By Dr PC Gupta
Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances known to humankind and therefore quitting tobacco requires tremendous will power and planning. Even with a high level of willpower a regular tobacco user will experience intense nicotine withdrawals like irritability, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, restlessness, impatience and tiredness among other symptoms. In addition, there are personal, social and environmental cues that encourage tobacco usage. All these withdrawal symptoms combined with encouraging cues often result in the tobacco users caving in and resorting to the comfort of smoking or chewing tobacco. On an average it may take 2-3 failed quit attempts before a person finally succeeds in becoming tobacco free.
Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)aims to relieve some of these withdrawal symptoms. In India nicotine gum is the most commonly available and used form of NRT.
While attempting to quit a person should plan his quit attempt over a 12 week period since research shows that it takes up to 12 weeks for the nicotine receptors in the brain to switch off. Steps taken during these initial 12 weeks play a crucial role in determining long term success rates.
12 week quit plan
- Decide on a quit date and start planning your attempt a week before that date.
- Inform your family, friends and well-wishers of you quit plans.
- Use an NRT product to reduce withdrawal symptoms.
- Stay away from triggers such as coffee, tea and alcohol.
- Reach out to a tobacco cessation expert either in person or through a quit line.
- Practice deep breathing to distract yourself.
- Reward yourself for every day/week that you remain tobacco free.
Dr PC Gupta is Director, Healis – Sekhsaria Institute for Public Health, Mumbai and Visiting Scientist, Harvard School of Public Health.