A: Recovering from nicotine dependence is not about willpower. It is about brain science.
Nicotine dependence is a chronic disease that creates long-term changes in your brain. Recovery is possible but may require medical support. Ask your primary care team or a tobacco treatment specialist for help.
Read on for more details. A link for more information is at the end of this post.
Long-term use (and age at first use) of nicotine, the main active chemical in tobacco, produces changes (some permanent) in the brain’s function and structure.
Nicotine helps release the hormone and neurotransmitter DOPAMINE in the “gratification” centers of the brain. It makes you feel good.
DOPAMINE not only makes you feel good but also activates “the craving protein” to help your brain get more of that good feeling by creating cravings in you.
⏹️ When a person has been smoking for a long time, this protein may stay elevated permanently
⏹️ This means some people may always have cravings
⏹️ People may have strong associations or triggers with specific activities: mealtime, after sex, while drinking alcohol, after using the toilet.
⏹️ Cravings may be more intense than just getting cranky. For some, their heart rate and other body systems start reacting like they are in danger, similar to a fight or flight response.
Thankfully there are ways to treat your cravings besides just avoiding your triggers! 🎉
1) Nicotine replacement therapy in the form of:
a) Patches for steady, around-the-clock help
b) Lozenges, nasal sprays, and inhalers, with different strengths, for immediate relief
2) Non-nicotine medications include varenicline (Chantix) and bupropion (Zyban).
3) Non-medication therapies include in-person or online support groups, hotlines, SMS texting programs, etc.
Insurances and Medicaid cover many types of nicotine replacement therapies and other supportive medications. Each choice has its advantages, and they may be used together to form a very effective treatment plan specific to your needs. Talk to your clinician before beginning medication, even over-the-counter nicotine replacement therapy.
Most importantly, be patient with yourself.
If you would like to learn more about these ways of treating your nicotine dependence, click on this EXCELLENT resource.
🗓️ And to join others who are planning to quit, check out *2022 Great American Smokeout*.
You got this! 💪
Those Nerdy Girls