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What is Smoking Cessation?

By Jeri Sullivan
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Smoking cessation is the term used to describe the process a person goes through to quit smoking. The most common forms of quitting smoking include cold turkey, nicotine replacement therapy, nicotine patches, and antidepressant or stimulant medication. Depending on the person, more than one form may be required to successfully quit.

Cold turkey is a form of smoking cessation that requires the person to immediately stop smoking without any additional nicotine. This means the person does not gradually wean himself off of nicotine but shocks his body into withdrawal. The most common side effects of stopping cold turkey are headaches, anxiety, irritability, fatigue, insomnia, stomach pain and nausea. The majority of these symptoms are due to the body's reaction to dopamine reductions in the brain and may last for several days until all of the nicotine is out of the body. Once the nicotine is gone, the person may still need to overcome the habit of having something in their mouth or smoking after a meal.

Another form of smoking cessation is nicotine replacement therapy, or NRT. Nicotine replacement therapy works by delivering nicotine to the body through means other than cigarettes. Cigarettes contain harmful chemicals in addition to the habit-forming nicotine which makes nicotine replacement therapy a preferred way to provide nicotine while a person is trying to quit altogether. Some of the most common options for nicotine replacement therapy are lozenges, gum, nasal spray and inhalers. All deliver a measured dose of nicotine that can gradually be reduced so the nicotine withdrawal symptoms are not as severe.

Nicotine patches are a form of smoking cessation that also use nicotine replacement therapy. Each patch has a specific amount of nicotine that is administered transdermally, or through the skin. The patches are sold with different amounts of nicotine so the person can start with a higher dose and every few days or weeks move to a lower dose patch until she feels able to stop smoking.

Smoking cessation may also require prescription medications such as Chantix, Welbutrin, and Zyban. These medications are intended to reduce the physical side effects of quitting smoking in addition to providing an antidepressant for the psychological withdrawals a person may feel. Most of these medications require patients to start with a low dose a week to ten days prior to quitting smoking to allow the medications to get fully into their system. Once they quit smoking successfully, they are often slowly weaned off the medication until they can function without side effects.

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Discussion Comments

By andee — On Apr 01, 2012

@golf07 - I have never tried hypnosis, but have been thinking about taking one of the medications to help with smoking cessation.

I have tried other methods, but think I need some kind of professional smoking cessation treatment.

I have seen commercials and advertisements for medications like Chantix and Welbutrin. Until reading this article I didn't realize they had antidepressants in them.

It makes sense that your body might need some help in dealing with all the emotional issues you go through when you try to stop smoking.

I know many people who have never smoked think it should be just as easy as telling yourself not to do it. It is a lot more complicated than that, and that is why I want to try this medical approach and see if it will help.

By golf07 — On Mar 31, 2012

Has anyone had success with smoking cessation using hypnosis? I think I have tried everything else there is, and have not been able to kick this habit.

I see advertisements from time to time about using hypnosis as a way to stop smoking. This makes me kind of nervous to think about doing, but if it helped me stop smoking, it would be worth it.

I had a friend that went through smoking cessation counseling sessions. I know different things work for different people, but I don't see how counseling would work for me.

I know what I need to do, I just don't seem to have the discipline to do it. Maybe something like hypnosis would give me the motivation and discipline I need to stop.

By LisaLou — On Mar 31, 2012

@SarahSon - I think trying to stop smoking by going cold turkey would be one of the hardest things to do. I have never smoked, but several members of my family smoke, and it is hard for me to completely understand that addiction to cigarettes.

My sister has tried many smoking cessation methods, and she has had the most success with using the nicotine patch. This was not such a shock on her body as trying to quit cold turkey.

It also helped her not to be as irritable and have the headaches when she tried to quit cold turkey. With the patch, she is gradually weaning herself off cigarettes.

This is a slow process for her, but she is smoking much less than she did in the past. She is also finding that she doesn't crave them as strongly as she did before.

I sure hope with the help of the nicotine patch that she will be able to give up smoking for good.

By SarahSon — On Mar 30, 2012

I know several people who have stopped smoking by doing it cold turkey. Many of them tried several of the other methods, but always ended up smoking again.

There are many smoking cessation aids available for a person to try, but for these people, they just decided in their mind they were going to stop.

Sometimes it takes a health scare for them to realize they need to quit smoking. I had an uncle that smoked for 20 years and quit cold turkey when his dad was diagnosed with lung cancer.

He felt much better after he stopped smoking, but after another 20 years went by he was diagnosed with lung cancer. Even though he had stopped, the abuse to his body from smoking for 20 years had a toll on him.

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