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How To Quit Smoking While In Recovery

John Schaffer, LPCC

Medically reviewed by

John Schaffer, LPCC

March 25, 2019

Quitting any highly addictive substance isn’t easy, so while it might seem overwhelming, quitting smoking while in drug treatment can improve your success and provide you with a network of support to help you stay smoke-free in recovery.

Though it is an often-overlooked addictive substance, smoking and nicotine addiction have a grave impact on your health. Each year, nearly half a million people die from illness related to smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke and nearly nine million suffer from chronic illness due to their addiction.

Some signs of nicotine addiction include the appearance of unpleasant withdrawals when someone stops smoking. These include depression, insomnia, mood changes (most notable irritability), poor focus, weight gain and strong cravings for the drug. Withdrawals often perpetuate the use of a substance long after a person has expressed a desire to quit. Most withdrawal symptoms last only a few weeks, and are one good reason quitting the habit while you are in recovery amid a support network to guide you, is a good idea.

Treatment Approaches To Help You Quit Smoking In Recovery

There are a number of treatment approaches to help you quit smoking in recovery. These include some of the basic coping skills necessary to help an individual deal with cravings and withdrawals during those first few weeks and beyond, pharmacological therapies including the nicotine patch and ongoing group or social support.

The vast majority of people attempt to quit smoking cold turkey without any other form of support. While this approach works for some, someone in recovery understands the need for added support. One of the biggest factors in relapse for any drug is external stress. If you are accustomed to reaching for a cigarette when stress arises, altering your perception of this stress and improving your coping strategies is one way to improve a smoke-free outcome.

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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy In Treating Smoking Addiction

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), is widely used in the treatment of addiction, whether it be drug or alcohol addiction, gambling addiction, sex addiction, hoarding, eating disorders and more. It works by redirecting perception and setting attainable goals toward positive actions.

If someone has repeatedly tried to quit smoking in the past, they might have the negative thought, “I’ll never be able to quit.” Cognitive behavioral therapy works to address the negative emotions, fears, and doubts that underlie this statement to empower an individual toward long and lasting change. The negative statement might transition to “I’ll be able to quit by taking this first step.”

Apart from addressing the negative thought patterns that often impede success in recovery, CBT works with an individual to establish effective coping mechanisms to address external stressors. It does this by helping someone identify when an external stressor leads to a negative thought or behavior, then helping someone improve their response or level of reactivity to the stress. These positive coping strategies are one reason studies have associated the use of CBT with a significant increase in positive recovery outcomes across the board.

Pharmacological Therapy in Treating Smoking Addiction

A recent National Institutes of Health (NIH) research study examined multiple studies evaluating the effectiveness of pharmacological therapies used in smoking cessation and revealed nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) which includes the nicotine patch, gum, lozenges, inhalers and sprays, and bupropion were both effective medications in reducing nicotine cravings and helping someone stop smoking. Other medications that were reviewed, including varenicline, cytisine, and nortriptyline, also demonstrated improvements over non-pharmacological means in the reduction of cravings to help someone stop smoking.

Medications to help with smoking cessation can work one of two ways. They may either deliver nicotine to the body via a form other than smoking while someone addresses the habit of smoking. Or address the withdrawals specifically, and in some cases, block the effects of nicotine on the body. Some of these medications may be used in combination at the start of your recovery from a smoking addiction, then gradually reduced. Whatever the strategy, the medications are made more effective in combination with other therapies like CBT, designed to help address the key underlying issues perpetuating the addiction.

Consult with a physician before beginning any pharmacological therapies for smoking as some of these drugs can have adverse effects when taken with other medications or while pregnant, currently abusing alcohol, or if you suffer from seizures.

Social and Organizational Support

Anyone who has been through rehab for alcohol or drug addiction knows how hard it is to make a full recovery if they are surrounded by people who drink or abuse drugs. The same is true for someone trying to quit smoking. While working on your recovery, surround yourself with the people and professionals that have your best interest in mind when it comes to quitting smoking.

This doesn’t mean you have to avoid all family and friends who smoke, but you may inform them of your desire to quit and ask that they do not smoke around you. You may also seek organizational support through groups like Nicotine Anonymous, and even the American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association.

Quitting Smoking Increases Recovery Success

While it was a long-held belief that addressing co-occurring nicotine addiction alongside another drug or alcohol addiction would impede the success of the individual in recovery, studies indicate that quitting smoking can actually improve a person’s long-term recovery outcome. One of the primary factors in this positive association is in addressing addiction and related behavior specifically.

Quit Smoking With Support Today is an online resource for professional support and evidence-based addiction treatment options to help you achieve and sustain your recovery goals. Call and speak with someone in confidence today and discover a variety of treatment options to meet your individual needs and preferences. Begin a life free from addiction with one simple phone call and discover a new and rewarding life in recovery beginning today.

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