Motivational and inspirational writer, Bryan Hutchinson is the author of several books about life with ADHD including the highly acclaimed, best selling "One Boy′s Struggle: A Memoir" and the author of the hilarious eBook that went viral "10 Things I Hate about ADHD"

How to quit smoking if you have ADHD?

Quit Smoking

 

I have only wanted to quit since shortly after I started, but I don’t seem to have the will power to do it. There, I said it!

Well, it seems that I have it tougher than those who do not have ADHD! Yep, that’s what a new research study has shown. You can read about it HERE.

I agree with the study in that I do feel calmer and more focused while smoking a cigarette. I won’t mention which brand, but some call it the cowboy killer, but I am not a cowboy so I am probably out of the woods on that title — not!

Anyway, I focus better and think clearer while smoking. However, I am not sure if it is the fact that smoking cigarettes releases dopamine or the fact that my body is craving nicotine. Maybe it’s both. Truth about that is that I wouldn’t crave nicotine if I never started to smoke in the first place! If you haven’t started this habit – don’t! I wish I hadn’t.

It is my goal to quit smoking within the next year. The problem is, I very much enjoy smoking and I don’t want to enjoy it and I do feel better for short periods while smoking. So, what I need to do is find a replacement which is healthier. Maybe nicotine gum is the ticket, but I think if cigarettes really do help me focus I will more likely be drawn back to them. I don’t want to die from cancer, especially if it is from something I could control… I can control it… right?

I have a couple questions for anyone reading this that has ADHD and either currently smokes or gave up smoking.

  • If you have ADHD and have quit smoking do you take medication for your ADHD?
  • If you have ADHD and you have quit smoking – how in the world did you do it?
  • Do nicotine gum or patches really work?
  • If you have ADHD do you feel more focused and clearer headed during and just after smoking a cigarette?

My interest in this is clearly because I want to quit. Maybe I can find some good suggestions through your answers.

Feel free to email me or simply comment below.

~Bryan

Anna Putu November 25, 2008 at 10:29 am

Yeah, nicotine gum has worked for me in the past.

Ariane Benefit November 25, 2008 at 12:06 pm

Hey Bryan! I feel your pain! Letting go Addictions is particularly hard for ADDERs because we are know to have “ADDictive personalities.” Our addictions are very psychological…just as we get distracted and “driven” by inner urges, all we need is to see someone smoking or smell smoke and our brain will be activated. Then we hyperfocus on our addiction. I have quit many addictions, and smoking was so hard for me until they banned smoking here in NJ. Now I can go into public places again. Here is my story of how I quit addictions.
http://blog.neatandsimple.com/2008/10/on-self-discipl.html

First tip: Don’t focus on quitting smoling. Choose an alternate activity and focus on doing that. Try to never use the word smoking or it will trigger you.

If you would like more help with this, let me know…I’d be happy to coach you through it!

joe September 13, 2012 at 7:24 pm

I use smokeless tabacco and just realised ive been selfmedicaiding by doing so. I take adderall for add will they have to up my dose due to me trying to quite using tabacco. I could use any help I can get. Ive been using tabacco for 30 years and just found out im add probley a year ago.

Ariane Benefit November 25, 2008 at 12:10 pm

sorry for all the typos!

Bryan November 25, 2008 at 12:19 pm

Hi Ariane,

Actually, I read your blog post some time ago and found it helpful. Sugar, Gluten and dairy products I have for the most part quit with less stress. I feel much better for it too, but I fear I have lost too much weight, so I have modified a bit. Cheese is the worst for me because I have noticed it affects my mood in a negative manner… it’s weird how other dairy products do not affect my mood as dramatically as cheese? Guess I am not a mouse!

Gord Bull November 25, 2008 at 2:09 pm

Hey Bryan,
I stopped smoking in 1990!
I’m not sure if it was harder for me to quit than it would haver been if I wasn’t ADD. Stopping smoking was the toughest addiction to quit for sure. I am a recovering alcoholic and addict, but tobacco was by far the hardest to kick.
For me it happened when I was 2 years clean and sober. I had been making good progress in my sober life and then for some reason I just stopped growing spiritually. My advisor suggested that it was probably because I actually was not really clean! I thought he was an idiot for saying that and told him so, but the more I thought about it the more I thought he may be on to something. He also told me that smokers hate themselves. Every puff is an affirmation “I hate myself” After that, every time I took a puff I thought “I hate myself” I hated the thought that I might actually hate myself, but who does something harmful to themselves if they love themselves?
So I stopped. I didn’t quit! I just didn’t take the first puff. And I started telling myself that I love myself. No small task at the time. I was working 20 – 22 hours a day on a commercial fish boat on the west coast of BC with a crew of full-time redneck smokers! But it worked. I am smoke free since the first week of August 1990.The crew tried to get me to start up again. I gained about 15 lbs. but I got better and lost the weight. I’m healthy and active now.
Cheers,
Gord

nerdymommy November 25, 2008 at 2:16 pm

Bryan,

I tried to quit about a year ago – I think I made it through about a day before I gave up. I feel exactly the same way you do – I enjoy smoking! But I know how harmful it is for my health. That attempt was before my diagnosis, and I’ve been thinking about trying to quit again.

I’ve been thinking about asking my doctor about the possibility of increasing my medication dosage to try to counteract the loss of stimulant from the cigarettes. I figure, nicotine is a stimulant – obviously my body is used to whatever amount of stim I get from smoking. I think the problems I had when I tried to quit were more related to losing the stim effect, if that makes sense. So I’m thinking that if I up my medication dose (under the guidance of my doctor, of course), that might help me to deal with the symptoms of quitting.

I’m definitely going to keep checking this post, and see if others have any good advice!! And of course, if I actually go through with a quit attempt, I’ll let you know how it goes!! Great topic as always, Bryan!

Bryan November 25, 2008 at 3:17 pm

WoW Gord! That’s an interesting story. Now that I think about it, I do see a connection. I think of smoking in a good way, as a calming, focusing and stimulating intake. However, I grew up tending bar since the age of 12 and always detested the taste, even the smell of alcoholic drinks and to this day I do not drink simply because of that. The distaste I have for alcoholic drinks extends to candy or even food cooked with alcohol. On the contrary I do not have such distaste for smoking. So, I can see how your method worked. I am going to give that a try and see if I can build such distaste for smoking that I give it up. Thank you for sharing!

Hi Nerdy Mommy! Yes, please talk to your doctor first. I would be very interested in knowing what he thinks about this and if there is a connection between stimulant medication and smoking. I personally have not heard or read of such a connection. Maybe Dr. Parker of corepsych.com will read this article and shed some light on this for us. He helped me discover the Gluten and Dairy connection.

Thanks!

Bryan

Bryan November 25, 2008 at 3:25 pm

Not to get off topic, but to correct what I wrote to Gord about alcaholic drinks. I have been known to drink a few beers in my time and it was usually due to peer pressure. I don’t fall for peer pressure nowadays, but there was a time! Anyway, didn’t want to make it seem like I have never ever touched a drink. I just prefer not to cause the taste is dreadful!

Gord Bull November 25, 2008 at 3:40 pm

Every puff is like saying “I hate myself”
A psychologist I saw once said smoking is “Passive suicide”
There are many other activities that can have a calming focusing and stimulating effect. Excersize, Sex, Yoga, etcetera.
For me there had to be no excuses, Smoking kills and I want a real life!
Cheers.
Gord

Maddge November 25, 2008 at 6:45 pm

How I quit smoking after 21 yrs:

I was in the hospital for five days on morphine, so it was pretty much a no-brainer to let the Nurses deal with my detox rather than my roomates.

After I got home, I had to mourn the cigarettes like dear dead friends. Those friends hated me, yes. But until I gave them the respect they deserved for how much I depended on them, I was not fully able to put them behind me and move on. It took about a year before the cravings stopped.

There is no shame in needing a coping mechanism; calling them “dirty” serves only to send you back to a place where you need them again. You loved them; they rocked; now it’s time to move on.

Patches and gum really worked for me if I wanted to stay addicted to nicotine without any of the sensory pleasures/rudeness.

Yes, I remember feeling more focused after smoking. It also gave me something to fiddle with. Pot does that too (look at contradictory effects of meds on ADHD). While research shows it’s use is slightly less likely to lead to lung cancer than no smoking at all, I’m not sure about studies regarding it’s use in quitting Nicotine–Although I have seen things written about using it to quit opiate and alcohol addiction. Interesting times.

If nothing else, remember that there’s nothing like kissing with fresh lungs. Mmmm. So worth it.

Bryan November 25, 2008 at 7:10 pm

Thanks Maddge – hrmm, the last sentence seems like the best reason of all so far! :-) Seems I might try the gum after all. I tried the patch some years ago and ended up smoking with the patch on… usually when I was in a critical situation, like playing pool “tournaments”.

Maddge November 25, 2008 at 7:18 pm

P.S. Drinking hot herbal tea with a mentholated cough drop in your mouth helps soothe the craving for taking a break where you sit and do something that stimulates your lungs. Helped me get over that bedtime ciggie. I like Riccolas sugarless the best.

Kelly47 November 25, 2008 at 11:48 pm

Bryan
I’ve never smoked. But the only thing i’ve seen, other then strong will power , work is chantix. It has helped many of the patients where I work. About 100 dollars each rx, unless your ins covers it.

Kelly

P.S. Now they need a pill for chocolate.

Melinda November 26, 2008 at 1:26 am

I used to love smoking. I was up to 1 1/2 packs per day before quitting. But I lost all pride in myself; I would ask strangers for cigarettes and even picked through my ashtrays for butts to smoke! I said, enough degrading myself, and smoking also ages a person tremendously, for those women who need a good reason to quit–so their skin won’t look like tanned leather. The way I quit the first time was when a friend told me I may as go and slit my wrists if I continued smoked, because it’s slow suicide, so I imagined blood pouring from my cut wrists every time I lit up. That was in 1983. I started again in 2001 when my father and best friend died. How did I quit that time? By praying to God for help. That’s what did it! Honestly. I’d become a Christian, and He took the desire away from me. I tried smoking one to see what it was like, and it nearly made me sick! It tasted foul. So I’d strongly suggest turning to God for help with this. Also, try swimming–I guarantee you won’t want to smoke after swimming. I also chewed gum. And exercising also helps. I’ve never tried the patch or nicotine gum. So that’s my advice–put God first in all things.
With best wishes,
Melinda

anonomous November 30, 2008 at 12:20 am

ok now u might wuna google this so u know what im taking about. the smokeless cigarette. yup. its cheaper and and its smokeless. i highly sugest u look into this as it does not have all the risk as a normal cigarette does. trust me just google it

New here (anon for now) December 3, 2008 at 10:43 pm

I soooo hear you! I love smoking! I love cigarettes! I miss them so much sometimes. I quit nearly 3 years ago (wow! I can’t believe it!) and I wish I could give you some insight into how I did it, but I can’t.

My husband (non-ADD) and I both smoked. I loved being able to get away from my desk when I was at work and think for a few minutes away from the noise of the office. I tried many, many times to quit, not because I wanted to (I never really wanted to) but because of “peer pressure” if you will. If someone told me about the dangers of smoking, the health benefits of quitting, and other mother-earth, health-freak mumbo jumbo, I had an intense urge to light up and blow a huge cloud of smoke into their face (you know as a “f** you” kind of gesture)!

I was on the verge of quitting and somehow, one day the stars just aligned and I stopped buying them. I had been taking Wellbutrin (aka Zyban) and maybe that had a little to do with it, but I’d been on it before with no such effect. As it turned out, my husband was going to be out of town quite a bit in the upcoming weeks so it was easier to not smoke without him there (he hadn’t quit yet). I had to also use nic patches to tame down the hate/tear/destroy feeling I had towards humankind.

It was tough. First of all, I didn’t know I had ADD then (I was diagnosed about 6 months ago). I’m telling you what I experienced because I had no idea what to expect.

The first day, not so bad. The second day, craving a bit more, the 3rd day, I had panic attacks. My body/brain wasn’t used to not smoking anymore. I just had to push through the first 3 weeks before there were signs of hope. Be prepared for the brain fog to set in pretty thick. I couldn’t think clearly for weeks, in fact, I didn’t regain the clarity I had when smoking until I started Adderall. I wanted to eat and eat and eat. Carbs mostly. I saw drinking mentioned, my husband (finally quit smoking a few weeks after me) and I were drinking amazing amounts of alcohol and as a result gained 40 pounds each. I’ve just lost 5, but that’s more a result of the fish oil capsules I started taking a month ago.

Thinking back, once I started on Adderall, I finally stopped thinking of cigarettes on a daily basis. Seriously, for 2.5 years, not a day went by that I didn’t think of swinging by the store to grab a pack.

Honestly, the only thing I like about not smoking is that air travel is a lot easier because all the airports are getting rid of their smoking areas. My endurance did not go up, I did not feel healthier, and now I don’t have an excuse to walk away from whatever I’m doing for a moment to have a smoke. I even regret that restaurants have gotten rid of smoking areas, because before, no one wanted their kids to be exposed to cigarette smoke (god forbid!!). Now we have to sit with the crying babies and whiny children like everyone else…

Anyway, I don’t know if this helps or hurts, but I’m just sharing my experiences and opinions. Because we’re ADD, the best time I can figure to quit is when you know you are going to be able to have a long(-ish) period of time that won’t be stressful. That’s all I have to say about that!

Sorry so long! Good luck.

Tim February 12, 2009 at 5:03 pm

I’m ADD and every time in my life I tried to quit smoking something bad happened as a result: my relationship ended not long afterwards or I lost my job or colleagues were noticing my strange behaviour or mental state (severe brain fogs!) or I quit a friendship or whatever. Always, no exception. So, this is my 5th attempt now (I’m almost 40 years old) and guess what? Yes, it’s not going well with my girlfriend although everything was really good only a few weeks ago. And yes, work is hard because I just can’t seem to do even simple tasks.
Nevertheless, I’m not going back to smoking, never! I rather feel bad and scared every day for the next …?… weeks/months? I don’t care.. I must quit the habbit once and for all.

quitter :) August 24, 2010 at 9:58 pm

I completely hear you Tim. I’m quitting now, it’s my 7th day. I love love smoking, and it used to keep me so calm and control my hyperactivity. Now, I just feel like I’m pushing my boyfriend away, he says he understands and that it will get better, but I’m sure he won’t be able to take it for long. I wouldn’t. I look crazy, I’m getting completely depressed, lots of supressed emotions are rising to the surface and I feel completely out of control.

Although every day, I think of something I thought I wouldn’t have. I’m not going back to cigs, I don’t even want to. Of course I get the cravings, but when I see the damage I did to myself over the past 8 years, especially now that I’m experiencing the cold symptoms (cough, lungs clearing tar, excessive mucus), I don’t want to go back to hurting myself.

I’m proud of who I am, what I’m putting myself through. I am finally facing my problems, without running to nicotine for help.

vanessa December 31, 2010 at 6:04 am

Bryan–I just found this. I am trying (again-I gave it up once for ten years) to give up smoking soon. Did you do it two years ago? Hope so! Tell your story!
thank you,
Vanessa Symmons

j. roberts October 17, 2012 at 3:55 am

about 4 or 5 years ago, i was diagnosed by a psychologist using the IVA Continuous Performance Test, with the results landing me with “between severe and extreme” ADHD and put me on a diet of adderall. i started smoking when i was 18. it was an experiment in experiences that was only supposed to last a year. i am now 29 and have been trying to stop smoking for 10 years. despite what the following may do to glorify smoking, don’t smoke. its bad for you, and threatens to shorten your life and we need all the life we can get with all of the crap we still have to get done.

Does nicotine gum or patches really work?

there is no cut and dry “yes” or “no” answer to this. however, in my experience, the only thing that has kinda-sorta worked has been chantix (which can either help you quit smoking or help you commit suicide depending on how your brain chemicals react to it). the real problems for me stem from the smoking/ stuff-doing associations and the movements involved from smoking. it is like a small ballade of perfectly sized distraction: the hand, almost of its own volition, glides to the pack, fingers executing one of two cigarette retrieval methods- the flick-and-squeeze or the thumb slide-, the lips delicately embrace the cotton filter as the pack is replaced and the lighter retrieved in one swift movement, and, in one magnificent arc, stops a flames- length from the end of the white tube as the thumb flicks down the wheel to open the gates of a small, temporal island of peace, tranquility, and escape from reality; each inhalation of nicotine-saturated smoke warms the throat, each removal of ash- a cascade of fragile refuse offering the possibility for a moment of reflection. then, as gently as it began, it ends, the island disappearing as the embers are smashed and twisted into the nearest hard, flat surface.

If you have ADHD do you feel more focused and clearer headed during and just after smoking a cigarette?

i would have to say kinda-sorta yes. the act of smoking provides just enough fidgeting action while the nicotine provides just the right amount of magical juju to make the brainwork gremlins bunches more cooperative. i love smoking while drawing, painting, typing, or problem solving in general. i feel like the creative/ solutions part of my brain is smoke-powered sometimes. i like smoking while driving somewhere, though i generally feel guilty about car-cigarettes because those are cigarettes that i could have smoked while drawing, painting, typing, or problem solving in general.

Sharon Hildebrandt November 16, 2012 at 3:07 pm

I have ADD and Bi-Polar and am on alot of pych drugs and trying to quit smoing with am on patch. Its hard. i keep having one or two cigs on top of the patch. but im still trying.

I go to a smoking cesstion group one a week. its been suggested i remain close contact with my shrink because with the nicotine leaving my body i might need to be adjusted on my meds. i also am on Ritalin. problem is my shrink dosent talk to me he just write meds. well that that

Sally March 6, 2013 at 3:38 pm

I have ADHD but I’m not on any medications. I quit smoking via the hypnotherapy technique (see, MaxKirstern.com). I tried quitting cold turkey before but it didn’t work, in part to the lack of ability of focus thing that you also noticed.

Sally March 6, 2013 at 3:42 pm

Sorry – I meant that the cold turkey method didn’t work for various reasons, one of which was that I couldn’t focus (which meant that my ability to work also suffered). With hypno my ability to focus was affected for the first 1-3 days after quitting only, and I regained it soon after the 3rd day.

Anthony Hopper August 13, 2013 at 10:40 pm

I stopped hope someone had a better answer :( I just found out that are plat is going smokeless FEB 1st 2014. I got to then to stop. Any trials, study’s or a great plan that actually works for those with ADHD?

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