Quitting Smoking as Treatment

Not every person who smokes develops chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and not every person who has COPD is or was a smoker. Still, some studies suggest that up to 90 percent of COPD cases can be attributed to smoking. 

Stop Smoking? Why Bother?

If you are a smoker who has been diagnosed with COPD, it’s natural to feel a range of negative emotions, including discouragement, anger, and depression. Since the damage to your lungs has already been done, you may think you might as well go ahead and enjoy your cigarettes since smoking won’t make any difference now.

Although understandable, that mindset is light years away from the truth. You can still benefit from quitting smoking; in fact, according to the Mayo Clinic smoking cessation is the only reliable treatment to slow the progression of your COPD and help you maintain the lung function you have left.

Stopping smoking now can also help you avoid exacerbations or serious flare-ups of your condition. Because COPD flare-ups are frightening, and because they can lead to negative outcomes like hospitalization, treatment failure, and death, it’s smart to do everything in your power to avoid them—and that includes tossing the cigarettes, pipes, and cigars.

All this means that if you are a smoker with COPD, you can noticeably improve your health by putting the cigarettes away for good.

How to Stop Smoking

Surveys show that 73 percent of smokers report they want to quit, but in any given year, only two percent to three percent of smokers actually kick the habit. There are a few fairly reliable interventions.

Healthcare Provider Intervention

This is not the classic kind of intervention where you’re loved ones plead with you to quit. Healthcare Provider Intervention is a brief, almost casual, conversation with a nurse or a doctor who calmly explains how smoking interacts with your current health problems to lower your quality of life and puts you at risk for life-threatening complications. People who have had this type of interaction with a member of their healthcare team have a small but statistically significant advantage when it comes to smoking cessation. 

Group Counseling

Attending a counseling group for people who want to stop smoking gives you the best of both worlds. You are able to listen to experienced speakers who can provide you with advice and techniques for stopping your cigarette habit and for managing relapses. You can also take advantage of the group setting to get and to give support to others who are in your shoes. Seeing that others in your group can stop smoking successfully can help strengthen your own resolve.

Pharmaceuticals

The most popular kind of medication regimens for people who want to stop smoking is nicotine replacement therapies. Nicotine replacement therapies can help you manage withdrawal symptoms and control your cravings. You can get nicotine replacement from chewing gum, patches that adhere to your skin, lozenges, and even sprays. If the replacement therapy isn’t helping as much as you’d like, you might want to talk to your doctor about adding an antidepressant—this type of combined therapy has been shown to help some people quit.

Cold Turkey?

Some people are able to put the cigarettes down and walk away without any medications or support groups. This shows that the cold turkey approach can work, but you have a better chance of succeeding if you know what you’re getting yourself into. These tips may help.

  • Set a “quit date” and stick to it.
  • Expect withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, irritability, depression, and food cravings. Plan in advance how you will handle the symptoms—and remember, they won’t last forever.
  • Make a list of the things you do want. It’s not enough to simply stop a behavior. For lasting change to occur, it’s important to replace the negative behavior with a new, healthier one.
  • Avoid situations that remind you of smoking or that lead to cravings.
  • Seek support from friends and family. Turn to them when you feel close to relapse.

Giving up a longtime habit like cigarette smoking isn’t fun or easy, but it can dramatically slow the progression of your COPD and enhance your quality of life.