Dealing with nicotine cravings is, without a doubt, the toughest part of trying to quit smoking.
Like many smokers, you are probably here looking for tips on how to reduce your nicotine cravings. The good news is, there are now plenty of options available to keep those cravings at bay and and help you to quit smoking for good.
The one thing to note about any particular product or method, is that everyone is different. What works for some doesn’t necessarily work for others.
The key is to give it a go because you won’t know until you’ve tried.
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Why does nicotine cause cravings?
It’s no secret that cigarettes contain nicotine, or that nicotine is an addictive substance, but why does nicotine cause cravings? Well, every time nicotine is consumed, the brain releases a chemical called dopamine.
Dopamine is the chemical that makes you feel good. So, everytime you take a puff on a cigarette you are essentially training your brain to make an association between smoking, and feeling good.
Of course, when you quit smoking, and your brain notices the lack of nicotine, it sends signals that it wants more. This is nicotine withdrawal, which causes your cravings.
Addiction scientists have established that the faster a drug is delivered to the brain (nicotine is a drug remember) the higher the potential for addiction. For example, nicotine patches contain nicotine, but aren’t addictive because they release the nicotine slowly, through the skin.
Cigarettes deliver nicotine to the brain very quickly (in a matter of seconds), so it is much easier to become addicted to nicotine via smoking. Indeed, the US Federal Drugs Agency recently advised that some tobacco products contain additives that may make it easier for your body to absorb more nicotine.
How to overcome nicotine cravings
There are a number products that can help deal with cravings, like patches, lozenges and gum and many people have been able to use these to quit smoking altogether. Smoking cessation specialists also recommend a number of other strategies to help with cravings:
- Engaging in physical activity
- Practicing relaxation techniques
- Occupying your mouth by chewing gum (or lollies!)
- Thinking of the reasons why you want to quit
When you do quit smoking, you will inevitably experience cravings, but always remember that the most important thing you can do for your health is to quit smoking. The longer you smoke, the more harm you are doing to yourself, and the effects of smoking build over time. So the sooner you can quit, the better.
Alternative approaches to managing cravings
A relatively new addition to the quit smoking toolkit is the e-cigarette, known in Australia as Nicotine Vaping Products (NVPs), and these work by replacing the nicotine a smoker would otherwise inhale via tobacco smoke.
The reason that patches and gum don’t work for most smokers is that they simply don’t provide enough nicotine to stop the cravings and the delivery of nicotine is too slow to combat these cravings.
While e-cigarettes have not been proven to be 100% safe (they aren’t fresh air), leading public health organisations in the UK have estimated that vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking.
It is important to understand that while nicotine is addictive, it is not the cause of smoking related disease.
The harm from smoking comes from breathing in tobacco smoke, which contains more than 7,000 chemicals, many of which are proven to cause cancer.
E-cigarettes are able to provide a similar level of nicotine to a cigarette, and do so in a way that can provide immediate relief for cravings without the same level of chemicals and cancer causing stuff.
When you experience cravings for a cigarette, you simply take a puff or two from the e-cigarette, until the craving passes. Unlike cigarettes, you don’t need to have 10-12 puffs at one time – just enough to make the craving go away.
How to quit smoking with vaping
In Australia, you need a doctor’s prescription for nicotine containing e-cigarettes, so if you want to explore using alternative methods to quit smoking, you will need to speak to a doctor and, if appropriate, they will give you a prescription. You can then purchase your vaping product from pharmacies in Australia.
For those smokers out there who are sceptical or perhaps uncertain about how to reduce your nicotine cravings and quit smoking, this presents an opportunity to discuss options with a trusted healthcare professional.
Smokefree Clinic provides bulk-billed access to a team of Authorised Prescribers of nicotine, who can provide you with a bulk-billed nicotine vaping prescription if deemed appropriate. Click here to get started.