to find a way forward.

Know that if you desire to quit, there is hope of getting there! The first step to giving up tobacco addiction is just having the thought that you want to give it up. In fact, there are six steps to changing any behavior, and you have just taken the first step – you went from denial of the problem (pre-contemplation) to thinking about changing it (contemplation). That’s a big deal! It's okay if you don’t act upon this thought initially because it is a process to change a habit that may be a large part of your life, no matter how damaging that habit may be.

Preparing Your Mind & Body

The act of quitting tobacco is not the only part of your journey to becoming tobacco-free. Preparing your mind and body and educating yourself on what will happen when you quit is the next step in your quitting journey. Understanding that your body will crave nicotine and is addicted to tobacco will be a critical factor in your success. Quitting tobacco will involve determination as your mind and body will work together to try and get the chemical that it has become accustomed to. 

When you take the next step and move into action, you may notice some unpleasant changes in your body as you quit smoking. Don’t worry; these often only last a few days and are a signal that your body can remove the toxins that have built up from smoking. Some of these symptoms can include:

  • coughing
  • sweating
  • frequent urination
  •  constipation
  • dizziness
  • fatigue
  • mouth sores
  • headaches

You may also want to eat more to comfort yourself, which can lead to weight gain, but the average weight gain with quitting tobacco is between 6-12lbs. Having low-calorie snacks or gum available can help combat this.

To help your body combat these symptoms, there are medications such as nicotine gum, lozenges, patches, and other oral medications that can help reduce cravings without the harmful effects of tobacco. 

Changing Habits

In addition to the addiction to tobacco, a person must also change their habits to be successful.  Your mind will go through many changes, including a sense of loss, as you give up something that has become part of your identity. You aren’t just someone who smokes, you are a smoker, and many of your daily habits may remind you of this.

In most cases, a person has been using tobacco for so long that they just do it without even actively thinking about it. It may be something you do when you are stressed or with certain foods or drinks or even at certain places or around certain people. Before quitting, setting the expectation that these situations will happen and having a plan on how to deal with them will help you feel more prepared and in control. 

Most people contemplating quitting tobacco have fears about how their lives may change if they quit. The reality is while quitting tobacco, you may feel grouchy, sad, or restless. As your body detoxes from tobacco, these are all normal emotions, but they will pass, and you can practice stress management techniques such as meditation or yoga to help combat these feelings. Having a good stress management practice and learning new tools for coping with stress will help you maintain your new lifestyle without resorting to tobacco use.

It’s Okay to Fail

One of the biggest fears that keep people from acting and quitting is the fear of failure. When quitting, failure does not need to be feared. In fact, it is better if you accept the fact that you will probably fail the first time. This is called Relapse, and it is so common it is one of the six stages of behavior change. Most people quit and restart several times prior to quitting for good.

Remember that you are getting closer to your goal each time you quit. Each time you quit, try to reflect on the positives that have helped you and the negatives to try to avoid in the future. Learn what helps you and what gets in the way. Remind yourself your initial reason for wanting to quit and how you may prevent serious health problems and live longer by quitting. Remember, you can do this!

At ViTel, we know that addiction recovery is difficult, and we are here to help. If you or your patients are struggling with tobacco or other substance abuse, reach out to ViTel Health, and we will partner you with one of our health coaches to assist you.

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Topics: Patients

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