Happy Fall, Boilers! This time of year, change can be felt and seen all around with cooler weather, colorful trees and an impending new year. The change in seasons is inevitable but choosing to make changes to your lifestyle can be difficult. For example, you or someone you know may be considering a big lifestyle change to quit smoking.
There is a common misconception that smoking/ dipping/ chewing tobacco is simply a bad habit and any nicotine addiction is just a lack of willpower or an inability to change one’s behavior. However, research now shows nicotine addiction is a form of chronic brain disease resulting from an alteration in brain chemistry. Nicotine stimulates the release of brain neurotransmitters, including dopamine, which activates the dopamine reward pathway. This causes feelings of pleasure, which results in the “urge to smoke” described by most smokers. With chronic smoking, tolerance to the effects of nicotine develops over the course of the day and tobacco users regain sensitivity to the effects of nicotine overnight. When tobacco users abruptly discontinue nicotine, they experience symptoms of withdrawal.
Withdraw symptoms include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Change in mood/depression
- Impaired performance
- Increased appetite/weight gain
In general, withdrawal symptoms manifest within the first one to two days, peak within the first week and gradually dissipate over the next two to four weeks. Strong cravings for tobacco may persist for months to years after cessation. These withdrawal symptoms work against your efforts to quit smoking.
So how can you create a plan to quit smoking and succeed?
Change your behavior. Quitting is a learning process. Every smoker had to teach himself or herself how to smoke. Quitting is then a case of learning how not to smoke. In order to learn anything successfully, one must prepare properly and have a plan. However, many smokers believe that they can simply “make” themselves quit by somehow willing it to happen. They do not prepare to stop or create a quitting plan. Research shows us involving clinicians and assessing our unconscious behaviors will result in greater success. The Center for Healthy Living on Purdue’s West Lafayette campus has health coaches on hand who are trained and ready to help you create a smoking cessation plan, follow it and be successful in your journey to a tobacco-free life.
Change your thoughts. Smokers often confuse the relief of withdraw with the feeling of relaxation. You might tell yourself “smoking gets rid of all my stress,” but the reality is there will always be stress in one’s life. Your quitting plan must include other ways to cope with stress. You might tell yourself “I cannot relax without a cigarette,” but the reality is there are plenty of other ways to relax without a cigarette. In the end, tobacco is the problem, not the solution.
Change your environment. Tobacco-free environments (e.g., home and workplace) can increase your chances of success. Remove cues for tobacco use, modify behaviors associated with tobacco use and actively avoid specific situations in which tobacco use is likely to occur. Oral, non-medicated substitutes for tobacco use include drinking water, chewing sugar-free gum or sucking on sugar-free candies. Taking walks helps change your environment and also increases circulation and oxygenation in your body while burning calories. Minimize stress where possible, obtain social support and take frequent breaks.
In summary, create a quitting plan that includes changes to your behaviors, thoughts and environment. Success is more likely when support is in place.
Support is available
Support to quit smoking can include but is not limited to:
- The “Great American Smokeout” is a national event hosted by the American Cancer Society on the third Thursday of November (Nov. 15, 2018), when smokers are encouraged to either quit smoking or choose a quit date in the not-too-distant future. Again this year the “X-Pack” smoking cessation tool kits are available and can be picked up at the Center for Healthy Living, PUSH, Purdue University Pharmacy and the CoRec on Purdue’s West Lafayette campus beginning Nov. 15.
- Health coaches at the Center for Healthy Living on Purdue’s West Lafayette campus or another health-care professional. One-on-one and group classes are held at the Center for Healthy Living as well. Call the center at 765-494-0111.
- Telephonic support is available for employees not frequently on the West Lafayette campus, including employees at our regional campuses. Employees can contact the health coaches at the Center for Healthy Living on Purdue’s West Lafayette campus or another healthcare professional of their choice.
- 1-800-QUIT NOW The Indiana Tobacco Quitline is available seven days a week. This program is provided by the state Department of Health, and it is available to all residents of Indiana.
- Local group programs offered by the American Cancer Society, the American Lung Association or community hospitals.
- Free behavioral support programming offered by all smoking cessation medications
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (1988). The Health Consequences of Smoking: Nicotine Addiction. A Report of the Surgeon General.
- “Nicotine Pharmacology & Principles of Addiction.” Rxforchange, <rxforchange.ucsf.edu/curricula/teaching_materials.php>.
- Purdue University Human Resources Benefits Website: https://www.purdue.edu/hr/Benefits/currentEmployees/Medical/tobaccoCessation.html
Blog written in partnership with Health Coach at One to One Health.