Researchers from the University of Wisconsin recently discovered another reason it’s so tough to ditch the cancer sticks: When you first stop smoking, you may have a tough time finding pleasure in things you usually enjoy.
In the study, smokers trying to quit reported feeling reduced pleasure—a phenomenon called anhedonia—during their first cigarette-free week. That’s probably because they were suddenly deprived of nicotine, the cigarette chemical that amplifies good feelings, says study author Jessica Cook, Ph.D.
“Nicotine basically stimulates the brain’s pleasure centers, which we believe make other non-drug events more rewarding,” she says. If you’re used to taking a drag during enjoyable activities, then the chemical’s effect may be even more powerful.
The good news: Anhedonia from smoking cessation is only temporary, and nicotine replacement can help buffer it. “We found that the inability to experience pleasure during rewarding events goes to normal in about a week after quitting,” says Cook. “So nicotine replacement is really important in that it might help people get through that first week.”
Talk to your doctor to find what form of nicotine replacement is best for you. Research suggests that some people benefit from combination of a nicotine patch and a nicotine gum or lozenge, Cook says. The patch provides a steady stream of nicotine, while the gum or lozenge provides a larger dose to curb the toughest cravings.
By Julie Stewart