Quitting Smoking: Prepping Yourself For The Process May Be More Helpful Than You Think

20/04/2016 6:04 AM AEST | Updated 28/09/2016 9:59 PM AEST
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Studio Shot of cigarette butts in ashtrey

With the cost of cigarettes expected to further skyrocket come Budget time, there’s no day like the present to kick the habit.

But you’ve already heard this all before, right? You’re trying, we get it: quitting is a drag.

“Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances that we have and by some calculation, there are estimates that suggest it is the most addictive,” Professor Ann Roche, director at the National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction at Flinders University told The Huffington Post Australia.

Whether it's yourself or a loved one trying to give up, Roche explains it's important to understand there is a combination of factors at play that affect the success of maintaining cessation.

And as concerning as it may be watching someone you care about give in to their addiction over and over again, experts agree pressuring somebody can actually make it harder for them to quit.

Studies suggest it can take smokers three or four attempts to quit, while others suggest it can take up to five or six.

“It’s not uncommon for people to quit for a short period of time -- a couple of days or a week -- and then take it up again -- over years and years,” Roche said.

"Often what happens is the cessation period becomes longer between each of the quit attempts," Roche said.

This can be tailored to different life events for example, between having children or following a stressful period like a divorce.

Roche outlines three major reasons relapses occur.

Withdrawal symptoms

“They are extremely uncomfortable. They are also the reason you smoke every hour as this is the period it takes for the nicotine to be metabolised in your system before it starts to crave another hit of the drug. That degree of discomfort varies from individual and if you don’t have other things in your life that help you balance that discomfort, quitting becomes very difficult, particularly in the first couple of weeks. If you have a lot of resources in your life that allow you to exercise more, meditate, assist with stress management -- all of these types of things can really help you manage.”

The good news? Within two weeks of quitting your heart rate will have significantly decreased. Your risk of heart attack also begins to reduce and lung function improves, making exercise easier.

Life pressures

“This speaks to the advice that says don’t try and stop if you know you’re about to go through a particularly stressful situation like moving house or changing jobs. If you’re already struggling to cope, you don’t have a lot of resources left over to deal with the discomfort of the withdrawal symptoms, making it harder for you to stop.”

Basically, whatever your quitting method, the more prepared and motivated you are, the better. But if you happen to slip up, don't discount the fact you've given it a shot. Every quitting attempt helps to break the habit and in turn, weaken your addiction.

Unconscious cues

“Because smoking -- probably more than any other drug-taking behaviour -- happens on such a regular basis, it’s very much stimulated by other cues and responses. If you’re in a social environment for example, where other people are smoking, that will act as an unconscious cue. It could be as small as something like an ashtray. And then there is the concept of coupling behaviours, whereby a social activity goes hand in hand with smoking. For example, heavy smokers are also likely to be regular drinkers, partly because their social activities to a very large extent, go hand in hand. It’s about learning to uncouple those behaviours.”

Sadly, having "just one" is the way most people go back to regular smoking. A good way of preparing yourself is by knowing your triggers. Is it a morning coffee? Following a meal? Friday night drinks?

For more information visit quitnow.gov.au or call Quitline on 13 78 48.

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