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Smoking, Addiction and Mental Illness – Why You Should Stop Smoking

Although lockdown regulations have eased substantially, the sale of tobacco products is still prohibited.

What does this mean for those who are addicted to cigarettes and other tobacco products in terms of mental and physical health?

smoking and mental illness

Cigarette Ban During Lockdown

The nationwide ban on tobacco products in South Africa is still in effect, leaving many people on the hunt for illegally sourced cigarettes.

The concern with this is obvious; cigarettes are extremely addictive and their prohibition has encouraged illegal behaviour among many law-abiding citizens.

However, what is the effect of cigarettes on one’s mental and physical health, not just during the COVID-19 pandemic, but in general?

Smoking and Mental Illness

Smoking is largely accepted in the social atmosphere, regardless of the harm it can cause to smokers and those around them.

The physical effects are well-known and discussed openly, with warning signs on cigarette boxers warning users of severe illnesses caused by smoking.

Yet, despite their very best efforts, people find it almost impossible to quit and cannot understand why.

The answer brings us to a point where we highlight the effects of smoking on our mental health.

As any smoker will tell you, a cigarette can be a saving grace in a stressful situation but, as with most other addictions, this is a short-term relief.

The concern is that as we develop dependency on nicotine, our tolerance increases, our withdrawal symptoms get worse and our ability to quit decreases.

Can Nicotine Cause Anxiety and Depression?

Nicotine works in the same way as other addictive substances. When nicotine is inhaled, the brain releases Dopamine which is known as the “feel good” hormone.

This unnatural stimulation of dopamine can switch off the brain’s own mechanism for making and releasing dopamine. This can mean that less dopamine is available in the long-term, which can create feelings of depression.

The same concept applies to anxiety. Although smoking during stressful situations can curb feelings of anxiety, withdrawals from not smoking can cause extreme feelings of anxiety.

How to Quit Smoking

The nationwide ban on cigarette sales has provided many smokers with the opportunity to finally quit the habit.

Although it’s not an easy task, quitting smoking can never be a bad decision and in doing so, we can live longer, happier and healthier lives.

Here are some tips that can make quitting a little easier:

  • Find other ways to cope with stress. Exercise, meditation and hobbies can all help reduce unavoidable stress. Also, make sure you get enough sleep, eat healthy food and reduce your alcohol intake. You may want to seek other forms of treatment such as therapy, counselling or you may want to take up yoga. These are all excellent ways to help deal with daily stress
  • Get support from those around you. However difficult it may be to quit smoking, when you tell your family and loved ones that you intend on quitting, they are able to be supportive and encouraging throughout your process. If someone you live with also smokes, it may be harder to quit, but you can encourage that person to quit at the same time. In that way, you’ll both be able to support each other throughout
  • Avoid triggers as much as possible. Try stay away from social situations where others will be smoking and avoid alcohol consumption as this often exacerbates the craving for a cigarette
  • Prepare yourself for the cravings and other withdrawal symptoms. Education is key, so make sure you know what to expect and research ways to navigate through the withdrawals in a healthy, constructive way

Step Away Rehabilitation Centre in South Africa

Smoking is extremely harmful in many ways. It is not only detrimental to your physical health, but to your mental health too.

We understand that quitting smoking can be challenging, so we aim to provide excellent outpatient programmes to assist you with managing withdrawal symptoms.

For more information about our inpatient and outpatient programmes, or for more tips on how to quit smoking, please contact us.

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