Healing Begins Within Hours of Smoking Cessation

Smokers have more support options today to break away from nicotine

DAYTON, Ohio (December 16, 2013) – Smoking cigarettes is the leading preventable cause of death – a fact that leading organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization agree upon and which society is becoming more aware of each day.

Perhaps that’s why more than half of all smokers in the United States want to break the harmful habit and millions of them have tried to do it, according to the CDC.

“Smoking affects every single organ in the body,” said Geetha Ambalavanan, MD, at Fairborn Medical Center. “It is not just the side effects of the nicotine, but the increased levels of inhaled carbon monoxide that can lead to problems with circulation and the heart.”

The three major health effects of smoking are lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) and coronary heart disease. Smoking causes an estimated 90 percent of lung cancer deaths in men and 80 percent of all lung cancer deaths in women. If nobody smoked, one of every three cancer deaths in the United States would not happen, according to the CDC.

Smoking cessation remains a significant struggle for many despite the education of cigarette’s harm to the body and the desire for many smokers to quit. Dr. Ambalavanan, a Premier HealthNet physician, said the main reason is the strong addictive properties of nicotine. Nicotine is the psychoactive drug in tobacco products that produces dependence. Nicotine dependence is the most common form of chemical dependence in the United States and research has shown that it may be as addictive as heroin, cocaine or alcohol, the CDC said.

“If you talk to someone who has been addicted to any of these substances they will tell you that nicotine was by far the hardest one to kick,” Dr. Ambalavanan said. “The main reason is that it creates this physical tolerance where any attempt to quit creates very strong withdrawal symptoms, which if they are not educated about them or ready to handle them will cause them to go back to smoking.”

Nicotine withdrawal is different for everyone, but symptoms can be strong and include anxiety, restlessness, insomnia, irritability, weight gain, anger issues and difficulty concentrating. The urge to return to smoking is often triggered by an emotion, event or social environment. It is important to identify possible triggers before deciding to quit so that when an individual is faced with them they are less likely to give in and return to smoking, Dr. Ambalavanan said.

The good news is that there is hope for those who want to quit and ever increasing support options – including medications and programs – are making it a bit easier for many. Starting in 2002, the number of former smokers has exceeded the number of current smokers, the CDC states. Dr. Ambalavanan encourages those who are serious about smoking cessation to think through their course of action.

The chances of successfully quitting double when one uses some form of support opposed to quitting “cold turkey,” she said. Dr. Ambalavanan said individuals should first seek the support of their primary care physician with help in creating a plan to quit. This plan can include the help of medications, support groups or both. Resources – such as 1-800 phone numbers, websites and now even smart phone apps – provide a steady stream of encouragement and hope. It’s important that a plan should include a quit date and a strategy as to how triggers will be handled.

It is difficult to quit smoking, but the health benefits are immeasurable and realized within minutes of having the last cigarette. According to the American Lung Association, a person’s heart rate drops to a normal level just 20 minutes after quitting. Two to three weeks later, a person’s risk of having a heart attack begins to drop and their lung function improves. Ten years after quitting the risk of dying from lung cancer is half that of a smoker’s.

“The important thing is that individuals make the choice today,” Dr. Ambalavanan said. “I have COPD patients who want to quit now, but it will take seven to 10 years for their body to return to normalcy. For most people, it is a lack of education and for others it is a lack of denial that they will ever experience theill effects of smoking.”
To learn more about smoking cessation, or to find a Premier HealthNet physician, visit www.premierhealthnet.com/doctor.

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