Smoking - Cessation
Nicotine is a deadly drug, which causes a powerful addiction. Today, it has in its grip close on 1.3 billion people worldwide. However, it’s not the nicotine that’s the cause for concern, but the method used to ingest it. Nicotine attaches itself to the tar inside a cigarette and is thus transported to the lungs. The nicotine is absorbed quickly, but the tar remains behind. This coats the lungs, building up and eventually killing the tissue.
During the early stages, smoking is pleasurable, which gives us positive reinforcement. Nicotine reaches the brain in 10 seconds, triggering the release of dopamine, the feel-good brain chemical, raising heart rate and boosting memory and alertness. After smoking for many years, the avoidance of withdrawal symptoms and negative reinforcement become the key motivations to carry on smoking.
It’s been irrefutably proven that smoking cigarettes is among the leading causes of many diseases such as lung cancer, heart attacks, strokes and erectile dysfunction, as well as birth defects. Further studies have also shown that quitting has immediate benefits, such as reducing blood pressure and heart rate. So, the reasons to stop are clear. Admittedly, the first few days of abstinence are hard, but there are ways to keep yourself on track.
What happens after your last smoke?
- In 20 minutes, your blood pressure and pulse drop back to normal
- In 8 hours, the carbon monoxide (a toxic gas) from your last cigarette has left your bloodstream and oxygen levels return to normal
- In 48 hours, your sense of taste and smell improve and your damaged nerve endings start to regrow
- In 72 hours, your bronchial tubes, the airways to your lungs, relax and your energy levels increase
- In 3-9 months, coughing, wheezing and breathing problems dissipate as your lung capacity improves by up to 30%
- In 1 year, your risk of having a heart attack is halved
- In 5 years, your risk of having a stroke returns to that of a non-smoker and you cut your risk of mouth, throat and oesophageal cancer by half
- In 10 years, your risk of dying of lung cancer is almost as low as that of a non-smoker
- In 15 years, your chance of dying from any cause is almost the same as anyone who never smoked
Most smokers gain weight when they stop because quitting increases hunger pangs. Keep low-calorie treats handy to pop in your mouth, such as vegetable sticks. Although it sounds too good to be true, research has shown that sipping ice-cold water releases dopamine and has the same effect as smoking a cigarette.
Avoid stressful situations and keep as calm as you can. Physical activity is a great distraction from wanting to light up, so go for a walk or go to gym. And don't forget to reward yourself for not smoking by doing something you enjoy every day, like going for a back massage.
Identify your personal smoking triggers: Triggers are a form of conditioned response, so diffuse them by changing your routine. For example, if you associate smoking with coffee, switch to tea for a while.
Remember, each time you resist the temptation to light up, you've lessened the power nicotine has over you. Most cravings only last 1-5 minutes. Ride them out and you'll be one step closer to being free from nicotine addiction.
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