Why stop smoking?
There is lots of evidence to show smokers have a higher risk of developing serious diseases like cancer, stroke and a heart attack. Those who are able to quit will quickly notice benefits such as an improved physical condition, better skin and a stronger immune system.
What causes a smoking addiction?
Nicotine and tobacco can lead to addiction and health problems. The addiction is complex and consists of several factors:
Chemical – nicotine creates an imbalance in the brain’s reward system which leads to a physical and psychological addiction that is often difficult to overcome. Nicotine binds to receptors in the brain and is involved in triggering positive feelings.
The brain will therefore become addicted and demand more. This explains why people will get withdrawal symptoms when the body is no longer getting any nicotine. These symptoms can include anxiety, insomnia, sweating, irritability and headaches.
Psychological – the behavioural reasons (“I smoke because I’m anxious'') and social habits (“I smoke in the evening with friends”) of smoking are equally addictive.
What treatment is available?
Sometimes people will want to stop smoking abruptly, but for others the desire to stop may develop over a longer period of time. There are a number of nicotine substitutes that can be used to stop gradually or for those who want to stop smoking immediately. These medicines will help you manage and cope with the difficulties of the initial detoxification stage.
In addition to the nicotine replacement options, there are also medications available to help you give up. Vareniciline (called Champix) was previously available but has been withdrawn recently due to safety concerns. It’s not known when this will be available again. An antidepressant, called bupropion (or Zyban) is still available to patients and can help you quit smoking.
Quitting smoking is difficult and can cause a number of symptoms such as fatigue, restlessness and irritability. Try to remember that these feelings are natural and will only be temporary. It’s also important to remember that dealing with the chemical component of the addiction without addressing the behavioural part may not be effective.
Identifying the reasons why you smoke (for example pleasure, anxiety, social habit, boredom), makes it easier to address and stay free of smoking.
When should you see a doctor?
Stopping smoking on your own can be hard. You may have tried to quit for a long time without success, or you may think that quitting is too difficult. If this is the case, you can get plenty of help and advice from a doctor, pharmacist or online. There are many different programmes available to you – either with self-help guidance, nicotine replacements, medication, psychotherapy or using e-cigarettes.
It’s up to you to choose the method that seems most suitable but you will have access to lots of advice to help you. The information you receive from health professionals will help you stay motivated and better understand the benefits of overcoming your addiction.
- Reviewed by:
- Dr Bryony Henderson, Lead GP, Livi