Smoking and mental health

This page gives information on smoking and mental health. It explains ways to help stop smoking. This information is for people who smoke and have mental health issues and their carers, relatives, and friends.

If you are a smoker, how many times have you been asked to stop smoking?

It’s likely that the answer is a lot. Maybe you find it annoying to be asked? Perhaps you enjoy smoking, or you think it helps to reduce your stress? Maybe you just think that it’s too hard to quit? Maybe you think stopping smoking will make your mental health symptoms worse?

Unfortunately, there’s no getting away from the fact that smoking is bad for your health. If you aren’t a smoker but use cannabis, you may still use tobacco to smoke with the cannabis. This is also harmful for your health.

What if someone said that if you stopped you could feel healthier? Would you try? It could be a way to see if they’re right and you have nothing to lose from checking.

What are the benefits of stopping smoking for my physical health?

If you stop smoking, your health will start to improve within a few hours. Over time, you are likely to cough less and breathe more easily. You may be able to climb the stairs faster or notice you have more energy.

Stopping smoking can help you live longer by lowering your risk of cancer, heart disease, and lung conditions.

You might experience some side effects when you first stop smoking, you might have increased appetite and weight gain. You might be constipated, get mouth ulcers or a cough. You should speak to your GP if you are concerned about any side effects.

It’s important to remember the benefits of stopping don’t happen overnight, and it might take a few weeks. Pay close attention to how you feel when you’re not smoking, and you’ll hopefully see some positive changes.

What are the benefits of stopping smoking for my mental health?

Smoking may make you feel like you are more relaxed, but smoking interferes with certain chemicals in the brain. They can make you more irritable and anxious when you crave another cigarette.

Smoking a cigarette can temporarily relieve these feelings. Many people believe this means smoking improves mood. But it’s likely smoking that caused the negative feelings to begin with.

In the first few weeks after stopping smoking, you could feel more irritable, struggle to concentrate or feel restless.

But studies have shown that you aren’t likely to experience a worsening in your mood long‐term. You may experience improvements, such as less anxiety and depression symptoms.

There are different types of support available to help you stop smoking, find more information below.

Are there any medications to help to stop smoking?

Yes, but some of the medications used to help you stop smoking can interact with medication for mental health issues. So, it’s best to get advice from your GP before you take any medications to help you stop smoking.

Smoking can reduce the levels of some medications in the blood. When you stop smoking, you might need a lower dose of your medication for it to have the same effect.

If you take medication for your mental health, speak with your doctor before stopping smoking. They can advise if your medication needs to be changed or monitored.

So how can I get help with stopping smoking?

For help with stopping to smoke you could:

  • Go to see your GP who could prescribe nicotine replacement patches or gum, or medication to help you stop smoking.
  • Call the free National Smokefree helpline See Useful contacts below for contact details
  • Get your free Personal Quit plan from the following link: www.nhs.uk/better-health/quit-smoking/personal-quit-plan
  • Join an NHS Stop Smoking Service locally that can offer one-to-one support or regular groups. You can contact NHS Smokefree to find your nearest service. Find their details in the Useful contacts section below.

Useful contacts

National Smokefree Helpline
Call free to speak to a trained advisor for advice and support.

Telephone: 0300 123 1044
Website: www.nhs.uk/better-health/quit-smoking

NHS Live Well Quit Smoking
Take steps NOW to stop smoking.

Website: www.nhs.uk/live-well/quit-smoking/take-steps-now-to-stop-smoking/

NHS Better Health Quit Smoking
Get your free Personal Quit plan and you can find your local Stop Smoking Service.

Webpage for your free plan: www.nhs.uk/better-health/quit-smoking/personal-quit-plan
Webpage to find your local Stop Smoking Service: www.nhs.uk/better-health/quit-smoking/find-your-local-stop-smoking-service/#bt4Q3X2d7CKUh5Ml.97

NHS Better Health
Daily email support to get tips and advice direct to your inbox throughout your 28 day quit smoking journey, and occasional emails after that to help keep you on track.

Website: www.quitnow.smokefree.nhs.uk

Cancer Research UK
They have information from people that have stopped smoking in the past.

Website: www.cancerresearchuk.org/advice-from-people-who-have-stopped-smoking

If you would like more advice or information, you can contact our Advice and Information Service by clicking here.

© Rethink Mental Illness 2021

Last updated October, 2021
Next update October, 2024

Version number 1

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