Counseling can be key to quitting smoking
Web posted at: 5:23 p.m. EST (2223 GMT)
NEW YORK (CNN) -- It is estimated that only 5 percent of smokers who quit cold turkey are able to refrain from smoking for more than a year.
The pleasurable effects that many derive from nicotine makes smoking a tough habit to break, said Dr. Steve Adelman of the Harvard Vanguard Medical Association.
"Nicotine is one of the most tenaciously addictive substances known to mankind. It's as addictive -- and for some people, even more addictive -- than heroin," Adelman said.
A number of products offer a gradual method of weaning smokers off the effects of nicotine, such as nicotine gum, skin patches and a nasal spray.
Another approach is an anti-depressant drug called Zyban, which has a higher success rate than most other products, helping to keep about 23 percent of smokers from lighting up for more than one year.
But Zyban, also known as Wellbutrin, does not work for everyone. And its side effects include dry mouth, insomnia, and a slight risk of seizure.
Dr. Linda Ferry, who works with patients trying to give up smoking at the Pettis Veterans Hospital, advises smokers to gradually prepare themselves to break the habit.
"When people try to quit impulsively -- 'throw those cigarettes away, I'm going to quit today' -- they've done no preparation. They don't know why they smoke and they aren't really prepared for how they're going to feel when they quit," Ferry said.
Smokers should back up whatever method they choose to try to break the habit with a support group or counselor, Ferry said.
Anna Palmisano, who entered a smoking cessation program after being diagnosed with emphysema, said she has made it through 10 months without a cigarette, with the help of a nicotine patch and counseling. But it's a constant struggle, she said.
"You're fighting the psychological, you're fighting the physical, you're fighting the emotional -- because my cigarettes were my best friend," Palmisano said.
Reporter Marion Asnes contributed to this report.
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