Learn / Stop Smoking, Start Living: Rehabs That Can Help You Quit

Stop Smoking, Start Living: Rehabs That Can Help You Quit

Kayla Gill
 May 27th, 2022|   Clinically Reviewed by 
Rajnandini Rathod

It’s notoriously difficult to quit smoking, especially since it’s such a habitual part of everyday life. However, the physical and emotional effects of nicotine dependence are less than desirable, and you may have decided it’s time to put a stop to them. If you’ve tried unsuccessfully to quit before, you may feel understandably frustrated.

Did you know that there are rehabs and retreats specifically designed to help you stop smoking? Some treatment regimens can even help alleviate the effects of withdrawal. When you’re ready to quit for good, you can get the support you need from experts.

Deciding to Stop Smoking

There are many reasons why people decide to stop smoking, and yours may be personal to you. These might include health concerns, high costs of tobacco products, smoking bans at work or at home, or maybe you’re a parent concerned about the well-being of your children. Understanding your motivations can help you stay focused.

The good news? You don’t have to do it alone. Plenty of addiction professionals help people stop smoking, and yes—you can even go to rehab for this.

Treatment Options for Nicotine Dependence

Fortunately, there are many effective treatments that can help you quit smoking,1 including behavioral therapies and medications. Regardless of which treatment method you choose, it’s important to consider your own needs and reasons for smoking. Per the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)’s Tobacco, Nicotine, and E-Cigarettes Research Report, “some people smoke to avoid negative effects of withdrawal while others are more driven by the rewarding aspects of smoking.”

Determining why you smoke can help you choose a treatment approach designed to address that issue.

Residential Rehab

Smoking addictions can be very serious. You may be tempted to dismiss the severity of this condition, simply because cigarettes aren’t as taboo as some other substances. However, the accessibility of a drug doesn’t make it any less dangerous. And several rehab centers treat nicotine dependence.

During inpatient treatment, you can engage in a variety of therapies designed to help you quit smoking, permanently. Before you choose a specific program, know that many rehab centers permit residents to smoke. If being around cigarettes is a trigger for you, it’s important to find a rehab center that can accommodate your needs.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

This form of therapy helps patients determine why they smoke, and teaches them skills and coping strategies they can use to avoid smoking, even when faced with difficult situations.

Motivational Interviewing (MI)

Motivational interviewing helps patients determine where their ambivalence about quitting smoking is coming from, and increases their motivation to create a healthier lifestyle.

Remote Help: Phone, Web, and Apps

There are various ways to get help for quitting smoking without attending an in-person treatment program. For example, every state in the U.S. has free “quitlines” that people can call and receive support from a counselor, such as 800-QUIT-NOW.

In addition to telephone calls, people can sign up for mobile text messages that provide motivation and advice for quitting smoking.2 Messages may include information related to smoking and relapse prevention, as well as motivational texts from other ex-smokers and medication reminders. You can also use interactive components, such as a cigarette tracking feature and a craving trivia game. One study found that the number of people who were still abstinent 6 months after quitting smoking almost doubled in the group using Text2Quit,3 as opposed to the group that didn’t receive any texts at all.

Another similar text messaging service, run by the National Cancer Institute, is called SmokefreeTXT, and lasts for 6-8 weeks. They even offer a program specifically for vets called SmokefreeVET, in which texts are tailored to veterans, in addition to ones personalized to moms and teens. An example of one of these texts, according to the Smokefree website,4 looks like this: “Cravings can be triggered by seeing other people smoking. Spend time in places where smoking isn’t allowed. Try malls, museums, or the movies.”

One app by Smokefree, called quitSTART,5 is a personalized program that sends tips, motivation, and challenges based on your smoking history. It teaches you to manage negative feelings, what to do if you relapse, how to deal with cravings, and more. This app is best used before you actually quit—it’ll send you information to help you stop smoking in anticipation of your quit date.


Several different medications are proven to be effective treatments for nicotine dependence.1

    • Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT): NRTs reduce or eliminate uncomfortable nicotine withdrawal symptoms and cravings by triggering brain receptors normally affected by nicotine. NRTs come in different forms, such as the transdermal patch, gum, and lozenges, and are available over the counter. You can also purchase an inhaler or nasal spray with a prescription. They are all equally effective, and even more so when the transdermal patch is used with another NRT, especially when the treatment is taken beyond 12 weeks. NRT is estimated to boost quit rates by 50-70%.
    • Bupropion: This antidepressant stops the reuptake of 2 neurotransmitters, dopamine and norepinephrine, and also releases them. Studies show that it’s just as effective as NRT.
    • Varenicline: This medication triggers the same brain receptor affected by nicotine to minimize cravings. There is evidence that it works better than just 1 NRT alone, and studies also suggest that it’s more effective than bupropion.
    • Medication combinations: Research shows that combining medications may be the most effective approach for people who want to quit smoking. For example, one study gathered data from research literature and determined that using both varenicline and the NRT transdermal patch together worked better than varenicline alone.
    • Precision medicine: Pharmacogenetics aims to help health professionals tailor medications to the genetics of the individual, and may help you quit smoking. For example, some gene variations make people metabolize nicotine differently.6 People who metabolize nicotine at a faster rate smoke more, are more dependent, and find it more difficult to quit.


In mindfulness-based sessions,1 patients learn how to “increase awareness of and detachment from sensations, thoughts, and cravings that may lead to relapse.” They learn how to notice the thoughts that arise related to cravings and change them to be more tolerable. They’re also taught methods to help them deal with negative emotions in a healthy way, without the use of tobacco products.

Tobacco Use and Your Mental Health

Smoking often co-occurs with other psychiatric disorders,7 such as substance use disorder or depression. Depression and schizophrenia, in particular, are associated with higher tobacco use due to their sensitivity to its desired effects, such as better concentration and cognition, relief of stress and feelings of sadness, and pleasurable sensations. Data suggests that between 70-85% of people with schizophrenia also smoke tobacco.8 However, new research also indicates that stopping tobacco use may actually help alleviate negative mental health symptoms,9 especially if it’s coupled with mental health care.

Nicotine dependence is more likely in people with anxiety, depression, and substance use disorders.8 In addition, they may be more prone to relapse when faced with stress or uncomfortable feelings. However, new research shows that tobacco use is correlated with poor behavioral and physical health in people with mental disorders, and that quitting smoking will lead to an overall better quality of life.

If you use tobacco regularly and also have a substance use disorder, you may be wondering whether you should try to quit both at once. Studies show that receiving treatment for both nicotine dependence and substance misuse does not negatively impact either case,10 and another study found that they were actually both improved when patients were offered monetary rewards during addiction treatment.11

Smart Strategies for Long-Term Abstinence From Smoking

Learn Your Triggers (And How to Deal With Them)

It’s easy to be triggered or socially pressured to smoke, even years after you’ve quit. In order to stay abstinent from smoking,12 it’s important to learn your triggers, or situations that entice you to smoke. For example, stress is a trigger for many people. In this instance, you’d want to devise a plan that consists of healthy behaviors that can alleviate stress, such as exercise. You can help learn more about these skills and coping mechanisms in CBT.

Have a Plan for When Cravings Hit

You should also come up with other activities you can do when cravings hit that prevent you from smoking. For example, you can go for a walk, engage in an enjoyable hobby, or call a friend. And remember—the longer you go without smoking, the fewer cravings you’ll experience.

Take Time to Reward Yourself

Don’t forget to reward yourself for not smoking. Quitting smoking is hard—there’s no doubt about that—so it’s important to celebrate and treat yourself to things you enjoy, like the movies or cooking classes. Take time to look at how far you’ve come.

Social Support is Important

Social support is crucial when quitting tobacco use. You may want to choose designated friends or family members that you can call when you feel like smoking again, and they can help you remember your reasons for abstaining from tobacco. A peer or mentor that has quit smoking in the past can be an invaluable source of support.

Technology Can Help Too

Sign up for an app or texting service like the ones described above, or see our article on finding online treatment for more resources.

Live a Healthier, Smoke-Free Life

Although it can be difficult to quit smoking, there are many different resources available that can help, making the process much easier. You can replace your smoking habit with activities that boost your mental and physical health, like exercise and therapy. In turn, these healthy hobbies can help you stay abstinent and help prevent relapse.

When you’ve decided it’s time to quit, know that there are many different programs that can help. See program highlights, pricing, insurance information, and more in our directory of smoking cessation rehabs.

Reviewed by Rajnandini Rathod

  1. Abuse, N. I. on D. (–). What are treatments for tobacco dependence? National Institute on Drug Abuse. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/tobacco-nicotine-e-cigarettes/what-are-treatments-tobacco-dependence [] [] []
  2. ABROMS, L. C., AHUJA, M., KODL, Y., THAWEETHAI, L., SIMS, J., WINICKOFF, J., & WINDSOR, R. A. (2012). Text2quit: Results from a pilot test of a personalized, interactive mobile health smoking cessation program. Journal of Health Communication, 17(Suppl 1), 44–53. https://doi.org/10.1080/10810730.2011.649159 []
  3. Text2quit: Mobile-based intervention for smoking cessation. (2017, March 7). Recovery Research Institute. https://www.recoveryanswers.org/research-post/text2quit-mobile-based-intervention-for-smoking-cessation-2/ []
  4. Frequently asked questions | smokefree. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://smokefree.gov/tools-tips/text-programs/faqs []
  5. Quitstart | smokefree. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://smokefree.gov/tools-tips/apps/quitstart []
  6. Lerman, C., Schnoll, R. A., Hawk, L. W., Cinciripini, P., George, T. P., Wileyto, E. P., Swan, G. E., Benowitz, N. L., Heitjan, D. F., Tyndale, R. F., & PGRN-PNAT Research Group. (2015). Use of the nicotine metabolite ratio as a genetically informed biomarker of response to nicotine patch or varenicline for smoking cessation: A randomised, double-blind placebo-controlled trial. The Lancet. Respiratory Medicine, 3(2), 131–138. https://doi.org/10.1016/S2213-2600(14)70294-2 []
  7. Aubin, H.-J., Rollema, H., Svensson, T. H., & Winterer, G. (2012). Smoking, quitting, and psychiatric disease: A review. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 36(1), 271–284. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2011.06.007 []
  8. Abuse, N. I. on D. (–). Do people with mental illness and substance use disorders use tobacco more often? National Institute on Drug Abuse. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/tobacco-nicotine-e-cigarettes/do-people-mental-illness-substance-use-disorders-use-tobacco-more-often [] []
  9. Minichino, A., Bersani, F. S., Calò, W. K., Spagnoli, F., Francesconi, M., Vicinanza, R., Delle Chiaie, R., & Biondi, M. (2013). Smoking behaviour and mental health disorders—Mutual influences and implications for therapy. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 10(10), 4790–4811. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph10104790 []
  10. Smoking interventions can help individuals in addiction treatment quit cigarettes, although questions remain about cessation effects on treatment outcomes. (2019, April 21). Recovery Research Institute. https://www.recoveryanswers.org/research-post/smoking-cessation-addiction/ []
  11. Quitting cigarettes in addiction treatment? (2017, March 8). Recovery Research Institute. https://www.recoveryanswers.org/research-post/quitting-cigarettes-in-addiction-treatment/ []
  12. How to stay smokefree | smokefree. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://smokefree.gov/stay-smokefree-good/stick-with-it/how-to-stay-smokefree []

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