Currently, strategies to help quit smoking which have demonstrated their effectiveness in the fight against tobacco addiction, are based on validated scientific knowledge. They offer smokers specific and customised use of nicotine replacement products to combat physical addiction, cognitive behavioural therapies to overcome physiological addiction and, if the doctor deems this necessary, two chemical molecules, Bupropion and Varenicline.
It may seem bizarre to give nicotine to smokers the moment they decide to quit smoking! The difference between the two intakes does not lie in the molecule itself, which is the same in both the substitutes and the tobacco smoke, but rather in the speed at which the molecule reaches smokers’ brains: within seven seconds of inhaling a cigarette (known as the ‘nicotine rush’) or between ten to thirty minutes when using nicotine replacement products. This delayed arrival of nicotine to the nicotinic receptors enables them to become gradually ‘desensitised’ to their nicotine craving. The nicotine substitute is not addictive!
The use of nicotine replacement products as a strategy to help quit smoking is a vital first-line treatment for smokers with a nicotine addiction. Indeed, these products offer a triple benefit: being free from toxins, satisfying smokers’ nicotine cravings and therefore avoiding unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. This means smokers are able to gradually break free from their nicotine addiction, which consequently enables them to combat the other forms of addiction under more favourable conditions.
But, be aware that too weak a dosage and too short a treatment period can dramatically reduce the efficiency of this strategy to help quit smoking. Hence the need, in the majority of cases, for supervision by a qualified professional who is capable of advising each smoker about the nicotine dosage which is appropriate to their needs and can be adjusted over time.
Nicotine replacement products are sold in pharmacies and can be obtained without a doctor’s prescription. However, it is necessary to make a health insurance claim (in France, this is currently 50 euros a year per smoker and 150 euros for pregnant women and young people between the ages of 20 and 25). More and more health insurance companies are offering additional reimbursements.
Nicotine replacement products exist in various forms and dosages: transdermal products (patches) and oral products (gum, tablets that are dissolved under the tongue, lozenges, inhalers and mouth sprays).
It is frequently advised to combine a high-dose nicotine patch with an oral substitute which can help mimic the act of smoking. When this is not sufficient, behavioural tips are also available to help the smoker not give in to automatic reflexes.
Regulsmoke® will also intervene effectively at this stage, as part of this overall strategy to help quit smoking.
Today, the market offers two medications designed to help quit smoking. Validated for their generally accepted effectiveness, they are offered in cases of physical addiction. Both medications are sold exclusively in pharmacies and require a doctor’s prescription because there are contraindications (notably, pregnancy). Your doctor will therefore assess them and explain to you how they should be taken. They are not however covered by health insurance.
Belonging to the family of psychotropic drugs, Bupropion LP has been sold in France for around ten years, but it is rarely prescribed because of its contraindications, precautions for use and possible side effects.
It acts as a partial agonist on the neuronal nicotinic receptors, in other words it targets the same receptors as nicotine. On sale in France since 2006, it has received poor reviews for many years. It is condemned less today, but is still rarely used and its intake must be controlled by a doctor.
CBT are short-term psychotherapy treatments. They are approved by health authorities and are intended to replace maladaptive behaviours (those detrimental to health) with positive behaviours.
Smokers identify ‘trigger situations’ which urge them to automatically smoke: after drinking coffee, an alcoholic beverage or eating a meal, getting into their car, making a phone call, etc. They will then practise controlling their behaviour in order to change it. Any behaviour that is no longer reinforced will eventually disappear. This process of ‘unlearning’ is achieved by learning through repetition and the desire to succeed.
By identifying ‘trigger situations’ and treating them one by one, smokers will eventually ‘deritualise’ these situations. How will smokers overcome them? For example, gradually creating distance between the act which automatically triggers the desire to smoke and reaching for a cigarette, without allowing the frustration to set in for too long; therefore not forcing things, but taking one step at a time. Instead of lighting a cigarette on entering their car, smokers will only light their cigarette at the first set of traffic lights, then the next day, at the second set, then the third set and so on. When smokers have succeeded in deactivating the neural network in the brain, which associates the act of driving with the cigarette, they will no longer have the desire to smoke in their car. Smokers must identify similar tips with the assistance of a therapist and that of Regulsmoke® in order to achieve their goals.
Note down on a piece of paper all the situations which trigger your desire to smoke. After you have done this, the high risk situations must be carefully analysed and treated one by one. It is not recommended to address all cigarette smoking behaviours at the same time. The road may be long, but that is not an issue. Behavioural addiction is difficult to overcome; time is an essential ally to be reckoned with.