by Wendy McBrair, BSN, MS, CHES
According to the ACS, only 4% to 7% of people who stop smoking without medicine will succeed on any given attempt. When medicine is used, success rates for stopping for six months or more are estimated to be between 25% and 33%. Adding support or other behavioral therapies further increases the success rate.
Taking care of yourself while you stop smoking is also essential. This is especially important when you are dealing with the effects of nicotine withdrawal. You should be careful that nicotine withdrawal symptoms do not promote a return to smoking. When you first quit smoking you can expect to experience irritability, headaches, fatigue, increased appetite, sleep disturbance, anxiety, depression, and even dizziness. Though most symptoms last for only two or three days, some may last for several weeks. Exercise, stress management, and healthy nutrition can all help you deal with these symptoms. Review your health concerns and plans for new health behaviors with your doctor. The doctor and possibly a physical therapist can help you develop an exercise program suitable for someone with RA. You might also want to see a counselor to learn stress-management techniques that can take the place of cigarette smoking. Or you might want to see a nutritionist to see how you can improve your daily diet and thwart the weight gain that sometimes occurs when people quit smoking.
Once you have stopped smoking, the next challenge is staying away from cigarettes permanently. This is the maintenance stage. The first few months after quitting are usually the toughest because that is when withdrawal symptoms are at their strongest. As you experience withdrawal symptoms, it is important to review the benefits of not smoking and congratulate yourself on doing a good job so far. This is called positive self-talk. If you are prepared when strong cravings come, you will be better able to resist them. These cravings become less pronounced the longer you are smoke-free, but they can still occur long after you have quit.
What happens if you do have a cigarette? The key is to act quickly to make sure your one-time “slip” does not become a full-blown relapse into old habits. Slips can be corrected if caught early. However, because a slip can so easily become a relapse, it's best to avoid them altogether. If you do go back to smoking, remind yourself that repeated attempts at quitting are often necessary. Don’t get discouraged, don’t give up, and always be ready to try again.
Last Reviewed on May 30, 2012
Wendy McBrair spent 30 years as a health-care professional in the fields of rheumatology and orthopedics, where she specialized in patient and community service, patient education, and advocacy.
Get the latest arthritis news and the most useful self-management tips delivered to your inbox twice a month! Sign up for our free e-mail newsletter today.
Statements and opinions expressed on this Web site are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the publishers or advertisers. The information provided on this Web site should not be construed as medical instruction. Consult appropriate health-care professionals before taking action based on this information.