And the trickiest thing about this addiction? It often grows more severe over time as more nicotine becomes necessary to battle rising tolerance and catch that “buzz.” Still, any addiction is possible to break. Adults who started smoking in their teens have been able to quit after 40 years of daily use. You’re never too far down Addiction Road to pull off on the exit to Recovery Lane. Let’s look at a few potential roadmaps to recovery.
Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)
NRT is a strategy that targets nicotine addiction at its most direct source: chemical dependence. It works by supplying a smoker with a regulated nicotine supply while slowly lowering that amount over time. Here, cigarettes are replaced with more measurable (and less harmful) forms of nicotine intake like patches, lozenges and gum.
These nicotine products can be bought over the counter at most pharmacies, but working with an expert’s oversight throughout the process is still highly recommended.
Note that you should resist the temptation to take up vaping as your alternative nicotine supply. While it may feel healthier than smoking cigarettes, the market for vaporizers is woefully unregulated. There are few certainties for what these products actually contain, and little liability for the companies that manufacture them. In contrast, established brands of nicotine gum, patches and lozenges have been rigorously examined by food and health standards organizations.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT works by finding a positive habit or behavior to replace the negative vice of smoking cigarettes. When your brain is screaming for nicotine, it’s also craving the associated release of dopamine or serotonin that nicotine sparks. Instead of replacing the nicotine, this strategy makes use of other dopamine-releasing behaviors to replace that happy “fix.” Some examples of these behaviors include working out, learning a new skill or taking on a new challenge.
It may sound simple, but the process can be quite complex and nuanced. A trained CBT expert is highly recommended for assistance in this process, and to lean on for support when cravings grow extreme. CBT has benefited people with a wide range of addiction-based behaviors from smoking to drinking to compulsive habits like nail biting. Seek out the advice of a mental health professional to learn whether CBT may work for you.
Ready to quit?
Both of these expert-designed approaches have saved countless lives from the cancers, cardiovascular issues and mental anguish that may result from long-term smoking. If you’re a smoker who’s ready to quit, do your own research into both methods and seek the advice of a healthcare professional. And of course, don’t hesitate to reach out to your loved ones for their support as you make a move to put smoking behind you.