Monday, September 15, 2008

Different Skills Needed to Stop Smoking and then to Stay Quit

There are two different periods when a smoker quits. The initial quitting lasts 2 to 4 weeks. This is when the quitter is learning how to deal with the physical aspects of quitting and the habit cigarettes. There are now 7 FDA approved medications to handle the physical aspect of quitting and most individuals are able to get through this period by using one or a combination of these medications or for some, they are able to handle going cold turkey. Habit cigarettes fade away within 3 to 4 weeks because they are habits, you get to practice new habits on a daily basis, so that in a short period of time, most quitters have mastered the physical aspect and their habits. But many are not prepared for the second phase which can last up to a year or more. Without medicinal or counseling support, up to 95% of smokers will relapse within the first year and another 15% the second year. This drops to 60% to 90% if medications and counseling are used.
So the reality is that we are successfully able to get smokers to quit for a period of time but not forever. Preventing a relapse takes different skills than were needed in the first couple of weeks. After 6 months, when the telephone rings, the quitter is not still looking for their cigarettes, the car starts without lighting one up, the withdrawals have long since past but new situations pop up and without preparation, the quitter can very easily relapse.
The problem areas usually center around positive social situations, negative emotions and stress situations, being around other smokers, alcohol and weight gain. For long term success, a quitter will need to face this situations without turning to their long lost friend-a cigarette.

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