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Smoking Cessation

Why is it so hard to quit smoking?

Nearly five million people in Canada smoke. The majority of them want to quit, but quitting can be hard. In fact, most smokers try to quit 5-7 times before they finally succeed. Every year, millions of Canadians try to quit but don't succeed.

Why is quitting so hard? Because smoking is more than a habit—it's an addiction to nicotine. Nicotine binds to receptors in the brain and causes chemical reactions that affect how a person feels and acts. One of these chemical reactions is the release of dopamine, which is associated with creating feelings of pleasure and reinforcing reward-seeking behaviour. Dopamine is released naturally during experiences such as eating food or sexual activity, but when you smoke, nicotine increases the release of dopamine which is associated with a feeling of pleasure.

When a smoker stops smoking, the amount of dopamine in their body drops and they experience nicotine withdrawal symptoms. These withdrawal symptoms include depressed mood, craving, irritability, frustration or anger, anxiety and difficulty concentrating.

Nicotine withdrawal symptoms are the main reason why most smokers fail to quit. Withdrawal symptoms may happen whether a smoker quits cold turkey or with the help of medication. However, these symptoms are temporary and can be managed by taking positive actions when they occur.