Quitting cold turkey has the lowest rates for success among those who are looking to quit smoking for good.
Of all the smoking cessation methods, the “cold turkey” method has the worst reputation.
Many smokers hesitate to use this method at all, since it is known for causing withdrawal symptoms and sometimes intense cigarette cravings.
Despite this, most smokers who try to quit go cold turkey at some point. Success rates vary.
What is the Cold Turkey Method?
The cold turkey method, or “quitting cold turkey” as it is more commonly referred, simply means that someone tries to quit smoking using no cessation aids. Cessation aids are medications, devices, or methods to make quitting easier. Those who go cold turkey forgo these methods and try to stop smoking without using any replacement products.
What are the Benefits of the Cold Turkey Method?
Overall, healthcare professionals tend to like the cold turkey method. It promotes smokers to quit without replacing the habit with something else. Going gold turkey can also save quitters money, as they won’t have to worry about buying nicotine replacement items or cigarettes.
What are the Downsides of the Cold Turkey Method?
Despite the apparent benefits in terms of health, there are several reasons quitting cold turkey is not the right option for many smokers.
One of the main issues with quitting cold turkey is that cutting off all access to nicotine at once can lead to intense withdrawal symptoms. Nicotine is the substance found in tobacco products that makes them addictive, and smokers can experience a withdrawal period similar to that experienced by users of any other drug.
According to WebMD, cigarette withdrawal symptoms can include:
- Lowered heart rate and blood pressure
- Constipation and/or diarrhea
- Increase in hunger
- Increased sugar cravings
- Foggy brain/trouble concentrating
- Intense tobacco or nicotine cravings
- Irritability/short temper
- Anxiety and/or depression
These symptoms will affect some more than others. The degree to which symptoms are experienced will depend largely on how heavy a smoker someone is before quitting. Those who do not smoke many cigarettes or who have not smoked very long may have a shorter or less intense withdrawal period than long-time and heavy smokers.
Most of these symptoms are not dangerous to one’s health, although if blood pressure or heart rate drops too low, issues might arise. Those who already have blood pressure or heart issues should consult with a physician before trying to quit.
How Effective is Quitting Cold Turkey?
Overall, most people who attempt to quit smoking cold turkey will eventually begin smoking again, although some may at least cut down from their previous tobacco usage. This is in large part due to the withdrawal symptoms previously mentioned, but many also start smoking again due to social pressures and triggers. For instance, someone who smokes socially may be more likely to return to smoking after having “just one” while out with friends.
According to the American Cancer Society, it is hard to determine success rates for any given method. On average, those who try to quit smoking are only successful between four and seven percent of the time.
Other Smoking Cessation Aids
Due to the high failure rate for those who try to quit cold turkey, smoking cessation aids have been developed to help smokers quit. These have varying levels of success. Some of the most common types of cessation aids include:
Nicotine Replacement Therapy – This method includes patches, gums, and inhalers which contain nicotine. The theory is that users can eventually wean down from higher levels to lower levels until they no longer feel the need to smoke. Many smokers find these methods unsatisfying.
Prescription Medications – Several prescription medications have been developed to help smokers quit. Welbutrin is one of the most common, but there are others. Success rates with prescription drugs vary, and not all smokers have access to them. Those who do not have health insurance, for instance, may find that prescription aids are out of reach financially.
The “Weaning” Method – This method goes on the premise that smokers can slowly wean themselves off cigarettes. While this method is similar to nicotine replacement methods, it is much harder to control for those who are addicted to cigarettes. The lure of having “just one more” is often too much to resist.
To read more about the effects cigarette smoke has on the human body visit The Effects of Smoking.
For the complete guide to quitting smoking for good visit Quit Smoking for Good — The Best Quit Smoking Guide.
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