If you're a smoker trying to quit, boy do you have options. Patches, chewing gum, lollipops -- and even lasers! But if you're overwhelmed with choice, maybe try nothing at all. Hi aware citizens, Trace here for DNews. Now smoking is bad for you -- it causes cancer and a gazillion other diseases. You know that. We know that. This is your life and we’re not going to tell you what to do. But we are going to tell you the science behind quitting if you or someone you know is trying to give up the habit. Now before we breakdown the options, we have to first understand why it’s so difficult to quit in the first place. One word: nicotine. It’s what’s naturally found in tobacco and as addictive as heroin and cocaine.
When inhaled, nicotine travels quickly to the brain. There, it releases dopamine and other feel good chemicals into brain cell receptors. This creates more and more nicotine receptors in the brain. When these receptors are starved of nicotine you go through intense withdrawal, which can lead to depression and tension, until you get your next fix. So the trick may be to gradually giving your brain less and less nicotine, which is where the highly advertized treatment of nicotine replacement therapy comes into play. We’re talking about patches, chewing gum, lozenges, inhalers and even nasal spray and lollipops. But do these methods actually work? Let’s take one of the most popular methods, the patch. This is typically a reservoir of nicotine sandwiched between an occlusive and permeable adhesive layers. Stick it on your skin and the nicotine slowly leaches through the layers of your dermis, to the hypodermis, which contains blood vessels needed to bring the drug into the bloodstream.
This happens at a much slower rate and at a lower concentration than smoke inhalation. Different patches contain different amounts of nicotine, slowly ridding your body’s dependence of the drug. But is it effective? Well, one study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health looked at 787 adults who had recently quit smoking. They were surveyed three different times over the course of six years and asked questions about what type of nicotine replacement therapy they had used, the duration of the therapy, if they had consulted a professional, and their current smoking habits. During each one of those check-ins around a third of the participants had relapsed. This led researchers to conclude that “using nicotine replacement therapy is no more effective in helping people stop smoking cigarettes in the long-term than trying to quit on one’s own.” What about alternative ways to quit smoking? Some people have tried acupuncture and hypnosis, but based on some of our last videos, it’s a little up for debate on whether that works or not. And others have even tried lasers. Yes, lasers… well, low-level lasers therapy. The company Innovative Laser Therapy claims that an hour of therapy is all you’d need to quit your addiction.
The lasers target specific points in the body that the company alleges are related to addiction, claiming it relieves withdrawal symptoms and prevents cravings. Owner Frank Pinto explains, “The laser basically stimulates the nerve endings to tell the brain to release a flood of endorphins.” But “basically” isn’t science. And though there have been a few studies to determine its validity, they are few and far between with inconclusive results.
But perhaps the best thing to do is nothing at all. In a 2016 study published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, 697 adult smokers who smoked at least 15 cigarettes a day were divided into two groups: those who quit cold turkey and those who gradually reduced their smoking over the course of two weeks. Researchers recorded their results both four weeks then six months later. Nearly half of the cold turkey group successfully quit smoking after a month, compared to 39% of those who gave it up gradually.
At the half-year mark, the rates of success reduced to 22% and 15% respectively, but this still means the cold turkey technique is still more effective than gradual reduction. Of course there are other factors that take place when finding the right way to quit like genetics and age. So like many of our health related episodes, it’s probably best to consult your doctor on what’s right for you. Quitting cigarettes is a great step towards a more healthy lifestyle, and if that’s your thing, you should definitely check out Beachbody On Demand. You can get access a wide variety of workout programs including the world-famous P90X, Insanity, Focus T25, and many others, ranging from cardio to resistance training, yoga, dance, low impact and more. Sign up for Beachbody On Demand today and get a FREE 30-Day Membership. Smoking does a lot of crazy stuff to your body, but when you do find that effective way to quit, is that alone enough to reverse all the damage done from smoking? Tara talks about it more in this video.