Friday, June 26, 2009

Why It's So Hard to Quit Smoking

Cigarettes themselves do a good job getting the nicotine to your brain. Within ten seconds of each inhale, the nicotine has gone to the brain, making the smoker feel more alert and more calm. Not only does the brain's structure change to include nicotine as a necessary component, it also starts connecting it to your daily routine. Have a cigarette after breakfast a few times? Soon, your brain will tell you that the post breakfast cigarette is necessary. Go out for your smoke break at the same time every day? Soon you'll start getting antsy if you have to be in a long meeting during the time when you normally go out to smoke. The really insidious thing about nicotine addiction is that it turns our own brain against us.

This creates extra problems for people trying to quit. They first have to overcome the addiction to nicotine itself not a small feat. But in addition to that, they have to overcome the smoking habits to stop feeling the urge to light a cigarette at those times of day when they always did. This is why a big part of quitting is creating new habits that replace the old nicotine craving ones. Because the draw is so strong, nearly 90% of the people who just quit cold turkey are smoking again in 6 months.

This doesn't mean they have failed (most people have to try a few times before they've really quit) but it does mean they have to start again. One of the nice things about things like Nicoderm patches is that they can ease the nicotine out of the system so that resisting the cravings isn't as difficult, which helps to free up time to break other habits. That doesn't always mean it will be smooth-sailing to quitting, but it can make the quitting more feasible more quickly.


lina said...

That is why my husband is hard to quit smoking...

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