What options are available to help you stop smoking?
There is plenty of information available that describes the damaging health effects of cigarette smoking. However, this information is not always enough to prompt cigarette smokers to stop smoking. For people who have COPD, smoking is no longer just a risk factor for chronic conditions; the chronic condition is now a reality.
Smokers who have COPD and who are motivated to stop smoking have a number of options available to help them stop smoking. These options include the following:
1. Cold turkey
Going cold turkey (stopping immediately without any support) is difficult. Evidence shows that the best results are achieved when medicines are used in combination with counselling and support.
2. Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)
NRT is a medicine that can help smokers stop smoking. It provides the body with a small amount of nicotine without the toxic chemicals received by smoking a cigarette. If you are thinking about using NRT, you may wish to consider the following points:
- NRT is safe to use while still smoking. People often report being worried about some of the precautions and warnings associated with the use of NRT that are contained in the product information but using NRT is the safest way to reduce smoking before quitting and has been shown to help people who at first were not ready to quit.
- Nicotine is the least harmful part of a cigarette. You should know that the nicotine in NRT is provided in a very small dose and in patches is delivered very slowly to the body (gums and sprays work quickly).
- NRT products can work in different ways. There are many different NRT products available for people to use to help them to quit. Some of these products such as patches, slowly release nicotine over a long period (up to 24 hours). There are other NRT products that are fast acting and will assist in managing cravings. These fast acting products include oral NRT such as gums, sprays and strips.
- NRT is safe to use in combination. For example with a NRT patch is used as base therapy and any form of oral NRT is used to “treat” craving/urges through the day. From very early on, smokers have learnt to be experts at satisfying their cravings by getting enough nicotine and the use of oral NRT will help with the need for a top up.
- Nicotine is a drug of addiction and not a major cause of physical disease. All the warnings about heart, lung, vascular disease and cancer contained on cigarette packets are related to the detrimental effects of carbon monoxide, tar and the lethal chemicals contained within cigarettes. When you take NRT and consume fewer cigarettes, exposure to these poisons reduces. If you stop smoking you are not exposed to these poisons.
- NRT patches are available on prescription and subsidised on the PBS for 3 months per calendar year. They can also be purchased in pharmacy and other stores where medical products are available without prescription.
- Speak to your pharmacist or health care professional about NRT options and how to use NRT effectively.
3. Other medicines to help people quit
These medicines have been specifically designed to help smokers stop smoking. These have good success rates in getting people to quit. You may wish to discuss with your GP the suitability of medicines.
The most widely known drug in this category is Varenicline or Champix® which is available by prescription on the PBS. (Champix® is prescribed for 12 weeks and if a smoker quits it is available for a further 12 weeks immediately following the first course.)
4. Stop smoking clinic programs
Participating in a clinic program can give you the advice and support required to help you stop smoking. These programs are particularly helpful for people who have established disease conditions, such as COPD. These programs can help people make the appropriate behavioural or environmental changes that are required to stop smoking. Studies have shown that clinics that offer professional behavioural support and advice on effective NRT use can help people stop smoking. Quit rates are highest in people who combine counselling support and take smoking cessation medicine.
There is no time like now to quit smoking! Please ask for a referral to a clinic or a tobacco treatment specialist who can help you stop smoking and don’t give up giving up!