Not long to go now. Five days to my simple mind, but according to a countdown clock it’s actually 4 days, 13 hours and 37 minutes to go. Since I’m going to stop at midnight, I suppose it’s technically the 2nd of February — may go for 11:59 pm instead.
I’ve tried to quit smoking a few times before, and never successfully for more than a day or two. I suppose my heart’s never quite been in it before now — I genuinely did enjoy smoking. That view has changed a little over the last few years: the ban on smoking in public places combined with the Scottish weather took an element of the enjoyment out of it. It also imposed a bit of an attitude change in me. When we were constantly surrounded by smoke in pubs, restaurants and pretty much everywhere else it was easy, as a smoker, not to notice the effect smoke was having on other people. Now, it’s more obvious how unpleasant it is and it bothers even me when the smell of smoke wafts into a pub with an open door.
I made a change to my habit about 18 months ago, in anticipation of quitting, by switching from ordinary cigarettes to roll-ups. There was some logic there: I didn’t like the smell of rolling tobacco and they were a total pain compared to pre-rolled cigarettes. Of course, rather than putting me off smoking I simply adapted to my new habit, but I did, however, cut down massively on the amount I smoked. This change has helped me to realise that I don’t want to smoke, I just need to smoke. A big change for me, and one that convinced me I was finally ready to take on the challenge of quitting. With no desire to overcome, there’s only the addiction mountain to climb.
So, how to go about it? I know from past experience that willpower alone doesn’t work for me, and that Nicotine Replacement Therapy makes no sense at all to me. I realise NRT is proven to work for some people, but it seems crazy to me to put nicotine into your body in order to rid yourself of the addiction. So only one option left: drugs.
Champix is a nicotinic receptor partial antagonist. Basically, it activates the receptors in your brain that nicotine normally affects, and prevents nicotine from attaching to those receptors. The overall effect of this is that it reduces the pleasure one gains from smoking and simultaneously reduces nicotine cravings. Some people report that it actually makes cigarettes deeply unpleasant for them, inducing vomiting and nausea when they smoke.
All sounds great, right? A magical drug that tells your brain you don’t like smoking any more and convinces your body you don’t need nicotine any more — what’s not to love?
Well, it’s suggested that the drug has a darker side: some patients have reported serious side effects including suicidal ideation and behaviour. As side effects go, they’re pretty serious. Seemingly, it can also encourage depression, anxiety and aggression among patients — wonder drug doesn’t seem so wonderful now.
I’m happy to report that, other than some quite vivid dreams and a bit of a ‘high’ the first day I took it, I’ve experienced no significant side effects. I still have to report to the doctor every two weeks for an assessment before I can get my prescription, but having upped my dose this morning and feeling no different I foresee no problems.
I’m still smoking while I build up my dose, but I’m smoking less, enjoying it less and not getting the usual cravings after an hour or so of being somewhere that I can’t smoke. So far for me it really does feel like a wonder drug. We’ll see how I feel about that on Wednesday.