Why it’s so hard to quit smoking – and how you can increase your chances of quitting for good

If you or someone you know has tried unsuccessfully to quit smoking, you know that this is an incredibly common experience. “Studies show that those who try to quit smoking succeed about six attempts before quitting smoking completely, and therefore relapse is the rule and not the exception.” Mary Rezk-Hanna, a nurse and assistant professor at the UCLA School of Nursing whose research focuses on tobacco-related diseases, tells Yahoo Life. “The good news is that approximately 70% of smokers want to quit smoking.”

If so many people want to quit, why is it so difficult? The main culprit is nicotine, a highly addictive substance that causes both psychological and physiological dependence. Here’s how nicotine addiction starts—and how to increase your chances of quitting it for good.

How nicotine works

If non-smokers had a three-step system as simple as lighting, inhaling and exhaling to achieve a feeling of euphoria, they would certainly become addicted to it too. And that’s basically what nicotine does to smokers. Mariya Javed Paynea somatic psychotherapist with Awaken Advisory Services The doctor specializing in addiction explains that inhaling tobacco smoke infiltrates the person Blood-brain barrier – the difficult-to-penetrate cell wall that protects the brain from infections – and triggers the release of feel-good hormones such as dopamine, serotonin, glutamate, norepinephrine and acetylcholine.

Dr. Maya Vijayaraghavan, director of the UCSF Smoking Cessation Leadership Center, adds that this all happens within 20 seconds, which is why it’s so easy to come back for another puff. Nicotine is also a stimulant that can increase concentration, notes Javed-Payne, which is another reason people rely on it.

Following this cycle repeatedly convinces the brain that it needs nicotine to feel good, the study found Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The dependency is of course also at the expense of the smoker’s health, because in addition to nicotine…

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