Thursday, November 17, 2016

Be a Quitter: Conquer Your Smoking Cessation Pitfalls

Have you ever been told to "just quit" smoking? As you may know by now, it's not that easy.

Research suggests that nicotine may be as addictive as heroin, cocaine and alcohol. If you're struggling to stop smoking, you're far from alone: there are more people in the United States who are addicted to nicotine than to any other drug. On the bright side, you are never too old to quit smoking. There are numerous benefits for those who stop at any age, namely reducing your risk of deadly heart, pulmonary and vascular diseases, and of course, cancer.

November 17 marks this year's Great American Smokeout, an opportunity for you to make a plan to quit your tobacco habit. Chances are you've tried before, and like millions of other Americans, have relapsed. Here are some tips on how to tackle common smoking cessation pitfalls:

I get overly hungry and gain weight when I quit.

Nicotine increases the metabolic rate, so it's normal for your metabolism to slow a bit when you stop smoking. However, the tradeoff is that you will be able to breathe better, making you a better walker, runner, biker, swimmer – whatever cardio you enjoy! Channel nervous energy into a newly-amped up exercise plan and you will be less likely to gain weight. Keep your mouth busy by crunching healthy snacks like carrots and drink plenty of water, which will help boost your metabolism again.

I crave tobacco.

There are seven FDA-approved medications, such as nicotine patches and gums, which have high success rates of helping even long-time smokers quit when used properly. Consult your doctor about which solution may be right for you and be sure to follow the instructions exactly for best results.

I can't concentrate.

Inability to focus is one of the most common complaints of people who are trying to quit smoking. Unfortunately, your brain has been trained to think it needs nicotine in order to function, and it has become dependent. Try to clear your mental fog by focusing on your reasons for quitting: your health, your wallet, and your friends and family. Set a goal of making it through the first 72 hours, and you'll be amazed at how quickly your body will begin to heal.

I feel irritable, angry, stressed, or anxious.

Breaking free of any addiction is stressful. Cut yourself some slack and treat yourself – you are fighting a battle for your health, and you deserve it! You're bound to save some money now that you're not buying cigarettes – how about a concert, movie, or trip with your kids or partner that will free your mind a bit?

Most importantly, remember that you are far from alone: millions of Americans struggle with nicotine addiction every day. Seek out support and bond with others experiencing the same challenges. The Baltimore County Department of Health offers smoking cessation resources including group classes, a hotline (1-800-QUIT-NOW) and one-on-one consultations. Visit for information.

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