What the experts say about quitting nicotine and how to find the right resources to lean on.
Vaping, or consuming e-cigarette smoke, was meant to be a less harmful option for adults who want to quit cigarettes. But that isn't always the case: the high nicotine content in e-cigarettes have made vaping a tough habit to quit in people who were never smokers in the first place, including many young people and teenagers.
But what if you're ready to quit vaping, or quit nicotine all together? As any former smoker can tell you, quitting is not easy and support is key. If you're trying to quit any form of nicotine, try implementing these nicotine-cessation tips. For more information on vaping, read everything you need to know about Juul vape and what doctors say about the health implications of vaping.
The first thing you should do when you want to stop using nicotine is to make others aware of your goal and get a support group, even if it's just one person. While some behavioral research suggests that keeping your goals to yourself is the best way to reach them, that's not true for addiction.
When it comes to addiction, you should have a supportive circle of people who can help keep you accountable and on the right track. Plus, sharing your intentions means you'll also be able to share and celebrate your progress down the road, which can serve as further motivation for quitting completely.
Speaking to an expert might be what you need to quit for good. While you might not find a rehab center near you that treats only nicotine addiction, most rehab centers for alcohol and other drugs are equipped to treat nicotine addiction. For a more personalized approach, try outpatient counseling that includes cognitive behavioral therapy and motivational interviewing.
You can also use a free, confidential text or call line to talk to an expert about addiction. The National Institutes of Health offers both a call line and an online chat system, and provides nicotine cessation resources specifically for men, women, teens, military veterans and seniors.
Truth Initiative, a nonprofit that works to end tobacco and nicotine use, offers a text-to-quit messaging system specifically to help people (especially young people) quit using e-cigarettes.
While many call lines operate as or call themselves "smoking cessation" hotlines, keep in mind that the trained experts on the other side of the line help with e-cigarette use as well.
If nothing else, knowing the health risks of nicotine may be enough encouragement to halt your vape or cigarette addiction.
Nicotine stimulates a series of bodily reactions induced by adrenaline, including an excess release of glucose and an increase in heart rate, breathing rate and blood pressure. That's why people who vape or smoke feel the familiar rush of alertness and happiness.
Aside from causing wacky reactions inside your body, nicotine is linked to a long and concerning list of side effects, including increased risk of blood clots, artery hardening, seizures, peptic ulcers, irregular heartbeat and lung spasms. More recently, scientists have discovered that vaping specifically can increase your risk of heart disease by damaging the cells that line your blood vessels.
For kids and teens who smoke or vape, nicotine can inhibit and alter brain development -- specifically, nicotine can harm the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain responsible for decision-making, logic and personality traits, according to Weinstein.
Scientists aren't sure about all of the long-term health effects of vaping yet, but the known health risks don't seem promising.
Nicotine patches, lozenges, gums and other products can help some people quit, but not everyone can wean off of an addictive substance successfully.
Some companies have started to manufacture products that intend to help people quit nicotine cold turkey in place of nicotine-replacement products like nicotine gum and patches.
One such company is QuitGo, which manufactures a soft-tip inhaler designed to look and feel like a cigarette, but delivers only air, essential oils, flavorings and pyruvic acid (an organic acid that already exists in our bodies). It's meant to help with the oral fixation that many smokers struggle to beat.
In the nicotine withdrawal timeline, symptoms typically peak at one to three days and then decrease over a period of three to four weeks. For some people, knowing that the worst is over after just a couple days is enough to quit cold turkey.
If that's not motivation enough for you, you can take some steps to make cold turkey easier:
Habit expert Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, propounds that habits comprise three critical components:
The cue triggers the routine, and you reap the reward for going through the routine. To change any habit, you must first identify triggers.
Let's say you're addicted to sugar. Being at a birthday party might cue your routine to eat a piece of cake, which produces the reward of a sugar high, or the various feel-good hormones and mechanisms that occur in your body when you eat sugar.
If you're addicted to nicotine, think about when and where you usually smoke or vape. For example, maybe you meet up with your friends after work for a drink, and everyone uses a vape.
While this can definitely be an effective tactic, it's often easier said than done, said Kevin Gilliland, executive director of the Innovation360 addiction clinic. Exactly how well this tactic works for you depends on how badly you want to quit.
If you are determined to quit, do your best to engage with friends, coworkers and family members that don't smoke. For instance, instead of taking lunch with a friend who vapes or smokes, take lunch with a friend who usually walks outside after eating.
It's not easy to give up a social activity, but your friends should be supportive of your efforts. If many people in your social circle vape or smoke, you can try asking that they take smoke breaks rather than puff consistently throughout the day.
When they do take a break, you can leave the room and take that time to do something else constructive: Call someone you've been meaning to check in with, catch up on emails or even watch a funny YouTube video.
The basics of behavior change include a strong emphasis on replacement activities. Often, the hardest part about quitting vaping or smoking is finding something else that makes you feel as good as nicotine does. When you find that something, you find the ticket to a nicotine-free life.
Many people who once used nicotine have found success in activities like exercise, drawing or painting, singing and cleaning, but you could try just about anything.
"We are always more successful when we [replace our addictive behaviors]," Gilliland said. "Come up with a list of activities that work for you … Get up and walk, chew gum, text a friend, rethink about why you are quitting. If you want to be successful, you have to invest some time in you."
When you're addicted to something -- be it alcohol, sugar, nicotine or anything else -- you will inevitably experience cravings when you try to quit. A big part of successfully quitting is being prepared to deal with those cravings.
Without a plan, you may give in too easily and find yourself back at square one. This tip circles back to the replacement activities concept, said Gilliland.
"Don't just sit there watching your thoughts go by about using," he said. "Again, you want a lot of options: Go for a walk, do some yoga poses, call a friend, go talk to a coworker about a project, chew some gum, think about your progress and how long it's been, call or text a friend that's also stopping or has stopped."
Even if you change up your environment, alter the routines you associate with smoking and prepare a plan to deal with cravings, it's likely that you'll still deal with withdrawal symptoms, especially if you've been doing it for a while.
While withdrawal symptoms -- such as fatigue, headaches, irritability, anxiety, mental fog -- can hardly be described as enjoyable, they are only temporary and the new rewards of not vaping will far exceed a nicotine high.
When you're dealing with withdrawal symptoms, picture the rewards:
Also, make sure your support system remains strong throughout your quitting process. Just one supportive friend or family member can make the biggest difference in your ultimate success.
Above all else, don't give up just because one tactic didn't work for you, Gilliland said: "Be curious about what works for you and what makes it harder."