How to Quit - Mental Health
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How to Quit

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Tobacco and Health

How to Quit

The research is clear — you have your best chance at quitting tobacco when you get behavioral counseling and use cessation medication. Counseling helps you make long-term changes to your behavior so that you can remove tobacco from your life, and medication helps with the physical cravings caused by nicotine addiction.

Quitting tobacco is not easy, and many Veterans make multiple quit attempts before quitting for good. VA health care providers are ready to help all Veterans who are ready to quit smoking or using smokeless tobacco products. In fact, VA has more tobacco use treatment options available to Veterans in VA care than ever before, including:

Source: CDC.gov/tips

Counseling and Medication

When you are trying to quit tobacco, treatment that includes counseling or cessation medication increases your chance of a successful quit. When you use these two treatment options together, you increase your chance of getting even further.

Counseling

Tobacco cessation counseling involves talking with a health care provider or counselor about your tobacco use and the role it plays in your daily routine so that you can figure out how to quit. VA can provide you with this type of counseling so you can make the behavioral changes needed to break free of tobacco, whether it be cigarettes or smokeless tobacco.

VA provides in-person individual and group tobacco cessation counseling and telephone and video counseling for Veterans. These counseling sessions can be brief (less than 5 minutes) or more intensive (longer than 10 minutes) and may involve multiple sessions.

Triggers are an example of something you may discuss during tobacco cessation counseling. In this instance, triggers are things that make you want to use tobacco. These could include talking on the phone, drinking a cup of coffee, drinking alcohol, feeling bored, or needing a break. Counseling will help you figure out how you can avoid or cope with your triggers so you don’t relapse and start using tobacco again after you quit.

Contact your VA health care provider to learn about available local tobacco cessation clinics and group counseling sessions. To receive counseling over the phone, call 1-855-QUIT-VET (1-855-784-8838) to receive support from a trained Quit VET counselor.

Medication

Tobacco contains nicotine, a highly addictive chemical. When you stop using tobacco, you’ll likely experience withdrawal symptoms from the lack of nicotine, which can include irritability, anxiety, depression, hunger, restlessness, insomnia, and cravings. Using medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration can help you manage these withdrawal symptoms and cope with the urge to smoke or use smokeless tobacco.

  • Nicotine patch, gum, and lozenge
    The nicotine patch, gum, and lozenge, collectively referred to as nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), contain medicinal nicotine to reduce your withdrawal symptoms. The patch, which offers long-acting relief from withdrawal symptoms, can be combined with the short-acting gum or lozenge for more effective results.

  • Bupropion
    Bupropion (Zyban®) is a pill that reduces your urge to use tobacco. Bupropion contains no nicotine and is started one to two weeks before you stop using tobacco.

  • Varenicline
    Varenicline (CHANTIX®) is a pill that blocks the effects of nicotine on the brain, making smoking and smokeless tobacco less enjoyable and reducing your withdrawal symptoms.

Talk to your VA health care provider to decide which medication, or combination of medications, will work best for you. You can also learn about cessation medications that may be right for you by visiting https://veterans.smokefree.gov/tools-tips-vet/quit-for-good-with-nrt.

Patient Medication Guides

Workbooks and Handbooks for Quitting

As part of VA’s commitment to helping Veterans quit tobacco, we have developed workbooks to help you quit and handbooks to help VA providers with tobacco cessation treatment. Some of these Veteran workbooks and provider handbooks can be used together as you and your VA provider work on your quit.

If the resources above are used in work and training settings, please credit the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Health Administration.

Support From Family and Friends

Family and friends can be a great source of encouragement when you quit tobacco. Let them know you are trying to quit and ways they can support you as you make this huge change in your life. Share with them the following tips on how to help someone who is trying to quit tobacco:

  • Ask what you can do to help. Every person who uses tobacco is different!

  • If you use tobacco yourself, consider quitting at the same time.

  • Emphasize that even people who live tobacco-free have doubts. Cigarettes and smokeless tobacco can be constant companions for Veterans, and it can be difficult to imagine a life without them. Remind Veterans of the positive changes that will occur in their lives after they quit.

  • Be ready to help, especially during the first few days after the Veteran stops using tobacco. Veterans may need distractions or extra help with a tough situation. For instance, they may need support when going to a party or hanging out with other people who use tobacco.

  • Let them know they can take their time. Sometimes it takes a few tries for a person to become tobacco-free for good. Each attempt to quit tobacco is a learning experience, making success more likely.

  • Be positive. Keep your statements upbeat and focused on the Veteran’s efforts to quit. Adding pressure or guilt only creates stress for Veterans, which they may want to relieve by using tobacco.

  • Stay positive. Every attempt at living tobacco-free is a step forward, and relapsing does not mean failure. If a relapse occurs, help the Veteran figure out what caused it. Be encouraging, and let them know that you are proud of them for trying and that you will support them in another attempt to quit.

  • Share reasons for quitting. There are many positive physical and mental health reasons for quitting. Let the Veteran know about them.