18 months without a cigarette

It is now 18 months since I stopped smoking “cold turkey“. Interestingly enough, this seems to be the most successful method amongst 80-90% of all long-term quitters.

Unlike many ex-smokers, I still believe that everyone should have a right to decide how they influence their health. While I believe that smoking in certain places should not be allowed, I also feel that treating smokers like outcasts is not the way to deal with the problem. Although smoking seem to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, Nicotine is probably the worst easily accessible drug someone can use.

Smoking cessation will almost always lead to a longer and healthier life – but damn it is hell going through it. While I believe that I am through the worst, the initial side-effects are rough:

In my case I exhibited for the first 1-5 days symptoms such as irritability, jitteriness, dry mouth, and rapid heart beat. After day 5 I suffered from insomnia and even mild depression. The onset of these symptoms was very fast, nicotine’s half-life being only 1 hour.

The bad thing about the above is, that an ex-smoker’s chemical dependence to nicotine will cease after approximately ten to twenty days, although the brain’s number of nicotine receptors is permanently altered, and the psychological dependence may linger for months or even many years. Unlike illicit recreational drugs and alcohol, nicotine does not measurably alter a smoker’s motor skills, cognition, judgement, or language abilities while under the influence of the drug, but nicotine withdrawal symptoms such as irritability and incapacity to concentrate can have an influence on these aspects.

I still catch myself once in a while pondering about that nice drag, but then visualize how stopping made me healthier (click for enlarged version):

Smoking timeline

The saying “Once a smoker, always a smoker” goes without saying – quitting is tough. Research in western countries has found that approximately 3-5% of quit attempts succeed using willpower alone and clinical trials have shown that Nicotine Replacement Therapy can double this rate to approximately 6-10% – no wonder that most people are never able to stop.