Hamilton County, OH…… The first quarter is a good time for checking in on new year resolutions.  How many in Hamilton County resolved to leave tobacco behind in 2023?

We have known about the physical effects of smoking for several years. However, there is an increasing body of knowledge linking smoking to mental health issues and stress.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), smoking is more common among adults with mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, than in the general population.  In 2019, more than 27 percent of U.S. adults with any mental illness reported smoking cigarettes during the past month compared to some 16 percent of adults with no mental illness.  Approximately 25 percent of adults in the U.S. have some form of mental illness or substance use disorder, and these adults consume almost 40 percent of all cigarettes smoked by adults.

More research is needed to determine why smokers are more likely than nonsmokers to experience depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions.  Getting help for your depression and anxiety and quitting smoking is the best way to feel better.

The Ohio Department of Health is running an interesting ad series on one of the most common reasons people give for smoking – stress.  We have learned over the years that in fact, smoking does much more to cause stress than relieve it.  In the short term, nicotine causes its users to feel good because of the release of the “feel good” chemical — dopamine — into the brain.  Shortly thereafter, the effects of nicotine wear off and users begin to feel a multitude of withdrawal symptoms, causing them to re-dose to relieve the craving.

It is here that nicotine users think that smoking relieves their stress, when in fact, the cravings, irritability and anxiousness are only relieved until the next dose.  This feels more stress producing than stress relieving.

People experiencing mental health conditions like depression and anxiety face additional challenges when quitting smoking and may benefit from extra help to succeed.  Studies have shown that with the right support, you can quit smoking without worsening your mental health condition and that quitting smoking can be good for your mental health.

If your doctor writes you a prescription for an antidepressant‚ ask exactly how you should take the medication. If you are already using nicotine replacement therapy or another medication to help you quit smoking, be sure to let your doctor know.  Quitting smoking may make some people depressed or anxious, whether quitting with medication or not. If you have feelings of depression or anxiety lasting for more than two weeks or that get worse, you should get help. Talk to your doctor and seek appropriate help.

If you are ready to really reduce stress and leave smoking behind, Ohio offers many helpful opportunities.  A great place to start is the Ohio Quit Line: 1-800-QUIT-NOW.  Trained professionals can walk you through the process, encourage you along the way and help you relieve your stress on a much more permanent basis.