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Cigarette smoking and mental health
Apr 23, 2011

Hello, After being diagnosed with HIV in the fall, I quit smoking by using a nicotine patch. I was doing very well until a few weeks ago when the cravings began to reemerge. My infectious disease doctor is great and my drug regimen is working well, but I am still adjusting emotionally to being an HIV+ person. The thought of never smoking another cigarette is extremely depressing. Considering the amount of stress I am dealing with daily, would light smoking be okay if it allows me to keep my sanity?

Response from Dr. Fawcett

Nicotine is a powerful and highly addictive drug and cigarettes have well-documented health risks. Stopping smoking for that period of time is impressive and I think it would be a big mistake to start again. Besides, I don't know what kind of smoker you were, but many people have difficulty just maintaining "light smoking." Adjusting to an HIV+ diagnosis is a formidable and complicated process and I know you are facing a great deal of stress every day. Cigarettes, however, are a poor choice for coping (or keeping one's sanity!). Look for a support group for newly-diagnosed individuals in your area and broaden your support system. Many people find these groups, as well as individual therapy, very helpful in working through these emotional adjustments. There are also many support groups that help people quit and/or stay away from nicotine. These groups can help you learn specific techniques to deal with cigarette cravings, including understanding that cravings will pass and focusing on just one day at a time. Your doctor will be able to direct you toward such a group. Good luck.

-David



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