Quitting cigarette smoking can be difficult no matter how you do it, but the idea of quitting cold turkey can seem especially daunting.
This isn’t the easiest, or the most effective method of quitting, but it can work for some. Aslo, despite the difficulty of quitting cold turkey, when you think about the damage smoking causes to the body, getting it over and done with does sound appealing.
Smoking significantly increases your risk for disease, including heart disease, lung disease and several cancers. Every year, smoking causes 1 out of 5 deaths in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society.
There are many nicotine products available to help you wean off nicotine, but quitting cold turkey means giving up smoking all at once, without the aid of any nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products or other medications. It has been suggested that quitting abruptly instead of gradually, increases your chances of stopping for good.
Many ex-smokers have successfully quit this way. Those who are most successful quitting cold turkey, know what to expect and prepare as best they can for the unavoidable withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
Quitting cold turkey is more likely to succeed if you smoke fewer than 10 cigarettes a day and take the following steps to prepare yourself for a successful attempt at quitting.
Because you won't have the aid of NRT, it's particularly important that you are mentally ready. To be successful at quitting cold turkey, you will need to mentally prepare for what's often called "addict thinking". This refers to the many thoughts and rationalizations that can derail your plan; for example, just one cigarette or one drag won't hurt.
One way to do this is to start jotting down the many reasons (both big and small) why you decided to quit smoking in the first place. Write them down on a piece of paper that you can carry with you at all times, or in the notes section of your smartphone, so you can add to and easily access the list when a moment of weakness hits.
If think you're prepared mentally and ready to quit, pick a specific date two to four weeks in the future. Pick a quiet time of year when you have less on your calendar.
Stress can be a big trigger for smokers, making you reach for a cigarette, so don't try to quit around the time you have final exams, a big project due at work, or have other major stress-inducing life events.
Alternatively, if you're a social smoker, try to avoid a date around any festivities, like a wedding or class reunion.
Quitting cold turkey is difficult, in large part, because nicotine withdrawal may be more severe when you stop abruptly. Nicotine is highly addictive; rivaling cocaine, alcohol, and heroin, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Like other drugs, you will experience some side effects as your body works hard to overcome the addiction and rid itself of harsh toxins and chemicals.
Nicotine withdrawal is a temporary phase of quitting. If you stick with it, these symptoms will fade with time and better days will follow. Withdrawal symptoms may include the following:
Expect that these issues will occur and do what you can to be ready for them. For example, see if you can arrange with a friend to help you watch your children for a bit when you're feeling too tired. Keep a water bottle with you at all times, so that you remember to stay hydrated. Stock up on throat lozenges in case you need them, and load your refrigerator up with healthy snacks you can reach for when hunger pangs kick in.
To avoid temptation, gather and bin all smoking paraphernalia (lights, matches, ashtrays, etc.) from your home (inside and outside) and car.
During this time, you’ll also want to let any of your "smoking buddies" know that you won’t be joining them on smoke breaks, for happy hour, or really anywhere which can be a trigger for you. Take it a step further and persuade one of your trusted friends to buddy up with you to quit smoking together, making sure that the person is as mentally prepared to quit smoking as you are. You don’t need a buddy that will cave into the temptation to smoke at a time when you desperately need support.
Like nicotine withdrawal, psychological urges can be better managed if you understand and plan for them. Knowing that these urges do pass, in some cases within moments, can really help.
Still, seeking support from your close friends and family is also important. Chances are, they are thrilled that you're quitting smoking. Let them help motivate and encourage you to stick with your plan. Ask them to help distract you from cravings by being available for quick pep talks. Plan activities in smoke-free places like the mall, movie theater and restaurants. Be aware if you experience irritability.
In addition to your doctor, you may check with your local hospital to see if they offer a smoking cessation program. You can also call a national quit-smoking line, such as the National Cancer Institute (NCI). They offer support over the phone and can help with different ways of quitting. They have a is toll-free number you can call and a website you can access:
An online support forum can be a powerful tool to help you stay nicotine-free as well. You can depend on it 24/7. In-person support groups are also valuable, as you can meet local people who are going through the same experience. Even reading or hearing about others' quitting experiences can motivate you and help you stay on track.
Is that morning cigarette with coffee the toughest to quit? Do you always light up the moment you get in your car after work? Do you tend to smoke more when you're stressed, bored, or hungry?
Take an honest look at your smoking patterns and habits, and then figure out some simple, healthy and stress-free distractions and alternatives.
Start a journal about the positive effects of quitting, realizing that quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do to improve your overall health.
As an example, your lung function can improve up to 30 percent in two weeks to three months, and you may notice that you can walk up a flight of stairs without getting winded, or that your complexion has improved? Jot it all down.
Quitting cold turkey might work well for you, but if it doesn't, talk to your doctor about other options. You might find nicotine replacement therapy or another method is more effective helping you quit for good.