Although quitting tobacco may be at the bottom of the list of priorities for wounded, ill and injured Service members and their families and caregivers, they should speak with their physicians about how quitting can help in recovery and rehabilitation.
For example, the positive effects from quitting smoking start almost immediately. According to the National Cancer Institute, some of the benefits include:
• Heart rate and blood pressure, which are abnormally high while smoking, begin to return to normal
• Within a few hours, the level of carbon monoxide in the blood begins to decline, allowing blood to carry oxygen more effectively
• Within a few weeks, people have improved circulation, produce less phlegm, and don’t cough or wheeze as often
• Within several months, people can expect substantial improvements in lung function
Wounded warriors and their families have increased levels of stress that may make quitting an addictive substance such as tobacco especially difficult. However, there are many effective treatments and resources available to reach a healthier, tobacco-free life. From nicotine patches and gum to massage therapy, wounded warriors can work with their physician on an approach to overcome nicotine addiction. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, experts agree that smokers may have to try a number of different methods or a combination of treatments to find the ones that work best.
There are a variety of FDA-approved cessation therapies that may be covered by TRICARE to help smokers quell the desire to light up. The TRICARE Tobacco Cessation Program covers most inpatient and outpatient care that is medically necessary and considered proven. These may include:
• Medication therapy can ease withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings, and is most effective when used as part of a comprehensive stop-smoking program monitored by a physician
• Nicotine replacement therapy involves “replacing” cigarettes with other nicotine substitutes, such as nicotine gum or a patch, to relieve some of the withdrawal symptoms without the tars and poisonous gases
• Non-nicotine medication helps smokers by reducing cravings and withdrawal symptoms without the use of nicotine
• Hypnosis, a non-medication therapy, gets the smoker into a deeply relaxed state where he or she is open to suggestions that strengthen the resolve to quit smoking and increase negative feelings toward cigarettes
• Another non-medication therapy, acupuncture, is believed to work by triggering the release of endorphins (natural pain relievers) that allow the body to relax and help in managing withdrawal symptoms
• Behavioral therapy focuses on learning new coping skills and breaking ritualistic habits associated with smoking
• Motivational therapies can provide a number of ways to encourage smokers to kick the habit, such as calculating the monetary savings