What does treatment mean?
A program designed specifically for quitting smoking is called NEW ME: Smoke Free. This program is different from individual attempts to quit smoking , because it brings in the contribution of psychological assistance and medical assistance.
Studies in the field show that the rate of success in quitting smoking when people try by themselves is only 3% -5%. With psychological and medical aid, the success rate increases by 8 times.
From a psychological point of view, smoking is a behavior, and like any behavior, it is learned. The development of tobacco dependence is a learning process (we are not born smokers, but learn to smoke later) and smoking behavior is the result of repeated interactions with nicotine intake and contexts related to nicotine intake.
Whenever smoking behavior appears, it is preceded by the need to smoke, perceived at a subjective level. People describe the need to smoke in different ways, which exemplify both the psychological and the biological mechanism. The most common ways to describe the need to smoke are: lust, habit, I need to calm down, I get nervous, it’s a drug, it is a reflex.
The need to smoke is triggered either by biological mechanisms or by the psychological mechanism of tobacco addiction, or both.
Psychologically, the need to smoke is triggered by:
- External triggers. Being in different contexts or doing different activities that are repeatedly associated with smoking: drinking coffee, meeting with friends, having a drink, watching TV, working on the computer, finishing eating, driving.
- Internal triggers. Having different needs for which the person learned smoking as an answer because after smoking the person felt better and the need was gone: wen needing a brake, to pass time quickly (when waiting for someone or something), to overcome boredom, to avoid starting a new task, as a reward, to calm down, to relax.
As a result, psychological assistance aims at breaking the habit of smoking behavior and learning alternative behaviors to replace smoking, in order to make quitting smoking easier.
From a biological perspective, the urge to smoke is triggered by falling levels of nicotine in the blood, which the subjects feel like withdrawal. The typical withdrawal symptoms that occur as soon as the nicotine concentration decreases are: irritability, nervousness, impatience.
The medical examination aims to identify the level of nicotine addiction and to assess the patient’s health status in order to establish the adequate medication for quiting smoking. The main therapeutic effect of medication is that it decreases withdrawal symptoms caused by quitting smoking. Two types of drugs can be bought in Romania:
1. Drugs containing nicotine (nicotine substitutes)
- NICOTINE GUM. Gum is administered according to the prospectus, not chewed. Nicotine is absorbed through the lining of the mouth.
- NICOTINE PATCHES. Nicotine patches stick to your skin, nicotine is absorbed through the skin and can be worn all the time (24 hour patches) or only during the day (16 hour patches).
2. Drugs that do not contain nicotine.
- Bupropion. Bupropion belongs to the class of antidepressant drugs and it is marketed under the name Zyban. It works by blocking nicotinic receptors in the brain. Thus, smoking will no longer cause pleasure, and smokers will be able to give up easily. There are contraindications to the use of bupropion, as well as possible side effects. The drug is sold by prescription. It can be obtained only with doctor’s recommendation.
- Varenicline. It is marketed under the name of Champix. Once inside the body, varenicline fixes on the nicotine receptors in the brain, reducing the sensation of pleasure caused by smoking and helping reduce withdrawal symptoms. There are contraindications to the use of varenicline, and possible side effects. The drug is sold by prescription. It can be obtained only with doctor’s recommendation.