Happy New Year! One of the most common New Year’s resolutions that people make is that they will finally quit smoking.
Whatever your reasons for doing so (for your health, financial reasons, providing a good example for your kids, no longer wanting to go around smelling like an ashtray), they are your reasons, and they’re crucial to your success. Unless you truly want to quit, you probably won’t be successful. Even IF you truly want to quit, you might not make it. But the single more important contributing factor to your success? Turns out it’s the number of times you try! If at first you don’t succeed…
Now, if this is your first time trying to quit, good luck! If you’ve tried before, but it didn’t stick – try again! But first - think back on that last time you tried, and see if you can figure out what it was that made you start smoking again – and this time, do what you can to prevent that from happening again.
If you need a little encouragement, consider these facts about your body’s amazing ability for healing:
The Smoking Cessation Program (aka “Quit Now, Quit Forever” or “Ditch the Nic”) here at Yaletown Naturopathic Clinic is a multi-faceted 6-week program designed to gently wean you off nicotine, curb the cravings and break the behavioural aspect of your smoking habit, as well as providing general health support to get you back to optimal health as quickly as possible. We’ll use a combination of acupuncture and behavioural modification, along with supplements that support the body’s natural detoxification pathways and help your body start getting back to its healthy pre-tobacco state.
As of January 1, 2016, the BC government introduced a new program that covers part or all of the cost of either nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) or prescription smoking cessation medications.
Nicotine replacement therapy is just what it says – a way to get nicotine into the body that doesn’t involve smoking (or vaporizing) it. They provide a tailored approach starting with the amount you currently smoke, which is then gradually decreased over a period of weeks to months. If followed correctly, this can be very effective. It provides nicotine to the body, which helps to prevent cravings when you stop getting the drug through smoking. Over time, the mental attachment to the act of smoking gradually diminishes as you no longer perform that action.
Prescription medications to help quit smoking are another option. Bupropion (brand name Wellbutrin or Zyban) acts on the nicotine receptors to make them less receptive to the actions of nicotine, as well as moderating the dopamine and norepinephrine systems. Varenicline (brand name Champix) similarly partially blocks the action of nicotine, as well as decreasing the pleasure perceived from smoking by its actions on the dopamine system. How effective are they? Compared to a placebo, taking either of these medications (based on a 12-week treatment period) increases one’s chances of remaining smoke-free by at least 50%, measured at the one-year mark. Some official side effects reported were nausea and sleep disturbances. However, varenicline has also been suspected in contributing to deaths of 44 people in Canada since it was approved in Canada in 2007, 30 of which were by suicide. “Increased depression and suicidal ideation” has been much more common, reported by over 1300 patients. So if you have ever suffered from even a mild mood disorder, you should consider carefully before choosing this option. Ensure you have substantial personal support in the form of friends and family who can be on the lookout for any behavioural changes while on this medication.
Your last option for quitting: going cold turkey. Some people can do it. Many people have done it. Can you? Well, that’s up to you.
Whatever option you choose, I wish you all the best. There is almost nothing else you can do for your health that provides a bigger potential benefit than quitting smoking. And you deserve it.
Reuben Dinsmore is a naturopathic physician in Vancouver, BC interested in opening up the lines of dialogue around health.