It's natural to look for a little help when it comes to life's biggest challenges – but sometimes, that help is not all it's cracked up to be.
Smokers who have turned to some prescription meds to help them quit may be getting a lot more than they bargained for. As a result, the FDA is requiring those drugs to carry their strongest warning – the infamous "black box" – because of a possible link to serious mental health problems such as depression and suicidal thoughts.
I know quitting is hard. I've seen many of my friends and patients suffer as they fought the urge to light up. But I've also seen how quickly they come out the other side, feeling better than they have in years. Your body begins to repair itself almost immediately when you stop smoking – within 12 hours of your last cigarette.
That's pretty remarkable when you consider that smoking is one of the worst things you can do to yourself, and not just because of the risk for conditions such as lung cancer and emphysema.
Cigarette smoke damages the inner lining of your arteries. The carbon monoxide in tobacco smoke causes red blood cells to multiply, increasing your risk for blood clots. And if you smoke and have high blood pressure, you may find that quitting can get those levels back under control.
You'll also lose that smoker's cough, breathe better, smell better and have some extra spending money.
So there's your motivation. But I know plenty of smokers who understand all that and more and still can't quite crush that final butt under their boot heel.
And that's because nicotine withdrawal alone can have side effects as bad as any med: sleeplessness, depression, irritability, anxiety and, of course, that feeling that you're missing something from your life.
Plenty of people also keep smoking because they're under the mistaken impression that nicotine is helping them in some way. Many people say cigarettes help keep them calm, and of course it does when you compare it to those immediate withdrawal symptoms I just mentioned.
The fact is, if you're in genuine need of something to help calm your nerves, there are natural ways to do it. And if you're just stuck in a smoker's rut and need some non-drug help quitting, there are options for you too.
A number of completely natural treatments and therapies have shown promise, including acupuncture, hypnosis and some herbal formulas.
Anything worth doing is worth doing right – even if it is a little harder. In the end, it will be better for you and better for your body when you find yourself smoke-free without the help of any drugs and their side effects.