Smoking Cessation and Depression: Don't Let Depression Thwart Smoking Cessation

Jerry Kennard Health Pro
  • Setting goals at the start of a new year can be useful. If the goal relates to your health, and if it's achievable, then this is no bad thing. Achieving a goal provides a sense of accomplishment and improves or helps to nurture self-esteem. This is great if you suffer with depression, but not so good if your depression serves to block progress towards your goal. It sounds like a double-edged sword but if you understand depression you can work within your limitations and achieve good things.


    In terms of health goals one of the best has to be giving up smoking. People who suffer with depression are as keen to kick the habit as anyone else, but success may be short-lived according to a study in the January 2011 edition of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. According to the study around 40 percent of callers to a California Smokers' helpline had symptoms of mild or major depression. The follow-up stats after two months showed that around one in five callers with major depression had stayed off cigarettes compared with one in three others.

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    Depression and smoking are commonly associated. There is also some evidence that cigarettes have antidepressant qualities that mimic the qualities of a group of antidepressants known as monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). Little wonder that smoking becomes a significant form of self medication and that withdrawal can be so problematic.


    People with depression have a number of issues that conspire to work against progress. Motivation can be dramatically affected and while there may be sufficient willpower to stop smoking, the necessary resilience to continue is often a very different story. Withdrawal symptoms from smoking include anxiety, headaches, sleep disturbances, restlessness and irritability. These are unwelcome symptoms to someone who is already dealing with depression.


    So the question is, what can be done? Contacting your local quit-smoking line may not be enough for people who experience depression. Most of these centers have no facilities or expertise in the assessment and treatment of depression. A few however do, so it can be worth checking out the various options before you commit.


    Another option is a two-pronged attack on smoking. Support groups are great for kick starting your resolve and keeping you on board but you may need a little help with medication. Bupropion (Zyban) is an approved medication for smoking cessation and an antidepressant that shows promising results. Bupropion affects neurotransmitters and has a blunting effect on the withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting smoking. A doctor has to prescribe the tablet and they are more inclined to do this if you can demonstrate your motivation to succeed by joining some form of stop-smoking program.



    Hebert K.H, et al (2011) Current Major Depression Among Smokers Using a State Quitline. Am J Prev Med, 40(1).

Published On: January 04, 2011