Cigarette standing on it's butt, burning, with long ashes.

What’s the best way to quit smoking?

Smoking is far and away the biggest health crisis in America

Smoking is the number one preventable cause of death, leading to an estimated 480,000 deaths every year, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC). That’s about four times higher than the next leading preventable cause of death, which high blood pressure and other complications associated with being overweight or obese. 

In addition, quitting smoking can be one of the toughest habits to kick, and it takes an average of five to seven tries before a person achieves success. That’s because nicotine is a powerfully addictive drug, one that some believe may be more addictive than crack cocaine.

Why is nicotine so addictive?

To answer that, it’s important to point out that nicotine addiction is both physical and mental. On the physical side, nicotine is a stimulant drug that works on receptors in the brain that are responsible for things like muscle movement, breathing, heart rate, learning and memory and more.

Stimulating these receptors can also cause a release of neurotransmitters like dopamine, which is one of the “feel-good” chemicals our bodies naturally produce.

However, nicotine’s effects are incredibly short lived, even compared to other similar drugs of abuse. Because of this, smokers need to constantly keep taking more to get that same reward or pleasant feeling from the nicotine.

Dopamine has another effect as well – it’s associated with our reward pathways, meaning that when we do something perceived as good or right, our brains release a little bit of dopamine to help us remember to repeat these kinds of behaviors.

Unfortunately for users, that means that every time they take a puff on a cigarette (or e-cigarette, or use smokeless tobacco), they are reinforcing that behavior in their brain. That’s why nicotine addiction causes such a powerful mental addiction as well.

Nicotine withdrawal

As a result, quitting nicotine has several hurdles that need to be overcome to be successful. The first is the physical symptoms, which usually peak within the first few days after smoking the last cigarette but can last for up to a few weeks.

The most common physical symptoms of nicotine withdrawal include:

  • Headaches
  • Weight gain
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Drowsiness
  • Trouble sleeping

The next, and often more difficult to overcome, issue that most people face is the psychological withdrawal symptoms of nicotine addiction. This includes things like:

  • Cravings
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness

Quitting nicotine cold turkey vs. gradually

As with many drugs, there’s always the debate over these two methods off stopping, and they both have their pros and cons.

With quitting abruptly, or cold turkey, the main pro is that you can get the nicotine out of your system and start to cope without it. But this method can be highly ineffective, as many people can’t tolerate the severity of the withdrawal symptoms and find themselves relapsing often.

When you gradually reduce the intake of nicotine over time, you give the body a chance to slowly adapt to less of the drug in your system, which can make the withdrawal symptoms much less severe. That’s why there are so many methods and products to help people quit smoking slowly, like patches, nicotine gum, lozanges and more.

The latter method is often more effective, and when combined with therapy to help the person learn to cope without the drug, they can be even more useful.

Beating nicotine addiction with treatment through Enterhealth

Enterhealth offers a comprehensive program to help people quit using nicotine. The program, offered through in-person treatment or via remote treatment using our telehealth services platform, is a 12-week program that combines things like medication to slowly reduce a patient’s dose over time with innovative therapies designed to treat the physical and mental aspects of nicotine addiction.

We start with an assessment by a by a psychiatrist, who is able to determine any underlying psychiatric issues before starting treatment. From there, the experts at Enterhealth create a personalized treatment plan that’s specifically meant to help lessen the symptoms withdrawal, like anxiety, depression and weight gain that often accompany stopping nicotine.

After that, patients are prescribed a customized medication plan and attend behavioral therapy sessions to receive the latest, science-based care to help them realize long-term success in quitting smoking.

We have experience treating difficult addictions

Enterhealth is uniquely qualified to offer this kind of program because we have years of experience working with patients dealing with both physical and mental aspects to their addictions – a condition known as a dual-diagnosis.

This means we understand how to treat the physical symptoms, as well as the psychological grip that drugs often have over users. And because we offer these services through our telehealth services platform, Enterhealth Connect, patients get the benefits of the smoking cessation program without ever having to step into the office to see the doctor or therapist.

Over the past decade, Enterhealth has helped thousands of patients live not only a drug- and alcohol-free life, but a smoke-free life as well. Our goal is to now help as many people quit smoking as we can.

If you or someone you love needs help quitting smoking, call us today at 800.388.4601 or visit https://enterhealth.com/contact-us/.