Overcoming nicotine addiction: It’s ok to ask for help

There’s a lot of negativity attached to the word ‘addiction’, so it can be hard to admit you may have an addiction to cigarettes. But accepting that your reliance on cigarettes may be driven by a very real, underlying medical condition can be the first step to getting the help you need to quit smoking.

Cigarettes are so addictive because of the effect that nicotine has on your body1

“We have nicotine receptors in our body,’ explains Dr Hester Wilson, a GP and addiction expert. “When we use nicotine, our body becomes used to it and wants more.”

Most smokers are considered ‘nicotine-dependent’.2 For these people, nicotine dependence is a chronic medical illness that requires ongoing care.2

Dr Wilson has also stated, “In the medical world we view nicotine dependence as a chronic medical condition. It’s not a matter of needing to be strong to overcome it. It’s a real condition and it’s really hard to change.”

Nicotine withdrawal symptoms are expected when you overcome nicotine dependence and can begin as early as 30 minutes after your last cigarette.3 Withdrawal symptoms may include irritability, anxiety, depressed mood, difficulty concentrating, increased appetite, insomnia and restlessness.3

“But more than anything else, it’s the really strong cravings that can be hard to overcome,” says Dr Wilson. “In these moments, it’s important to understand that nicotine dependence exists, it’s a real condition. And you need support and help in order to change it.”

That support may come in the form of family and friends. But it can also come from your doctor.

“Family and friends are really important for support,” stresses Dr Wilson. “But also having a healthcare professional who can provide support and follow-up care is really helpful.”

You can work with your doctor to develop a personalised plan to help free you from your nicotine dependence. This plan may include advice and counselling, as well as smoking cessation treatment where appropriate. After all, you’re up to 4x more likely to succeed in quitting with the help of a healthcare professional compared to quitting unaided.4

It may sound clichéd, but acknowledging that you have an addiction is the first step to overcoming it. Your doctor can provide the ongoing support you need to help break this addiction to nicotine and put you on the path to a smoke-free life.

©Pfizer 2018. Pfizer Australia Pty Limited. Pfizer Medical Information: 1800 675 229. Sydney, Australia. PP-CHM-AUS-0619, 08/2018

1. Zwar NA, Mendelson CP, Richmond RL. Tobacco smoking: options for helping smokers to quit. AFP 2014; 43(6):348–54.

2. Cancer Institute NSW ‘iCanQuit’ initiative. Understanding Smoking Dependence. Available at: https://www.icanquit.com.au/getting-started/know-what-to-expect/understanding-smoking-dependence. Accessed August 2018.

3. Healthline. Nicotine Withdrawal. Available at: http://www.healthline.com/health/smoking/nicotine-withdrawal. Accessed 22 August 2018.

4. West R. (2012). Stop smoking services: increased chances of quitting. NCSCT Briefing #8. London; National Centre for Smoking Cessation and Training.