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A smoker’s fight with addiction

Sandeep Ranjan has been smoking since he was 16 years old. He has tried to quit, but failed. Today, he will make yet another attempt to get rid of his 13-year-old killer habit online for the world to see. Rhythma Kaul reports. Tobacco's deep reach

health and fitness Updated: May 31, 2013 09:36 IST
Rhythma Kaul
Rhythma Kaul
Hindustan Times

Bangalore-based Sandeep Ranjan, 29, has been smoking since he was 16 years old. He has tried to quit, but failed.

Today, he will make yet another attempt to quit smoking and broadcast live what he’s going through over 24 hours to help others make an attempt too.

The 29-year-old advertising professional, who has been a chain smoker for the past 13 years, will confine himself to his living room for 24 hours and blog, tweet and answer questions from people watching him as part of a Billion Hearts Beating (BHB) initiative of Apollo Hospitals.

On BHB’s Facebook and Twitter pages, Rajan will share his thoughts and feelings, his moments of sanity and insanity, to help people negotiate the withdrawals with him.

“I’ve been smoking three packs a day, which is way too much. So, quitting will work just as well for me as well as BHB’s campaign for World No Tobacco Day, though I have this crazy feeling that I have bitten more than I can chew.”

Experts are not trashing his effort altogether.

“With every advance in technology, the idea of family and peer support group changes.

In the day of the Net and social media, this is the reality that instead of family members there is Internet-based support,” said Dr Nimesh G Desai, director, Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences (IHBAS).

“These are like any support group that’s there for chronic illnesses and that’s why can work.

Having said that, it’s not known whether there could be any added advantage,” Dr Desai added.

Desai also heads one of the four tobacco cessation centres the government has set up.

Researchers say that seven out of every ten smokers want to quit the habit, but cannot because nicotine is as addictive as cocaine or heroin.

Therefore, Structured Tobacco Cessation Programme, specially designed for every smoker, is available in all these Tobacco Cessation Centres.

It is a highly individualised programme, in which every smoker/tobacco user is provided with intensive psychotherapeutic interventions, along with medicines to substantially reduce the withdrawals or urges of quitting.

The programme has two parts — one is to help quit the addiction and the other is to train in relapse prevention.

There are a series of intensive counselling sessions to give step-by-step assistance during the quit attempt.

The psychotherapeutic interventions usually include motivation enhancement therapy, cognitive behaviour therapy, adaptive coping skills training, and relapse prevention training. The medicine therapy includes medicines to help control the withdrawals.

“Our centre was one of the first that started in 2001 and has a complete range of therapies, drugs, counsellors required to make a person quit the habit. How effective the programme is can be gauged by the fact that we have a success rate of nearly 80%,” said Dr Desai.

That apart, all private hospitals — Apollo Hospital, Fortis Healthcare Ganga Ram Hospital, Max Healthcare, to name a few — offer cessation services.

First Published: May 30, 2013 20:58 IST