Smoking Cessation Programs: What You Need to Know
Twenty minutes after you smoke your last cigarette, your body begins a series of healthy changes, like your heart rate begins to drop, for example. One year after you quit smoking, your risk of coronary heart disease is cut in half. Fifteen years after you quit smoking, your risk of smoking-related death is nearly equivalent to that of a life-long non-smoker.
Smoking cessation isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. “You need to stay focused on the long-term rewards,” Catherine Linn, MA, a pre-doctoral psychology trainee at Bethesda Family Practice, explains.
Smoking Cessation at TriHealth: How Does it Work?
At TriHealth, we use the Cooper/Clayton method, which is a 13-week series focusing on:
- Skill training
- Social support
During the first week, you self-monitor your nicotine use and from there, you receive a number of nicotine patches to wear each day.
Nicotine Dosage throughout the Program
You may opt for nicotine gum or lozenges (lozenges are similar to a cough drop and dissolve in the mouth) instead of patches. However, most people prefer patches because they release a continuous dosage of nicotine throughout the day, whereas with gum or a lozenge, you need to remember to consistently take them to keep nicotine levels steady.
During the first six weeks, participants are typically given a nicotine patch to use daily. The dosage of nicotine depends on how much you currently smoke. After week seven, the dosage of nicotine patch decreases, depending on how you are progressing.
Nicotine patches come in the following dosage amounts: 21 mg, 14 mg and 7 mg.
“The 21 mg patches are for people who were smoking two packs a day,” Theresa Lengerich PsyD explains. “If they were smoking much less than that, they might start with a lower dosage. The idea is that nicotine replacement provides a consistent feed of nicotine to the bloodstream, which reduces cravings.”
Coping Strategies for Nicotine Cravings
Each hour-long meeting starts with an 8- to 10-minute educational video and then the group transitions into a discussion that focuses on a particular topic. The theme of each session is meant to help participants cope with nicotine cravings and focus on the end goal, quitting for life.
- Healthy nutrition
- Mindfulness skills
- Handling stress
- Ways to gather support from family and friends
What’s the No. 1 Factor for Helping Someone Quit?
“The biggest thing is a support system,” Dr. Lengerich explains. “We’re trying to build a cohesive group where people feel trusted to talk about themselves … There’s a group atmosphere and a sense of ‘we are a group that’s becoming non-smokers.’ That group has an identity.”
On the other hand, if you’re trying to quit smoking and you live with another smoker, it can be especially hard to break the addiction. For this reason, Catherine addresses the issue by talking about how participants can assertively ask friends or family to support them throughout the process.
If you live with another smoker, for example, this could involve asking the family member to keep ash trays out of the house or not smoke in the house.