How often do smokers relapse when they quit?


Dealing with Cravings

The best way to avoid cravings that occur during the physical withdrawal stage is to find as many ways as possible to distract yourself from smoking. When you get a craving, immediately do something other than smoke. Some smokers have found it helpful to exercise, take a shower or drink a cup of cold water to douse cravings. Replace the act of smoking by chewing carrot sticks, using a toothpick or squeezing a stress ball to help simulate the oral or manual act of smoking long enough to get through a craving.

Physical distractions aren't the only helpful tool for quitting. Calling a friend or family member to talk through the craving can be helpful, too. Many smokers use other strategies like mentally listing reasons for quitting or repeating to themselves that they will absolutely not smoke. Some smokers turn to pharmaceuticals and Nicotine Replacement Therapy products to make fighting withdrawal easier. Those products help ease symptoms and reduce the severity of cravings.

One of the most common reasons that smokers relapse is an inability to fight feelings of depression or hopelessness [source: University of South Florida]. Smokers often use cigarettes as a way to lessen sadness, depression and anxiety, so those feelings might seem worse after quitting. So, finding alternate means of stress relief is important. For example, spiritual methods like meditation or prayer may help smokers who are religious. General relaxation techniques like deep breathing exercises might help those who aren't. Of course, if anxiety and depression are too strong, the best solution may be to seek the help of a mental health professional.

Situational triggers can create some of the strongest temptations to smoke after withdrawal is over. You should probably expose yourself to the people, places and events that you most associate with smoking as little as possible during the one- to two-week withdrawal period. But it's important that you begin to rebuild new associations with them that don't include cigarettes, so start to work those people and places back into your life soon.

With the high rate of relapse, most smokers will have a slip up while they are trying to quit. It is very important to realize the importance of avoiding smoking even one cigarette, but also to avoid negative feelings if it happens. Smoking just one cigarette can start the withdrawal process all over again, and having one cigarette makes it more likely that an ex-smoker will become a smoker again. Instead of calling yourself a failure, or giving up on quitting completely, be persistent and stick with it.

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Sources

  • American Academy of Family Physicians. "Smoking: Steps to Help You Break the Habit" December 2009. (Nov. 19, 2010)http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/common/addictions/tobacco/161.html
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  • American Cancer Society. "A Word on Smoking Success Rates." Nov. 9, 2010. (Nov. 22, 2010)http://www.cancer.org/Healthy/StayAwayfromTobacco/GuidetoQuittingSmoking/guide-to-quitting-smoking-success-rates
  • Maine Department of Health and Human Services, Partnership for a Tobacco Free Maine. "Staying Tobacco-Free." (Nov. 19, 2010)http://www.tobaccofreemaine.org/quit_tobacco/staying_tobacco_free.php#relapse
  • National Cancer Institute. "Medication Guide." (Nov. 15, 2010)http://www.smokefree.gov/medication-guide.aspx
  • National Cancer Institute. "Medications to Help You Quit." (Nov. 15, 2010)"Medications to Help You Quit"http://www.smokefree.gov/topic-medications.aspx
  • National Cancer Institute. "Quit Guide" (Nov. 15, 2010)http://www.smokefree.gov/qg-index.aspx
  • National Cancer Institute. "Withdrawal" (Nov. 15, 2010)http://www.smokefree.gov/topic-withdrawal.aspx
  • National Institute of Health, National Institute of Drug Abuse. "Drugs, Brains and Behavior: The Science of Addiction, NIH Publication No. 10-5605" August 2010. (Nov. 18, 2010) http://www.nida.nih.gov/scienceofaddiction/sciofaddiction.pdf
  • University of South Florida, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute. "Forever Free Booklet 1: An Overview." 2000. (Nov. 16, 2010)http://www.smokefree.gov/pubs/FF1.pdf
  • University of South Florida, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute. "Forever Free Booklet 2: Smoking Urges." 2000. (Nov. 16, 2010)http://www.smokefree.gov/pubs/FF2.pdf
  • University of South Florida, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute. "Forever Free Booklet 4: What If You Have a Cigarette?" 2000. (Nov. 16, 2010)http://www.smokefree.gov/pubs/FF4.pdf
  • University of South Florida, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute. "Forever Free Booklet 6: Smoking, Stress and Mood" 2000. (Nov. 16, 2010)http://www.smokefree.gov/pubs/FF6.pdf
  • Volkow, Nora D. "Science of Addiction: Nicotine." American Medical Association Web site. (Nov. 19, 2010)http://www.ama-assn.org/ama1/pub/upload/mm/433/ama_nida_nicotine.pdf

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