Addiction can be devastating. Recent scientific advances have shaped our understanding of this common and complex problem. The good news is that there are a number of effective treatments for addiction, including self-help strategies, psychotherapy, medications, and rehabilitation programs. You can use the strategies presented in this report, Overcoming Addiction: Finding an effective path toward recovery, to discover new ways…Learn More »
Each year, more than a third of smokers try to kick the habit. But stress, socializing, and the addictive property of nicotine often get in the way. Tobacco use may be the toughest unhealthy habit to break. But don’t get discouraged. You can quit. In fact, in the United States today, there are more ex-smokers than smokers.
The information in this Harvard Medical School Guide can help you learn about common obstacles that arise when people try to quit, and the various techniques to overcome them. The options include behavior therapy, support groups, hypnosis, nicotine replacement therapy, and medications. You can be one of the people who successfully quit, and this report can help you find the best way to do so.
Prepared by the editors of Harvard Health Publishing in consultation Howard Lewine, M.D., Chief Medical Editor, Internet Publishing, Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School. 36 pages. (2017)
About Harvard Medical School Guides
Harvard Medical School Guides delivers compact, practical information on important health concerns. These publications are smaller in scope than our Special Health Reports, but they are written in the same clear, easy-to-understand language, and they provide the authoritative health advice you expect from Harvard Health Publishing.
- When you quit, you win
- Why is tobacco so dangerous?
- Tobacco’s toll on health
- Dangers of secondhand smoke
- Benefits of quitting
- Obstacles to quitting
- Are you ready to quit?
- How to quit: A two-pronged approach
- Coping with withdrawal symptoms
- Special sect ion for parents: Helping teens quit
Obstacles to quitting
Most smokers already know that smoking is harmful to their health and want to stop. Many try quitting—one, two, three, or maybe as many as eight or 10 times. Quitting often takes several attempts because it is more than a matter of willpower. When you smoke, your body and your mind become addicted. You have to overcome both of these aspects of the addiction to give up smoking for good. Later in this report, we’ll discuss ways to cope with both the physical and mental hurdles to quitting. For now, let’s take a look at the obstacles that someone who wants to quit is up against.
Physical withdrawal symptoms make stopping any addictive drug uncomfortable.
Nicotine—the addictive drug in tobacco—is one of the most difficult to beat. People who try to cut back or quit smoking usually experience one or more withdrawal symptom. Symptoms can arrive within a few hours of the last cigarette and include:
- cravings for a cigarette
- inability to concentrate
- excessive hunger
- trouble sleeping
The first two or three days after quitting are the worst for withdrawal symptoms. After you make it through the initial hurdle, expect your symptoms to wane gradually over a month or more.
For many people, smoking is part of a daily routine. Certain events, such as finishing a meal or having the first cup of morning coffee, become associated with lighting up a cigarette. In order to quit, a smoker must break these links.
Everyone experiences unpleasant feelings from time to time, such as anger, boredom, or frustration. Smoking is one way people handle those feelings. When smokers try to quit, they need alternative ways to cope.
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