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Kick the habit: What to expect when quitting smoking

What to expect when quitting smoking | UPMC Health Plan

Let’s face it, nobody want to be a quitter, right?

Wrong! When it comes to tobacco use, everyone wins by quitting! And this November, the Great American Smokeout is your chance to take action to ditch your addiction. Kicking the habit will be the most important step you take in enhancing the length and quality of your life, starting now.

So what can you expect when quitting smoking? Well, there are actually many benefits you can expect. In fact, your overall health starts to improve almost immediately.

Health benefits include:

  • In 20 minutes: Your heart rate and blood pressure drop.
  • In 12 hours:Your blood’s carbon monoxide level returns to normal.
  • In 2 weeks to 3 months:Your circulation improves and your lung function increases.
  • In 1 to 9 months:Coughing and shortness of breath decrease.
  • In 1 year:Your excess risk of heart disease is half that of a smoker.
  • In 5 to 15 years:Your risk for stroke is reduced to that of a nonsmoker.
  • In 10 years:Your risk for lung cancer is half that of a smoker.
  • In 15 years:Your risk of heart disease is the same as a nonsmoker’s.

How to manage withdrawal symptoms:

Unfortunately nicotine is an addictive substance. When a person tries to quit or even cut back, there may be withdrawal symptoms due to the lack of nicotine. These symptoms usually start within hours and can last a few days to several weeks. The good news is that every day you are smoke–free, you are closer to those symptoms subsiding.

Withdrawal discomfort may include:

  • Headache
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Restless or boredom
  • Dizziness

If you are feeling unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, talk to your doctor about Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT). With the help of NRT, you can nearly double your chances of staying quit. Nicotine replacement products include gum, patches, inhaler, lozenges, and sprays. If you are a UPMC Health Plan member, tobacco cessation treatment products are free. Generic tobacco cessation medications and nicotine replacement products are available at no cost, including nicotine patches, gum, lozenges, and bupropion (the generic form of Zyban). Brand-name products also may be available to you at no cost, but they require step therapy first. Step therapy means you must try a generic product before receiving a name-brand product. Contact a Health Care Concierge at 1-888-876-2756 for more information.

Finally, talk to a professional such as a health coach or counselor about quitting. Combining medication and behavioral counseling can increase the likelihood of quitting 70% to 100% compared to those quit on their own. If you are a UPMC Health Plan member, call a health coach today and get started on your journey to a tobacco-free life!