Finding Your Best Approach to Laying Off the Nicotine
You want to quit but you don’t know whether to quit cold turkey or gradually. Each quitting experience is as different as the person trying to kick the habit. Much depends on the reasons behind your habit and the obstacles in your life.
But there is evidence that shows people who quit cold turkey are more successful in staying smokefree than those who it take it gradually cut down their habit. In a 2013 Gallup poll, the largest number of successful quitters—48 percent—endorsed “cold turkey” as the most effective method, more than 2 percent who endorsed a gradual quit.
Here’s how quitting cold turkey can be better than gradual quitting:
- As long as you have the taste of tobacco on your tongue and nicotine in your blood from gradually quitting, you’ll still crave that next smoke—no matter how much you’ve cut down. It’s called the “slot machine syndrome,” where you’re always expecting a payoff. By contrast, if you know you are never going to win the game, as in quitting cold turkey, you’ll be more likely to walk away for good.
- Withdrawal may be more intense but only lasts about 72 hours after you completely kick the habit. You can even schedule your withdrawal over an extended weekend or during a time of less stress. However, if you quit gradually, your withdrawal may be not be as severe, but symptoms may continue during the entire time until you quit for good.
- The minute you quit completely, your body will start to rejuvenate. Within 20 minutes without nicotine, your heart rate and blood pressure drops to normal. Within 24 hours, your risk for a heart attack drops. Within five days, most of the nicotine is out of your system. And the benefits just keep on growing.
Still, there are some benefits to cutting down gradually. Reducing your smoking, one cigarette at a time, gives you the flexibility to reduce your habit on own your time table. Your body will experience withdrawal slower and you can use the period to look into your stress factors and find alternative solutions.
Whether you quit fast or slow, getting over the habit takes a lot more than willpower. What’s important is understanding the nature of the habit and how you can combat its addictive tendencies. As well, smoking is more than a physical problem. Smokers need to better understand the emotional relationship they have to the cigarette—kind of like a bad marriage. Are you prepared to give up that all-consuming but unhealthy commitment? Does it feel better to break up one day at a time? Or can you throw yourself completely into getting an immediate, full-on divorce—and walk away now?
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