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6 important pieces of info about quitting smoking in recovery

How does Smoking Affect Your Body?

Smoking has been shown to increase symptoms of anxiety, and make you nervous, irritable, and depressed. It can cause headaches and dizziness plus it increases your risk of developing a stroke. Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. The CDC says that smoking causes more deaths each year than HIV, illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, and firearm-related incidences combined. The effect it has on your mouth is that it stains your teeth, causes bad breath, dulls your sense of taste, causes bleeding of your gums, and cancer of the mouth or throat.

Smoking causes stroke and CAD (coronary artery disease) which are part of the leading causes of death in the U.S. Even if you smoke fewer than 5 cigarettes per day you can start to show signs of CAD. Smoking damages the blood vessels in your body making them thicken and grow narrow making your heart rate faster and your blood pressure rise increasing the risk of forming clots. A stroke is when a clot blocks the blood flow to part of your brain or when a blood vessel in or around your brain bursts. Peripheral artery disease is when blood flow to your lower legs and skin is reduced smoking can cause blockages that cause this. Smoking damages your airway and the small air sacs (called alveoli) that are in your lungs where oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange occurs become damaged. Lung disease that is caused by smoking is COPD, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis. Smoking is also the root cause of most cases of lung cancer. Tobacco smoke triggers asthma attacks or can make asthma that you already have worse.

Smoking does not just increase your risk of lung cancer it can actually trigger cancer anywhere in the body including in the bladder, blood (leukaemia), cervix, colon, rectum, oesophagus, kidneys, ureters, larynx, liver, throat, tongue, tonsils, pancreas, stomach, and trachea. It increases the risk of dying from cancer. Smoking harms every organ of the body. Women have problems with fertility and if pregnant women smoke it increases the risk of her baby dying, being born preterm (too early), the baby having a low birth weight, SIDS, ectopic pregnancy (where the embryo is implanted into a woman’s fallopian tube), and cleft palate. Smoking reduces the fertility of men’s sperm and increases the risk of a birth defect or a woman having a miscarriage. Smoking causes weaker bones. It can also increase the risk for cataracts, and age-related macular degeneration (damage to the spot near the centre of the retina which is needed for central vision). It causes type 2 diabetes and makes already existing diabetes harder to control. It causes inflammation and alters immune system function increasing your risk for diseases and increasing your susceptibility to infections. It is one of the causes of rheumatoid arthritis.

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Want to quit smoking?

Set a date to quit and stick to it. Use your past experiences for coping with changes and anxiety/irritability that have worked in the past. Learn what triggers you to want to smoke. Plan for withdrawal symptoms and decide what you want to do to manage them. Nicotine replacement therapy will lessen withdrawal symptoms.

Medicine to stop smoking- Nicotine replacement therapy

Nicotine replacement therapy is referring to anything that has nicotine in it that is not a cigarette. This includes the patch, gum, lozenges, nicotine inhaler, and nicotine nasal spray. Most of these are available over the counter. You can ask your doctor to order these for you and several insurance companies will cover some and even up to all the cost of these therapies. It is used to help decrease cravings and gives your body a small steady amount of nicotine.

Medicine to stop smoking- Wellbutrin

Wellbutrin SR was formerly called Zyban so you may have heard of it like this. Works to decrease your cravings for cigarettes. Common side effects of this medication are agitation, headaches, dry mouth, nausea, vomiting and tremors. Serious side effects to watch for suicidal and homicidal thoughts and behaviours and seizures. Wellbutrin can cause insomnia so it is important to avoid taking this one at bedtime. While on Wellbutrin you can also use nicotine replacements. This medication should never be broken, crushed, or chewed it needs to be swallowed whole. If you crush or chew or break an extended-release, sustained-release, or controlled release medication you can absorb too much medication too quickly. Wellbutrin should also be taken with food. Because Wellbutrin causes drowsiness it is important to not do anything that requires you to be alert until you know how you will respond to the medication. Examples of this would be avoiding driving. Always consult with your doctor before starting new prescription or OTC medications, vitamins, or herbal remedies. When taking Wellbutrin you can develop light sensitivity(also referred to as photosensitivity) so wearing sunscreen and protective clothing when outside is very important. For the best chance of being able to quit smoking it is best practice to stop smoking during the second week of therapy. This medication should not be stopped abruptly it needs to be tapered so speak to your doctor first and don’t quit on your own.

Medicine to stop smoking- Chantix

Chantix works by preventing nicotine from binding to nicotine receptors in the body decreasing the desire to smoke. Common side effects to watch for while on Chantix are decreased attention span, anxiety, depression, insomnia, irritability, dizziness, restlessness, diarrhoea, gingivitis, nausea, flushing, muscle aches and pain, and back pain. Serious side effects to look for are suicidal or homicidal thoughts or behaviours, seizures, signs of a heart attack, allergic reaction, and stevens-johnson syndrome. Stevens-Johnson syndrome is more common in men, and while it is very rare, and can be life-threatening it is characterized by flu-like symptoms progressing to painful rashes, and then blisters that peel off. Take this medication after meals with a full glass of water. Chantix should be started one week before your quit date. Don’t share this medication with other people. It can cause blurred vision, dizziness, and altered attention so don’t drive while on this medication. Vivid, unusual, and strange dreams can occur and are temporary. Talk to your doctor before starting new meds including prescription, OTC, vitamins, and herbal remedies.

There are numerous smoking cessation resources available and they can be found with a simple google search. People that go to counselling to quit smoking are twice as likely to quit. There is free one-on-one support available over the phone Massachusetts smokers’ helpline is free to support you just call 1-800- QUIT – NOW. Having family, friends, and doctor support is also an important resource to utilize. In-person quit-smoking groups are available and you can find these online there are also one-on-one support options so you can quit with a buddy. The Colorado online resource to sign up with will give you free patches or gum and a coach to help you quit. Their website is

Helpful tips

When you talk to your healthcare provider about aids to use they can help you figure out which method would work best for you. Spending more time with your friends who do not smoke makes it easier on you when quitting. Eating healthy and staying active will also help you quit. Finding something new to do when you are in a bad mood or stressed out or feeling depressed helps as a distractor to keep you from wanting to smoke.

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