Students Struggle to Quit Despite Health Risks

Photo Illustration — Nicotine stimulates the release of dopamine in the brain, making quitting smoking particularly difficult.

Since Moses’s eighteenth birthday, they have rarely gone more than two weeks without nicotine, as stress, withdrawal symptoms and the relief of lighting a cigarette can make quitting feel impossible.

When junior Moses Montgomery’s apartment flooded this semester, they found it more difficult than ever to quit smoking. Montgomery, who prefers to be identified with a gender-neutral pronoun, struggles most when it comes to resisting withdrawal symptoms. 

Since Montgomery’s house flooded, he has nowhere to live, and the stress of being borderline homeless, living between his car and hotels without his cat, leading him to smoke around 15 cigarettes a day, they said. 

Senior Jacob Barnes has managed to quit smoking for about two years, although he has not used his Juul in two weeks, he said.

Barnes began using a Juul in the spring of 2018, after a long history of using tobacco products that began when he was 14, he said.

Montgomery has found little success trying methods ranging from the nicotine patch to quit cold turkey, they said.

Nicotine stimulates the nicotinic cholinergic receptors, which in turn causes the release of dopamine in the central nervous system, said Gretchen Brannon, a Pat Walker Health Center Primary Health Care Provider, in an email. Nicotine ingestion leads to reduced stress, anxiety, improved reaction times and concentration.

Quitting smoking can be difficult and might require several attempts, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

People who quit smoking often start again because of withdrawal symptoms, stress and weight gain, according to the CDC.

“Every time, I was just irritable and had headaches and couldn’t stop thinking about getting another cigarette,” Montgomery said.

Montgomery thinks his addiction to smoking is a two-fold situation, one being reward response, the other being relaxation, he said.

No treatment strategy is going to work completely for everyone, Brannon said. A person needs to be motivated to quit smoking or vaping to actually do so. 

The closest Barnes has ever come to smoking again was the weekend he got rid of his Juul, he said.

“We were staying in a cabin and stuff, and everybody was dipping, so I dipped a little bit that weekend,” Barnes said. “But, between then and now, I haven't done anything like that.”

Since that night, Barnes has felt a little better about himself, although he thinks there is not that noticeable of a difference, he said.

Barnes has never experienced something like a cough or other noticeable health issues, he said. 

While resisting the urge to smoke thus far, Barnes has experienced minor withdrawal symptoms like mild irritability, he said.

Barnes originally wanted to replace his Juul with something else, but he also thinks he is better off just quitting with nicotine products in general, although it is a strenuous task, he said.

UA faculty, students and staff can contact Stop Smoking at 479-575-2817.

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