Quitting Smoking

“I went to you a little over one year ago to help me quit smoking. Well, I have not touched a smoke since my first session and still haven’t had any desire for a smoke. I have never had any craving or anything since that first session, it’s like I have never smoked before. Thanks for doing that for me. It’s the best quitting smoking program out there.”  G.S., Kelowna

Disclaimer : Results may vary from person to person.

At some point, every smoker faces the prospect of quitting. On one hand, the serious health consequences of smoking and the fear of what it does to our health is a major motivator for quitting. On the other hand, there is the fear of how hard it will be to quit smoking- withdrawal symptoms, cravings, and living without the nicotine that a smoker has come to rely on.

There are two aspects to a smoking addiction: the physical and the mental. The physical aspect- withdrawal- is the most feared part of quitting, but is actually probably the easier to kick as these symptoms can be countered through treatment and through daily coping strategies. It’s true that nicotine is very addictive and quitting smoking can be very difficult. For many people it takes a few failed attempts before they quit smoking for good. But regardless of whether it’s your first time quitting or whether you’ve attempted it in the past, if you are willing to stick with it, you will succeed.

Acupuncture is a great option to help to address the physical aspects of quitting smoking, and can provide support and encouragement to help make quitting a success. One of the effects of nicotine on the body is that it stimulates the body to produce endorphins. When you quit smoking, the endorphin levels in the body initially drop while the body adjusts to producing normal level of endorphins again. This endorphin drop causes withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, tension, anxiety, and restlessness, particularly during the first few weeks of quitting. One of the effects that acupuncture has on the body is that it stimulates endorphin production. The endorphin boost helps to reduce stress and calm the mind, and by relaxing the body, it can help reduce cravings. In this way acupuncture is a very useful tool in overcoming withdrawal symptoms and making the adjustment to a smoke-free lifestyle.

Of course, acupuncture will only help with the physical aspect of the addiction- it won’t make you stop thinking about smoking. People often ask how successful acupuncture is for quitting smoking, and the truth is that long-term success largely depends on a person’s commitment to remaining smoke free, and on overcoming the mental aspect of the addiction, and this is true regardless of what method you choose to help you quit.

The mental aspect of nicotine addiction is where you have to work on seeing yourself as a non-smoker, regardless of any situation. You can tackle this by creating a quit plan. A quit plan is like a road map to success, allowing you to anticipate what’s ahead and to prepare for any potential challenges. After years of smoking every day, it may at first feel strange that smoking is no longer a part of your daily routine. Furthermore, living smoke-free doesn’t mean living stress-free. In fact, stress is quite often a major reason for relapsing. A quit plan helps you to find ways ahead of time for dealing with changes to your routines and with potentially stressful situations.

A quit plan includes learning your triggers: the times, places, situations, feelings and moods that trigger your cigarette cravings. You need to be aware of the triggers so that they don’t catch you off guard, and you need to come up with new ways to deal with them to break the smoking association.

A quit plan also includes building coping strategies: these are your techniques for dealing with and eliminating your triggers such as avoiding situations that cause cravings, changing routines, or finding new ways to deal with emotions or stress that you used to deal with by smoking.

As part of your quit plan, you should also build a support team: people or programs that can help and encourage you through rough patches, keep you on track, and share your successes. And last but not least, set a date!

With quitting smoking, there is no magic bullet. The truth is that it does take hard work and commitment. Those of us who don’t smoke can tell you that you will still face stress and challenges in life. But you can look forward to better health and more money in your pocket, among so many other positive changes. And to help you through the initial transition to becoming a non-smoker, acupuncture can help make it a smoother and more comfortable experience.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, Kelowna, BC.

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