1 minute of your time
+1 week of their time
That's the power of 1
What is the First Week Challenge?
The First Week Challenge was designed to motivate patients to start on their quit journey by focusing on 1 small goal: 1 week. Withdrawal symptoms and cravings are at their strongest during the first week, which makes this week the most challenging. But, by having a plan in place to get patients through this crucial week, you can increase their chances to quit for good by 9X.
Why is the First Week so difficult?
The risk of relapse was shown to be highest during the first 8 days after a quit attempt.101
True survival curves (solid lines) and line-graph relapse curves (dotted lines) in self-quitters (open circles and triangles) and control groups (solid circles and triangles) from 7 studies. Adapted from Hughes et al., 2004.
With relapse risk at its greatest, “smoking cessation interventions should focus on the first week of abstinence.”101
One reason why it’s so difficult for smokers to quit may lie in nicotinic receptor upregulation. Using SPECT imaging, Cosgrove et al. showed that abstinent smokers, as compared with non-smokers, had significant β2-nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (β2-nAChR) upregulation in multiple brain regions that persisted 1 month after abstinence. This was correlated with a greater urge to smoke. Receptor levels only returned to normal by 6-12 weeks.102
These prolonged biological effects may help explain the clinical symptoms of withdrawal and craving that make quitting so challenging.
How can NRT like Nicorette® help during the crucial first week?
Since withdrawal and relapse are at their peak during the first week, NRT can be a very effective way to manage withdrawal and keep patients on the path to quitting. A review of 12 clinical studies showed that oral NRT, like Nicorette ®, significantly reduced irritability, anxiety and withdrawal discomfort.103
Several strategies can be used to support your patients during the first week:
Consider REDUCE TO QUIT® for patients who want to quit, but are not ready to quit entirely:
- REDUCE TO QUIT® produced similar quit rates to abrupt cessation
- NRT increases the chances of success by helping to manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms
Offer NRT to all patients – even those not ready to quit
- Most smokers want to quit and are looking to their HCP for advice
- The offer of NRT has been shown to spur a quit attempt
- NRT can also encourage Practice Quit Attempts (PQAs) lasting a few hours or a few days, which helps build confidence
Offer proven strategies to prevent and manage relapse during the first week
- High-dose NRT patch treatment was shown to significantly reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings during abstinence and can even eliminate them entirely104
- Continuing NRT patch treatment during a relapse was shown to significantly increase the likelihood of recovery at 6 and 10 weeks105
Provide practical tips to help them get through the first week (see below)
Tips to help patients get through the first week
1. Remind them that cravings are temporary. A 5 min distraction (e.g., a game on their phone) is often enough to get past it.
2. Have them write a list of reasons for quitting and keep it visible. Looking at it can help them get through challenging times.
3. Explain that their brains will try to rationalize having a cigarette (e.g. it’s OK to smoke when I drink). Have a plan to manage this.
4. Suggest drinking water when a craving hits to keep the mouth busy.
5. Advise them to change up their routine, which can be tied to smoking (e.g., a new route to work; avoiding certain places/people for a few days).
You can be the difference. 1 conversation can be all it takes.
Studies show that patients not only want their doctor to ask about quitting smoking – they expect it. In fact, patients who see their GP, but are not advised on smoking, have a lower likelihood of quitting than if they hadn’t seen their GP at all.106 Brief counselling has been proven to increase the chance of success.
Remind them that they don’t have to do it alone. With your support, and treatment options, they can be on their way to a smoke-free life.
Take the challenge:
take 1 minute to talk to your patients about the power of 1 week.
Get patient support tools,
including Customize your Quit product guides and product coupon tear pads.