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Why is smoking addictive?

Anyone can become addicted to smoking which makes it difficult to quit, but why is smoking addictive?

Well, the tobacco in the cigarette contains the chemical ‘nicotine’ which is a highly addictive substance. When nicotine enters your body, it leads to changes in two of the brain’s chemicals (noradrenaline and dopamine) within just ten seconds. Whilst you’ll initially experience a positive change in your mood, feel more relaxed and have better concentration, this is only a temporary effect. When nicotine levels decline, you will start to experience withdrawal symptoms which can include the following:

  • Cigarette cravings
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Weight gain
  • Changes in your mood such as increased stress levels, anxiety, irritability and depression

Withdrawal symptoms can kick in just a few hours after your last cigarette and become stronger the longer you refrain from smoking. 

Why is quitting smoking so hard?

Quitting smoking is hard due to the addictive nature of nicotine and the withdrawal symptoms you can experience. As previously mentioned, withdrawal symptoms can start after a few hours of you smoking your last cigarette and they are particularly strong during the first week of quitting. Many smokers who want to stop smoking really struggle during this time and may turn back to smoking to “manage” their symptoms - but the toxic smoking cycle will continue. Despite the first few weeks being challenging, withdrawal effects can fade and disappear after two to four weeks so once you reach this point, not smoking will be far easier.

How to cope with nicotine withdrawal

Simply cutting out cigarettes from your life completely and going “cold turkey” isn’t a very effective way to quit and you’re better off thinking about what support you can get or what changes to your lifestyle you can make to help combat your withdrawal symptoms.

If you’ve tried to quit smoking or you’re preparing to, here are just some ways you can cope with nicotine withdrawal symptoms:

Consider prescription stop smoking medicines

Medicines such as Zyban and Champix don’t contain nicotine but can be taken to help manage your cravings. They can take a number of days to work, so you’ll need to hang in there until their full effects kick in. If you think you’d benefit from prescription stop smoking medicines then consult your GP or a professional smoke-stop advisor. 

Learn more about prescription stop smoking medicines on the NHS website.

Exercise

Exercise can have a really positive effect on both your physical and mental health as well as helping to reduce some of your withdrawal symptoms.If you feel the urge to have a smoke, opt to go for a walk or complete a short workout instead to keep yourself occupied and fit. 

Find out how you can get active and lose weight with the support of LiveWell Dorset. 

Avoid triggers

Certain things can trigger your urge to smoke, this can be anything from people, places, events or times of the day. For example, if you’re used to having a smoke during a lunch break with a colleague, it might be a better idea to switch up your routine and go for a walk in your break instead. These changes don’t need to be permanent but they can be incredibly helpful to do until you’re not experiencing strong cravings. 

Switch to vaping

According to the NHS, vaping is less harmful than smoking cigarettes and can be used as a replacement to cigarettes to help ease you off of nicotine. For those who are eligible, we can send an e-cig starter pack so you can give vaping a try in place of smoking cigarettes. 

Find out more about the difference between smoking and vaping here.

Consider nicotine replacement therapy (NRT)

An alternative to prescription stop smoking medicines is NRT which contains nicotine (but not the toxic chemicals found in cigarettes that can cause cancer) and can be taken to cope with cravings. You can get NRT in the form of chewing gum, mouth sprays, nasal sprays, patches and more - so you’re sure to find a form of NRT that you’re comfortable with. 

Those who are eligible are able to receive a pack of nicotine gum and patches from LiveWell Dorset, so you can give NRT a go to help your smoke-stop efforts. 

Make changes to your diet

Believe it or not, certain foods can affect the amount of pleasure you get from a cigarette (Truth Initiative). For example, foods and drinks such as meat, alcohol, sugary and spicy foods have been found to enhance the taste of cigarettes and trigger cravings. On the other hand, dairy products can have the opposite effect which could help prevent you from wanting to smoke. Knowing which foods could affect your relationship with smoking could really help dampan withdrawal symptoms. 

Spend more time with non-smokers 

If you’re used to going out with friends who smoke, you’re likely to struggle more with managing your withdrawal symptoms as temptation is staring right back at you. Instead, try to spend more time with your non-smoking friends so that you can have a smoke-free zone to relax in.

Get support

There are lots of people who you could turn to for support when looking to stop smoking. You could tell friends and family members that you want to give up smoking so that they’re aware and can be there for you when you need to talk. Alternatively, there are smoke-stop services such as the one we offer here at LiveWell Dorset who have professional coaches and advisors on hand to guide you each step of the way. 

Having a support system in place can make all the difference - did you know that those who seek expert help and advice are up to four times more likely to successfully quit smoking?

Am I addicted to smoking cigarettes?

You might not yet realise if you’re addicted to smoking, so, how can you tell? Well, the reality is that most smokers are addicted to smoking due to the highly addictive nature of nicotine. Here are a few things that can indicate you’re addicted to smoking:

  • You crave a cigarette soon after waking up
  • You struggle not to smoke in places where you are restricted (such as on public transport)
  • You notice you negative changes in your mood if you go a couple of hours without smoking

These are just a few signs that you may be struggling with smoking, but don’t worry, we’re here to help support you should you wish to stop and work towards a healthier lifestyle. 

Looking to stop smoking? 

If you live in Dorset and you’d like support to stop smoking or you know someone who does, we can help!

With a team of professional coaches and advisors on hand to guide you each step of the way, you can learn how to break your smoking habit with LiveWell Dorset. Simply register or have a chat with us today to start your journey to become smoke-free. 

Lynette

"The LiveWell team are amazing. Every time I speak to them, they are so helpful. Having someone on the end of the phone is an amazing boost."

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How does this work?

The tailored approach LiveWell Dorset uses to come up with solutions to the things that are stopping us achieving our goals, is based upon work done by University College London developing the COM-B model of behaviour change. In this model, all behaviour is influenced by understanding a person’s capability to change, their opportunity to change and their motivation to change. By understanding which of these is the biggest barrier to change, we can tailor support accordingly. This model of behaviour change is at the centre of the support we offer, online and in person.

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