Tobacco cessation classes available at Rader
June 7, 2013
JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. - Becoming tobacco-free is more challenging than simply putting out a cigarette or throwing out your chew and saying that's it.
It requires the elimination of tobacco from your lifestyle, said Dr. Sharwanda George, a clinical pharmacist at Andrew Rader U.S. Army Health Clinic on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall.
Now that the facility is a tobacco free-campus, meaning that tobacco use is prohibited inside the building and on grounds and property associated with the clinic, it is drawing attention to its tobacco cessation programs.
"We offer individual classes where patients can come in, and we can have a one-on-one session with the individual," George explained. "We also offer group classes upon request."
George, who has led the tobacco cessation program at Rader since 2005, said an important advantage of the group sessions is the moral support participants offer each other.
"Social support is one of the key ingredients with tobacco cessation, having the social support as well as the pharmacological support, meaning the medication, and then teaching individuals how to problem solve, those are the three ingredients to have success with tobacco cessation," she said.
Another advantage of the group sessions is that participants "can listen to other people who have the same issue they have and [learn] what they did to get through it," George continued.
She said group sessions also have disadvantages. If one member of the group opts to go back to using tobacco, that can lead other group members to do the same thing.
Individual tobacco cessation sessions run anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes, while group sessions are about an hour long. During the sessions, participants receive help with identifying the triggers which lead them to reach for tobacco. They also review their reasons for wanting to stop using tobacco, the health consequences of tobacco use and how to manage their withdrawal symptoms.
"Something as simple as quitting smoking can decrease your blood pressure, your cholesterol and your risk for cancer," said George.
At her first session with a new participant, George discusses what the individual's tobacco history is like. "I explain to the participant what nicotine addiction or dependence is; we look at what triggers that individual [has] to use the amount of tobacco that they do," she said.
Tobacco use triggers are unique to each individual, George explained. Some people may smoke or chew tobacco when they are under stress, after they eat, or even while they are enjoying a favorite activity.
Participants are offered quit aides such as nicotine replacement therapy - patches, gum and lozenges - and prescription medication that can be used up to 12 weeks.
"It's not just the medication only," stressed George. "It requires a behavior change and that's what we're working on, a behavior change."
Using medication allows participants to "cut back and stop using tobacco and it allows them to work on that behavior change. It's a behavior change that has to take place and that's what we want them to do." George stressed that quit aides, such as nicotine replacement theraphy, should never be used simultaneously with tobacco.
"We provide these things through our pharmacy, so you don't have to go out and purchase them," she stressed.
According to the Center for Disease Control, tobacco use is responsible for about one in five deaths annually in the United States, or about 443,000 deaths per year. An estimated 49,000 of those are the result of secondhand smoke exposure.
"As early as 20 minutes after stopping using tobacco, your circulation improves, your blood pressure drops," noted George. "Two weeks to three months after you quit using tobacco, your lung function can increase 30 percent. The longer you remain tobacco-free, ten years or more, your risk for stroke decreases."
To make an appointment for a tobacco cessation session or to request a group session, call the central appointment line at 855-227-6331 and ask for the medication management clinic.