The benefits of quitting smoking are obvious, but how to do it is not so obvious. There are 4 basic ways to quit smoking, cold turkey, with the help of nicotine gums and patches, with a medication called Chantix and with a medication called Wellbutrin (Zyban).
Cold turkey, is obviously stopping abruptly with no help. The term cold turkey comes from the goose bumps one gets during heroin withdrawl (ones skin is goose bumps pale and cool, like a cold turkey)
Using nicotine gum, lozenges and patches gives an active blood level of nicotine, preventing withdrawal. There are two parts of addiction, the physical dependence on the nicotine, and the habit of the actual act of smoking. By delaying the physical withdrawal, one can get beyond the tactile, smell, oral and lung experiences of smoking. One can taper the use of gum gradually. Patches are less appropriate, they provide a continuous blood level of nicotine all day, higher than one actually needs, and are much less amenable to tapering the dose. If you smoke more than 1 pack per day, use the 4mg gum dose, if less than 1 pack, use the smaller, 2mg dose.
Chantix is a prescription drug use to aide in quitting smoking. It chemically is similar to nicotine, and actually plugs into the nicotine receptors in the brain. It tricks the brain into thinking it is still getting nicotine. The more interesting thing is, that because it is plugged into the nicotine receptors, if you actually smoke, the nicotine does not plug into, and activate the nicotine receptors and you get no reward from smoking. The cigarettes become less pleasurable, and you lose interest in smoking. Chantix can be associated with troublesome side effects. It causes vivid, weird dreams. About half of the people that start the drug, stop because of this. It has been associated with suicidal thoughts and other psychiatric disturbances. Nausea can be common, and taking a starter pac the first month can help with this.
Lastly, an antidepressant drug called Wellbutrin (bupropion) is used for smoking. Wellbutrin works as an antidepressant by raising Dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine is the pleasure chemical, and is released when you smoke, or eat ice cream, or pull a slot machine handle, have sex or jump out of an airplane. When you quit smoking, your Dopamine levels drop, putting you into a relative state of depression. You can eat, or smoke or take Wellbutrin to maintain your Dopamine levels. It can take 4-6 weeks to work, so I have my patients start the medication, while they continue to smoke. Usually in 2-3 weeks, the cigarettes start to lose their appeal, and uses drops. By 6 weeks, if you haven’t yet, you should be able to stop altogether.
Important things to remember are, with Chantix and Wellbutrin, you should take it for at least 6 months. If you take it for less than this, your chances of starting smoking are much greater. You have to want to quit. If you are trying because someone else is telling you, you wont be successful. The motivation must come from within.