National Alliance on Mental Illness
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Smoking Cessation: The Benefits of Quitting

There are immediate and long-term benefits to quitting smoking. Several benefits you will notice right away include:

  • your sense of taste will improve;
  • your sense of smell returns to normal;
  • your breath, hair and clothes will smell better;
  • your teeth and fingernails stop yellowing;
  • you will save a lot of money;
  • you will have more energy and time to engage in ordinary activities; and
  • you will be more acceptable socially with nonsmokers.

Within minutes of smoking the last cigarette and beyond, the body begins to restore itself.

Time after quitting Benefits to your health
20 minutes Your heart rate and blood pressure drop
12 hours Carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal
Two weeks to three months Your circulation improves and your lung function increases
One to nine months Coughing and shortness of breath decrease; lung function normalizes
One year Excess risk of heart disease is cut in half
Five years Your stroke risk is that of a nonsmoker
Ten years Lung cancer death rate is half of a smokers
Fifteen years Risk of heart disease is that of a nonsmoker

Tools for Success: Quitting Tips and Support

It is hard, but you can quit smoking. Research clearly shows that people living with mental illness can, and do, quit. The quit rates are not significantly lower than for any other group. It is unusual for anyone to quit on the first attempt; many people are successful in their efforts after three, six or even 10 attempts. If you live with a mental illness and smoke, work with your health care provider to determine a strategy for you, get your supports in order and persist in your efforts for your own health and wellness. There are many tools available that help people quit.

As you get ready, increase your chances by:

  • telling your smoking friends you might not be seeing much of them for awhile;
  • making a decision about whether or not to add medication support to your effort, and if so what kind of medicine will best suit your needs;
  • finding and engaging in smoking cessation-specific coaching;
  • finding and considering participation in a support group; and/or
  • securing phone support.

Take three steps to support your health and wellness:

  1. Get ready─set a date.
  2. Get medicine─talk with your health care provider.
  3. Get help─call 1 (800) QUIT-NOW or find a local support group near you.

Many NAMI affiliates offer support groups like NAMI Connection, a free recovery support group program for people who live with mental illness. See how you can benefit from peer support, and see if you can help someone in a similar situation.

There is good evidence that simple phone support may make a real difference for people who want to quit smoking. 1 (800) QUIT-NOW is a great resource for individuals who want to quit smoking. It is free, and many people have found this resource helpful. In addition, some smoking cessation programs offer free text messages that help provide ongoing support and coaching. Engage your Facebook friends and keep them updated on your progress. You may also find help connecting with other quitters on the NAMI online communities.

Alternatives, Treatments and Medications

To quit permanently, you may need to rely on more than one method at a time. Methods may include step-by-step manuals, phone support, self-help classes, counseling, nicotine replacement therapies (NRT) and/or prescription medications.

There are several products scientifically proven to help double or triple your odds of quitting for good. However, it is possible that you will feel some effects of nicotine withdrawal. Getting temporary nicotine in your system while quitting can help you feel more comfortable and in control as you start your tobacco-free life.

Nicotine Replacement Therapies (NRT)

NRT is a combined approach that includes a smoking cessation program plus behavior change and support. If used properly, NRT can help double or triple your chances of quitting. All NRT products have side effects, so before deciding on an option, know the risks and benefits of each option. Use caution if you have heart disease or a history of heart disease and consult your doctor before taking medication.

Over-the-counter Options

  • Nicotine Patch: Patches are placed on the skin and supply a small, steady amount of nicotine to the body. Patches contain varied levels of nicotine, and the user reduces the dose over time.
  • Nicotine Gum: Gum is chewed to release nicotine. Gums also have varied concentrations to allow the user to reduce the amount of nicotine over time.
  • Nicotine Lozenges: Lozenges look like hard candy, release nicotine and dissolve in the mouth.

Prescription Options

  • Nicotine Inhaler: This allows the user to inhale nicotine through a mouthpiece at a predetermined dose.
  • Nicotine Nasal Spray: This allows user to spray nicotine straight into the nose. Can be used for fast craving control, especially for heavy smokers. Caution is urged if you have high blood pressure because your condition could worsen. Also be aware if you have a heart condition, asthma or glandular problem (i.e., insulin dependent diabetes).
  • Zyban (Bupropion): This helps reduce nicotine withdrawal and the urge to smoke. Can be used safely with nicotine replacement products.

    Side effects: seizures and mood changes (Some people should not take Zyban including those who have ever had a seizure, a head injury, take some antidepressants [MAO inhibitors], take other medications containing bupropion or have/had an eating disorder.
  • Chantix(Varenicline): This helps ease nicotine withdrawal symptoms and blocks the effects of nicotine from cigarettes if the user resumes smoking.

    Side effects: Reports of serious symptoms have been made claiming agitation, depressed mood, feeling hostile, changes in behavior, impulsive/disturbing thoughts or individuals thinking about hurting themselves or others. Tell your doctor immediately if you have worsening of depression or other mental health issues as they could worsen while talking this medication.

Additional Resources

It is often hard to stop smoking, but you can do it. It may help to know that there are many organizations that offer information, counseling and other services on how to quit and where to go for support. Here are some to get you started: