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Never underestimate the effects of smoking

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Smoking is bad for your health. Everyone knows that. Even so, the effects of this addiction are routinely underestimated. There are very few specialist clinics which will help smokers unless they also have some other form of addiction. And that is regrettable says Yvonne Hendriks, business manager with Novadic-Kentron, since cognitive behavioural therapy is a very effective way of helping people break the habit.

Novadic-Kentron is one of the few addiction care organizations in the Netherlands to offer help with smoking cessation. It has developed an online module (in Dutch) in association with Minddistrict.

Smoking is expensive

The negative effects of smoking have attracted much media coverage. In April 2016, for example, Metro reported that smoking during pregnancy is even more dangerous than previously thought and is likely to damage the unborn baby’s DNA. Online news service Skipr opted to focus on the financial implications of nicotine addiction, noting that smoking costs the Dutch government between twenty and forty billion euros a year. The report can be read here (in Dutch) .

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Smoking: a low visibility addiction

Nicotine addiction has been overlooked for too long, states Yvonne Hendriks. “Sooner or later, anyone who is addicted to drugs or alcohol will no longer be able to function adequately due to their physical or psychological dependency. That is not the case with smokers, which is why smoking is not always seen as a true addiction which demands effective treatment. Help for nicotine addiction is rarely covered by health insurance policies, even though some twenty thousand people die from smoking-related conditions every year."

Many smokers become aware of the consequences of their addiction only after many years, perhaps when they are diagnosed with lung cancer. But they are likely to have experienced many health problems which are attributable to smoking long before that. "Numerous studies have shown that smokers are sick more often than non-smokers,” Hendriks adds.

Cognitive behavioural therapy can help

Cognitive behavioural therapy is an effective way to quit smoking. “A smoker’s brain is programmed to demand nicotine. Behavioural therapy teaches you to replace the craving with something else: something much less harmful.”

The Novadic-Kentron smoking cessation module has been made available on the Minddistrict site. It is split in several parts which address aspects such as the smoker’s motivation to quit, analysis of smoking behaviour, learning to recognize exactly what happens when the client feels the desire to smoke, and an emergency plan for use when his or her resolve weakens.

"Everyone who completed the module has successfully quit smoking.”

Module supports self-discipline

It is now two years since therapist Janneke de Jong began encouraging her patients to use the online module. “Everyone who has completed it has successfully quit smoking,” she reports.

According to De Jong, the module is a valuable adjunct to the patient’s willpower and self-discipline. “People are accountable to me as their therapist. Of course, everyone wishes to succeed – that’s human nature. They also want to prove to me that they have followed instructions and the structured module helps them to do so."

Behavioural therapy is effective for every type of addiction

This helps to build resilience against the craving for nicotine. “Behavioural therapy is effective for every type of addiction,” notes De Jong, “because all require you to abandon certain habits and learn new ones in their place.”

Many people claim that lighting up a cigarette relieves stress. In fact, the opposite is true. "Smoking increases both blood pressure and body temperature,” De Jong continues. “Smoking does not relieve stress but is a cause of stress.”

A useful tool for GPs

Hendriks believes that the module is an extremely valuable tool for healthcare professionals who wish to help their patients stop smoking. "GPs who see people with cardiac or respiratory disease will invariably advise them to stop smoking. In many cases, there is a specialist practice nurse on hand to provide assistance. Unfortunately, resources are finite and the practice nurse must divide his or her attention among a very large number of patients. Personal contact may be restricted to as few as three ten-minute consultations, which is of course nowhere near enough to help someone overcome a serious addiction.”

"Quitting smoking can be extremely difficult. The online module goes far beyond what can be achieved in three short sessions. It examines each of the phases that the smoker must undertake when quitting and when learning to replace the act of lighting up a cigarette with some other behaviour.”

Contact us for further information

To request further information about the online smoking cessation module or the Minddistrict ehealth platform, please click here.

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