Smoking is a pervasive global issue, and Singapore is no exception. The detrimental effects of smoking on health have led to a concerted effort to help Singaporeans quit smoking and lead healthier lives. Thankfully, there are several resources and support systems available to individuals looking to kick the habit for good. In this blog post, we will explore the resources offered in Singapore to assist smokers in their journey to becoming smoke-free.
Smoking is an addiction
Smoking is considered an addiction. Its addictive properties are primarily caused by the nicotine. Nicotine stimulates the release of neurotransmitters in the brain, leading to feelings of pleasure and relaxation. However, these experiences are short-lived. As nicotine levels decrease, cravings for more nicotine arise, leading to a cycle of addiction.
Regular smoking causes physical and psychological dependence on nicotine. This makes it challenging for individuals to quit without experiencing withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, anxiety, and intense cravings. If you are struggling to quit smoking, you are not alone.
Understanding the negative reinforcement of tobacco use
Recurring addiction behaviour is often driven by the desire to alleviate withdrawal symptoms rather than seeking pleasure. This aspect of addiction is closely related to the concept of negative reinforcement.
Negative reinforcement refers to the process by which a behavior is reinforced or strengthened by removing or avoiding an aversive or uncomfortable stimulus. In the context of addiction, the aversive stimulus is the withdrawal symptoms that occur when the tobacco is not consumed.
When someone becomes addicted to smoking, their body and brain adapt to the presence of nicotine. As a result, when they try to stop using or engaging in the addictive behavior, you experience withdrawal symptoms.
To avoid these uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, individuals may continue to use the substance or engage in the behavior, even if they no longer derive pleasure or satisfaction from it. The primary motivation becomes the avoidance of negative feelings rather than seeking the positive effects of the substance or behavior.
This aspect of addiction highlights the complex nature of the condition and underscores the importance of addressing not only the physical dependence but also the underlying psychological and emotional factors that contribute to addictive behaviours. Effective addiction treatment and support often involve a holistic approach that addresses both the physical and psychological aspects of addiction to promote lasting recovery and well-being.
Is smoking in itself a disease?
Because smoking is an addictive, some may argue that smoking is a disease. The classification of addiction as a disease has been a subject of debate within the medical and scientific community. Addiction is characterised by compulsive behaviour and continued substance use despite negative consequences, and difficulty in quitting or controlling the behavior. It can be related to substances like drugs or alcohol or non-substance-related behaviors like gambling or gaming.
The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) defines addiction as a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory, and related circuitry. According to ASAM, addiction is not simply a behavioral problem but a complex neurobiological condition that involves changes in the brain’s structure and function.
By classifying addiction as a disease, it emphasises the understanding that addiction is not merely a lack of willpower or a moral failing but a medical condition that requires appropriate treatment and support. Like other chronic diseases, addiction can be influenced by genetic, environmental, and behavioral factors.
However, not everyone agrees with this classification, and some argue that addiction is better understood as a disorder or a behavioral problem rather than a disease. Critics argue that using the term “disease” may inadvertently absolve individuals of personal responsibility for their actions and choices.
In the end, whether addiction is considered a disease or not, what is essential is recognising that it is a serious health issue that requires understanding, compassion, and evidence-based interventions to help individuals overcome the challenges associated with addiction and lead healthier, fulfilling lives.
What are the evidence-based approaches to smoking cessation?
Evidence-based approaches to quitting smoking are methods that are effective in helping individuals quit smoking. These approaches are supported by research and have a proven track record of helping people overcome their addiction to tobacco. Some of the evidence-based approaches to quitting smoking include:
Behavioral counselling is a valuable approach to support individuals in their journey to quit smoking. By working closely with a trained counsellor or psychologist, smokers can gain insight into their smoking triggers and develop effective coping strategies to manage cravings and stress. These counseling sessions can be either one-on-one or group-based.
The primary goal of behavioral counselling is to identify the specific situations, emotions, or habits that trigger the urge to smoke. Once these triggers are recognised, the therapist helps the individual develop personalised strategies to deal with them effectively. These coping mechanisms may involve distraction techniques, relaxation exercises, or adopting healthier habits to replace smoking behaviors.
Behavioral counselling addresses both the psychological and emotional aspects of smoking addiction. The counselor helps individuals build self-awareness, identify patterns of thinking that contribute to smoking, and work on shifting these thought patterns towards healthier perspectives. This process empowers smokers to develop a positive mindset and self-belief, enhancing their determination to quit smoking successfully.
Behavioral counseling is not a one-size-fits-all approach, as each person’s journey to quit smoking is unique. The counsellor tailors the sessions to address individual needs and preferences, ensuring that the support provided aligns with the individual’s personality and circumstances.
Prescription drugs like Varenicline and Bupropion Hydrochloride tablets are effective tools to support your journey to quit smoking. These medications work by weakening the urge to smoke and reducing nicotine withdrawal symptoms, making it easier for you to resist cravings. Additionally, Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRTs) such as nicotine patches, gum, lozenges, nasal sprays, and inhalers is another option. NRTs help reduce withdrawal symptoms by providing controlled doses of nicotine without the harmful toxins found in tobacco smoke, helping to counter cravings and alleviate withdrawal symptoms.
When combined with counselling, the effectiveness of pharmacotherapy is enhanced even further. The supportive guidance from a counsellor or therapist, along with the appropriate medication, can double your chances of success. This comprehensive approach addresses both the physical and psychological aspects of smoking addiction, ensuring you have the best possible support to quit smoking for good. Remember, you don’t have to face this journey alone – reach out for professional help and take the first step towards a healthier, smoke-free life.
The Institute of Mental Health and Singapore General Hospital run smoking cessation programmes for smokers in Singapore. The program is specifically tailored to your individual progress. This ensures that it caters to your unique needs and goals. Depending on your journey and requirements, the program duration may range from 3 months to 1 year, allowing you to maintain your momentum and stay on track with your quit smoking journey.
There were some who smoked up to 100 sticks of cigarettes a day.
Remember, everyone’s quit journey is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. It’s essential to find an approach or combination of approaches that align with your preferences, needs, and lifestyle. Seeking guidance from healthcare professionals can help you identify the most suitable evidence-based approach to quitting smoking for you.
Telephone-based quitlines, like the Quitline in Singapore, provide free and confidential counseling services to help smokers quit. Trained counsellors offer support, advice, and strategies to manage cravings and triggers. Quitline offers toll-free counselling from Monday to Friday at 8:30am to 5pm and on Saturday at 8:30am to 1pm.
For the first 28 days, you will receive 3 text messages and a QuitLine call every week. Following which, you will receive 2 text messages every month and 1 call from QuitLine at the end of 1st month, 3rd month, 6th month and 12th month.
For those who prefer a SMS-based programme, Quitline also offers daily text messages for 28 days. There is also an option for QuitLines call if you are interested.
National Addictions Management Service
The National Addictions Management Service (NAMS) is a leading institution that offers comprehensive addiction treatment drugs, alcohol, gambling, gaming, etc. At NAMS, clients can benefit from individual counselling, group psychotherapy, and family therapy. NAMS operates an outpatient clinic and an inpatient ward at the Institute of Mental Health.
Moreover, NAMS has extended its addiction management services to the Community Wellness Clinic at Queenstown Polyclinic. This initiative brings addiction support closer to the community, making it more accessible for those seeking assistance.
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WE CARE Community Services provides help for those struggling with any type of addiction. They offer counselling and programmes for all forms of addictions including drug, alcohol, gambling, sex, eating disorder, internet and shoplifting. WE CARE also runs a community-based drop-in centre for the recovering individuals to socialise with other recovering persons. Within this safe and non-judgemental environment, our clients are able to work on their recovery.
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In Singapore, there are several support groups and resources available to help individuals quit smoking and maintain a smoke-free lifestyle. These support groups provide a valuable platform for individuals to connect with others who are also on the journey to quit smoking, fostering a sense of community and understanding. Here are some prominent support groups for smoking cessation in Singapore:
I QUIT Club
National Addictions Management Service (NAMS) offers comprehensive support for individuals looking to quit smoking and their families. They provide specialised support groups designed to empower and assist smokers on their journey to become smoke-free.
The support groups at NAMS offer a safe and nurturing environment where individuals can connect with others who are also working towards quitting smoking. These groups provide a valuable platform for participants to share their experiences, challenges, and successes. They also foster a sense of camaraderie and understanding among members.
The group sessions are facilitated by trained professionals who offer guidance, encouragement, and evidence-based strategies to help smokers successfully quit. Participants in the support groups receive personalised counseling, behavioural therapy, and practical tips to manage cravings and cope with withdrawal symptoms effectively.
NAMS recognises the importance of involving families in the quitting process. For this reason, they extend their support groups to include family members of individuals trying to quit smoking. Family support can be instrumental in providing a strong support network for smokers. Their support can enhancing create a more conducive environment for a successful quit attempt.
By offering support groups for both smokers and their families, NAMS takes a comprehensive approach to smoking cessation. This holistic strategy addresses not only the physical aspects of addiction but also the psychological and emotional aspects that may arise during the quitting process.
WE CARE Community Services Limited is a beacon of hope for individuals grappling with addictions in Singapore. This non-denominational outpatient addiction treatment center offers a safe haven and a lifeline to those seeking support in their journey to overcome various forms of addiction, including drug, alcohol, gambling, sex, eating disorders, internet addiction, and shoplifting.
In addition to providing counseling and programs for addiction recovery, WE CARE also runs a community-based drop-in center. This drop-in center serves as a sanctuary for individuals in recovery to socialise and connect with others who are on a similar path. Within this safe, supportive, and non-judgmental environment, clients can find solace and strength in the shared experiences of others.
The drop-in center at WE CARE offers a respite from the challenges of addiction. It provides an opportunity for individuals to stabilize and work on their recovery. It is a place where they can seek encouragement, build meaningful connections, and gain valuable insights from peers who understand the struggles and triumphs of overcoming addiction.
Quitting smoking in Singapore
Smoking cessation in Singapore is undoubtedly an arduous journey. The grip of nicotine addiction can make breaking free from its clutches an uphill battle for many. Recognising the struggles faced by those seeking to quit smoking, it becomes paramount to foster a compassionate and understanding environment that encourages support and empathy. It is vital for individuals to remember that setbacks are a natural part of the process. Seeking help is not a sign of weakness, but rather a display of strength and determination. As a society, we must continue to advocate for comprehensive and accessible resources, ensuring that every individual in their pursuit of a smoke-free life receives the support they need. Together, we can forge a path towards a healthier, smoke-free future for Singapore, where the triumphs of those who successfully quit smoking inspire and motivate others, making the dream of a tobacco-free generation a reality.
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