By Pamela Wiltfang, Pharm.D., M.P.H., B.A., CHES, NuCara Pharmacist
More people in the United States are addicted to nicotine, a drug found naturally in tobacco, than to any other drug. Research suggests that nicotine may be as addictive as heroin, cocaine, or alcohol. Tobacco use can lead to tobacco/nicotine dependence and serious health problems. Quitting smoking greatly reduces the risk of developing smoking-related diseases. Tobacco/nicotine dependence is a condition that often requires repeated treatments, but there are helpful treatments and resources for quitting.
Health Benefits of Quitting
Tobacco smoke contains a deadly mix of more than 7,000 chemicals; hundreds are harmful, and about 70 can cause cancer. Smoking increases the risk for serious health problems, many diseases, and death. Stopping smoking now can lead to the following health benefits:
• Lower risk for lung cancer and many other types of cancer.
• Reduced risk for heart disease, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease (narrowing of the blood vessels outside your heart).
• Reduced heart disease risk within 1 to 2 years of quitting.
• Reduced respiratory symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.
• Reduced risk of developing some lung diseases (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, also known as COPD, one of the leading causes of death in the United States).
• Reduced risk for infertility in women of childbearing age. Women who stop smoking during pregnancy also reduce their risk of having a low birth weight baby.
Ways to Help You Quit
Counseling and medication are both effective for treating tobacco dependence, and using them together is more effective than using either one alone.
• Brief help by a doctor (such as when a doctor takes 10 minutes or less to give a patient advice and assistance about quitting)
• Individual, group, or telephone counseling
• Behavioral therapies (such as training in problem solving)
• Treatments with more person-to-person contact and more intensity (such as more or longer counseling sessions)
• Programs to deliver treatments using mobile phones. For examples of apps that can be downloaded on your mobile phone, follow the link below:
Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.portablepixels.smokefree Apple:https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/iquit-stop-smoking-counter/id317768836?mt=8
• Nicotine replacement products:
o Over-the-counter (nicotine patch, gum, lozenge)
o Prescription (nicotine patch, inhaler, nasal spray)
• Prescription non-nicotine medications: bupropion SR (Zyban®), varenicline tartrate (Chantix®)
Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) if you want help quitting. This is a free telephone support service that can help people who want to stop smoking or using tobacco. Callers are routed to their state quitlines, which offer several types of quit information and services. These may include:
• Free support, advice, and counseling from experienced quitline coaches
• A personalized quit plan
• Practical information on how to quit, including ways to cope with nicotine withdrawal
• The latest information about stop-smoking medications
• Free or discounted medications (available for at least some callers in most states)
• Referrals to other resources
• Mailed self-help materials
• For information on quitting, go to the Quit Smoking Resources(http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/quit_smoking/how_to_quit/resources/index.htm) page on CDC’s Smoking & Tobacco Use Web site.
• Read inspiring stories about former smokers and their reasons for quitting at CDC’s Tips From Former Smokers(http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/campaign/tips/) Web site.