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Quitting Smoking and Nicotine Replacement
Nicotine is not a benign drug. It's addictive, of course, but has a wide
range of effects on the body. McIntosh says nicotine may itself be a
carcinogen, and appears to promote the spread of existing tumors.
But McIntosh notes that smokers aren't just addicted to nicotine. They're
also addicted to the behaviors that go along with smoking. By allowing people
to get over these addictions before they tackle their nicotine addiction, McIntosh says nicotine replacement devices
double smokers' odds of quitting for good.
Even so, nicotine replacement by itself isn't enough.
"One of the best ways to quit is to get four to six sessions of face-to-face
counseling -- and telephone and web-based quit lines are almost as effective,"
Counselors in many states offer smokers several weeks worth of free nicotine
patches; free nicotine replacement is also available via quit-smoking web
sites. To find out about services available in the U.S., call the national
smoking hot line: 1-800-QUIT-NOW.
"Smoking is more addictive than
heroin or alcohol or
cocaine," McIntosh says. "About 5% of people are able to quit on their own.
But if people trying to quit check in with their doctors or counselors, the
success rates are as high as 45%."
One hint McIntosh has for would-be quitters is how best to use nicotine
replacement. The body gets over nicotine dependence rather quickly, but studies
show that quitters have the most success when they stay on nicotine replacement
for eight to 12 weeks.
"One big reason people relapse is they think they have it beaten at two
weeks," McIntosh says.
Another hint is to use nicotine replacement devices properly. The point of
nicotine replacement is to keep a constant level of nicotine in the body so
that quitters can avoid the constant cycles of nicotine use and nicotine
withdrawal that a smoker experiences throughout the day and night.
"If you only use nicotine when you are having withdrawal symptoms, you will
stay addicted," McIntosh says. "So if a person were to use the patch, for
example, they could then use this new Rose device or nicotine gum for symptom
relief. There is some evidence this is better than using just a single
Rose announced his study results in a presentation to the Society for
Nicotine and Tobacco Research in Baltimore.