A new health breakthrough may help smokers trying to quit to understand what situations send them hurtling toward relapse.
More than 1,200 people die in the United States every day from smoking-related illnesses. Older studies show that drinking alcohol can make one have smoking urges. But until now, we didn’t have answers regarding the moment-by-moment relations between smoking urges and alcohol use.
Researchers in Texas analyzed data from 300 adult women (18–70 years old) living in Seattle who were trying to quit smoking between 1999 and 2002. Women notoriously have more trouble quitting. The participants recorded smoking urges at random times throughout the day, and what seemed to cue temptations.
This feedback showed that on days where alcohol was consumed, there were far more volatile smoking urges. Strangely, the urges were reported before the woman actually drank. Results showed that women were more likely to drink alcohol on days when they woke up with higher urges to smoke as compared to days when they woke up to lower smoking urges.
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This shows that people may fight the stress of quitting smoking by reaching for alcohol. This, of course, creates a vicious cycle, where smoking urges lead to drinking and then to a greater urge to smoke. The ultimate result: relapse.
For a successful smoking cessation attempt, it is vital for smokers to identify situations that raise one’s risk of relapse. Alcohol in any situation seems to not help anything. Instead, aim to modify your life to reduce urges. Throw out cigarettes, ashtrays, lighters, and anything else that reminds you of smoking. Concentrate your mind on positive obsessions, like exercise, that are incompatible with smoking. Tell your loved ones about your plans to quit, and ask them for support.
And while you are fighting urges, record them. Track any relapses and strong urges by the time of day, how intense they were, and any other relevant information that could give you a picture of what is causing you the most problems.
Sources for Today’s Articles:
Ex-Smokers: How to Prevent a Relapse
“UTHealth researchers may help identify when smokers attempting cessation are at a higher risk of relapse,” The University of Texas, February 13, 2013.