Nicotine Replacement Therapy – Supporting those who want to quit smoking

dr-pp-bose

Cigarettes contain 4000 harmful chemicals, most of these chemicals are cancerous and can cause irreversible damage says Dr P P Bose, Senior Consultant, Pulmonologist, Respiratory, Critical Care and Sleep Rehabilitation

In the recent years, cigarette smoking has observed a downward trend, worldwide. Despite these optimistic trends around smoking cessation, India has witnessed 1 million deaths due to diseases caused by tobacco use in India. Cigarette smoking is the greatest cause of illness and premature deaths in India. As per GATS report 2016-17, in India, more than 35 per cent of adults use tobacco in some form or the other. The deaths caused by tobacco are much more than those caused by malaria, TB and HIV/AIDS combined, reads a training manual for doctors by the Government of India. While the Indian government has been committed to reduction of tobacco consumption, with 58 per cent Indians wanting to quit the habit, only 17 per cent have managed to do so in the past few years.

Cigarettes contain 4000 harmful chemicals, most of these chemicals are cancerous and can cause irreversible damage to our body. Though most of us are aware about the ill-effects of this vice, it is still very difficult to completely quit this habit. The fundamental reason for this is the dependency caused due to nicotine, a vital constituent of cigarettes. Nicotine by itself is non-cancerous but is responsible for releasing an array of chemicals in the brain that induces a heightened sense of pleasure, fills a person with high-level of optimism and calms anxiety levels. This experience is short-lived and leaves an individual wanting to experience the feeling again. Bouts of cravings occur repeatedly and then a vicious cycle that perpetuates addiction, kicks in

According to a Global Adult Tobacco Report, 2016-17, 38.5 per cent of smokers in India have made an attempt to quit, in the last 12 months. More often than not, quitting tobacco is considered psychological dependency but we must not forget that it is as much a physical ailment as it is a psychological dependency. The chemicals that a cigarette contains makes it difficult for the smokers to quit. Quitting smoking suddenly without aid may be associated with withdrawal symptoms, like headaches, irritability, restlessness, and difficulty in concentrating etc. which makes quitting all the more tough. One could follow these simple steps to quitting smoking:

Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)

One of the medically-approved aids to quit smoking is through Nicotine Replacement therapy. This therapy has been approved by World Health Organization (WHO), US FDA and is also a part of the essential medicines list for WHO. NRT supports a quitter’s willpower and helps reduce tobacco dependency. NRT provides small quantities of nicotine to the brain, which one normally gets from a cigarette, but in a lower quantity than cigarettes, and without exposing the body to other harmful & cancerous chemicals associated with smoking. These small quantities of nicotine can help a smoker overcome the urge to smoke, and also prevent the withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting, which in turn can help them quit the habit.

The research published in 2018 by Hartmann‐Boyce et al, confirms that of NRT can help people to quit the habit successfully with a recorded increase in the rate of quitters by 50 per cent. In fact, when the WHO announced Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) as a frontline aid to the cessation of smoking, in the year 2008, it went on to become a successful means to quell the urge among smokers worldwide. In India, nicotine gum is the most popular format available in NRT.

Behavioural therapy.

In addition to NRT, it would be good to speak to a counsellor or seek help of support groups to make one’s resolve stronger.

Keeping a track of your de-addiction program.

Now that you have planned out your de-addiction program it is imperative to follow it meticulously.

The most crucial days – the initial days.

The most important part of the de-addiction process is to understand that the first few days are going to be extremely difficult. Irritability, weariness and depression are inevitable in during the first few days, they could be considerably well controlled by using the Nicotine Replacement Therapy.

Trying a new sport or a hobby.

This is a good way to keep all the cravings at bay. Taking up a sport or some creative hobby keeps the stress levels down and infuses a great level of optimism within a person. The hobby or the sport makes you want to keep going further in the de-addiction journey by constantly motivating you and disregarding any thought of giving up.

We must bear all these things in mind and try to take a step towards de-addiction. A complete dependence on our willpower is not enough to quit this vice. We need much more than that, something more comprehensive which will most certainly help individuals to quit smoking eventually. We must respond to all our health needs as it is the crux and essence of our living. Health is not an option, it is an integral part of our being – We must make a conscious effort to live a healthier life and to eliminate these preventable ailments.