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If you’ve decided to quit smoking, going cold turkey, as opposed to initiating a gradual decrease in usage before quitting, seems to be more effective, according to a study conducted by researchers from Oxford University.
In the study comparing the two methods of quitting, researchers determined that those who quit abruptly were 25% more likely to keep off smoking as compared to those who started out on a gradual decrease before quitting.
The study involved 697 smokers who wanted to drop the habit, and they were split into two groups; while both had set dates to quit smoking, one group was to continue smoking as they normally would before quitting on their set date, while the other group had two weeks to a set quit date, in which time they were to gradually reduce the number of cigarettes they smoked as the days progressed.
Irregardless of grouping, the former smokers received nicotine replacement therapy and also had support from the health facilities in which the study was being conducted. Nicotine is the most addictive of tobacco’s 7,000+ compounds, and satiating this craving often removes the need to light up a cigarette.
The participants were assessed on a weekly basis for the next four weeks after quitting, and then six month after quitting. During these sessions, the researchers tested participants for levels of carbon monoxide, which is elevated in smokers, and drops to normal within 12 hours of quitting smoking.
Within a month, 39% of those in who had gradually quit were still off tobacco, whereas 49% of those who had abruptly quit had managed to stay off tobacco.
Half a year after their quit date, about 15.5% of those in the gradual-quit group had managed to avoid tobacco, compared to 22% in the group that had quit abruptly.
According to lead author of the study, Dr. Nicola Lindson-Hawley, “The difference in quit attempts seemed to rise because people struggled to cut down. It provided them with an extra thing to do, which may have put them off quitting altogether.”
The researchers noted that people preferred to gradually quit smoking, despite the relative efficacy of going cold turkey; in such a case, the researchers recommend complying with the smoker’s wish, but with increased support to improve the chance of a smoker quitting.
Because, despite 7 in 10 adult smokers wanting to quit, some people are just hardwired neurally to have a hard time quitting; when your brain seems to be working against you, more comprehensive help is needed.