If you’re thinking about quitting smoking, the first step in your smoking cessation journey will be to notify your general practitioner of your interest in quitting. For many people, this can seem like a daunting step to take, but be aware that GPs are very understanding of the difficulties for quitters and are there to help you treat smoking withdrawals by the most comfortable method available. Most GPs adhere to the Smoking Cessation Guidelines for Australian General Practice, which determine their level of involvement in your quit journey.
If you express interest in quitting to any GP in Australia, they should provide you with further encouragement and information about the best way to proceed depending on your smoking history and stage of dependence. For most patients, initial advice about quitting from any medical professional will include instruction to contact a ‘Quit Coach’. ‘Quit Coaching’ is a free service offered by the Australian government endorsed Quit®, which offers support to smokers via the Quitline, QuitCoach and QuitTxt resources.
All treatments for smoking cessation should include coaching either from this service or a healthcare professional qualified in quit counselling in order to effectively treat the emotional and psychological aspects of nicotine addiction in line with the physical symptoms.
If the physical withdrawal symptoms are severe, or the patient has not responded well to nicotine replacement therapy, a GP might prescribe a medicated smoking cessation treatment to be undergone concurrently to quit coaching. The two most common kinds of smoking cessation medications are bupropion (brand names Zyban SR and Prexaton) and varenicline (brand name Champix). These medications are only available with a prescription from a doctor, so you will need to discuss their suitability during a consultation.
In smokers, dopamine (a reward chemical) is released in the brain on consumption of nicotine, the addictive chemical in tobacco. Varenicline is taken in tablet form and works by releasing smaller amounts of dopamine in the brain than would normally be released during cigarette consumption, thus reducing the effects of withdrawal symptoms such as cravings, irritability, difficulty concentrating and restlessness. By blocking the reward receptors, varenicline also makes smoking less satisfying so that you are less likely to pick up a cigarette out of habit or boredom.
Bupropion also comes in tablet form and acts on the reward systems in the brain, though less is known about the role of bupropion in smoking cessation. The medication is commonly used to treat depression, but has proven success in assisting smoking cessation by reducing withdrawal symptoms such as cravings, irritability and difficulty concentrating. Like varenicline, bupropion makes smoking less rewarding, helping smokers to kick the habit faster.
Contact a Quit Coach or your GP today to discuss the best method of smoking cessation for you. If you require medical oxygen, take a look at Oxygen Solutions’ range of medical oxygen equipment, so you can breathe easy.