Saturday, January 30, 2010

Don't You Think It's About Time

I took my first dose of Chantix at 9:00 AM.  I'm now committed to stop smoking on or before next Saturday, February 6.  I do three more days on one pill a day, then go up to two a day for the next 8-12 weeks.  Maybe.

About two weeks ago I responded to an ad in the Citizen inviting people to attend a two-hour introduction to available stop-smoking programs in the Florida Keys.  The introduction was primarily a video called Smoke and Mirrors: A History of Denial and it traces the history of tobacco advertising and the manipulation of public opinion through advertising, as well as the alteration of tobacco products to strengthen the addictive qualities thereof, particularly with cigarettes.  At the end of the video, the two Monroe County Health Department employees hosting the 6:00 - 8:00 P.M. seminar explained the options available and took our names (there was one another guy there the night I went) for follow-up from whichever of the two programs offered we preferred.

My choice was Florida Keys AHEC because, as the trainer explained, they had Chantix available while the other did not.  If you haven't noticed, Chantix is buying a lot of television advertising time these days, at least on the channels that we normally watch.  I'd commented to Janet before on the side effects warnings attached to Chantix advertising.  It's a scary list:

The most common adverse events associated with Chantix (>5% and twice the rate seen in placebo-treated patients) were nausea, sleep disturbance, constipation, flatulence, and vomiting.
Well, not very attractive, those are things I can probably handle  But these two give me pause:
NERVOUS SYSTEM DISORDERS. Frequent: Disturbance in attention, Dizziness, Sensory disturbance. Infrequent: Amnesia, Migraine, Parosmia, Psychomotor hyperactivity, Restless legs syndrome, Syncope, Tremor. Rare: Balance disorder, Cerebrovascular accident, Convulsion, Dysarthria, Facial palsy, Mental impairment, Multiple sclerosis, Nystagmus, Psychomotor skills impaired, Transient ischemic attack, Visual field defect.
PSYCHIATRIC DISORDERS. Frequent: Anxiety, Depression, Emotional disorder, Irritability, Restlessness. Infrequent: Aggression, Agitation, Disorientation, Dissociation, Libido decreased, Mood swings, Thinking abnormal. Rare: Bradyphrenia, Euphoric mood, Hallucination, Psychotic disorder, Suicidal ideation.
The Veterans Administration got into trouble a while back by using veterans in a trial study of Chantix -- and then using vets who already were having neurological and psychiatric problems as subjects -- and then not telling them about the possible side effects!

But, hey, at least now I know what to look for and what to do if I see it, so I'm thinking to myself,  "you've tried the rest, why not try the best."  Studies show that Chantix is effective in a higher degree than many other quit methods, like patches, gums, nasal sprays, all of which are designed to feed the nicotine receptors while removing the cigarette delivery mechanism from the equation.  I tried hypnotism, relaxation techniques, and cold turkey.  Oddly enough, it was the cold turkey method with which I was most successful, but like the others, it didn't last.

Chantix works differently, by filling the nicotine receptors with an analog to nicotine, thus blocking the nicotine molecules from having anywhere to 'land'.  My Quit Coach, a paid employee of AHEC and a nationally-certified stop-smoking counselor, promises that other best practices techniques will be explained during the weekly group sessions that I begin next Tuesday.

I had my first cigarette when I was 12, out behind the school, after altar boy practice.  By 14 I was smoking pretty regularly, and by 16 my parents knew and I could at least smoke at home when they weren't there.  Mom and Dad were both smokers by the time I was born.  They continued to be so until they turned sixty.  They both quit that year and, as far as I know, never smoked again.

I always told myself, when I was younger but knowledgeable about the dangers of smoking, that I too would quit when I turned sixty, but that didn't happen.  (I also said I would quit when the price of a pack of cigarettes reached 50¢, $1,00, $2.00,.... .  That didn't happen either.

So now, here we go again.  Janet and I once quit for an entire year during the 1960's, and she quit in 1979 for good.  I've stopped smoking several times for up to three months, but each time, the relapse came, I think from the psychological addiction that lies deep in the brain's limbic area, the so-called "snake brain", where the unconscious rules over the higher brain centers where reasoning lies.

It includes the aforementioned series of six group sessions, one a week, during which there will be both support and further education.  It also includes ongoing access to a telephone Quit Line staffed by professionals, and on-line support groups.  The entire program is free, funded by the billions of dollars of fines paid by the tobacco companies for their past sins.

I'm looking forward to the program.  But if you should see me behaving out of character, like walking around with a large butcher knife in my hand, be sure to let me know; I might want to back off from the Chantix.


Susan said...

I have no idea what that odd comment above means, but anyway.....

I am proud of you for taking this step, and will be pulling for your success. Love you lots and want you healthy for many more years to come.

Webmaster AKC 1 said...

After buying gasoline and cigarettes in Europe, I'm surprised you have enough money left for Chantix!

Good luck with it!
Fight the good fight.
(Been there, done that).

Robert Kelly said...

Susan, If you click on the headline it should take you to LaLa Land, a page for Celestials Navigations music, then click on the cut titled The Bust Stop. Then you'll understand.

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