mQuit Services: You Are Not Alone; This Is How You Can Get Help and Support to Quit Smoking

By Medically reviewed by Panel Perubatan Hello Doktor

Nicotine Addiction

When it comes to smoking cessation, your real battle is getting over your nicotine addiction. Nicotine that enters the body via smoking will bind to the nicotine receptors in the central nervous system and cause various effects, including an arousal response. Over time, the repeated exposure to nicotine changes the sensitivity and number of nicotine receptors in the brain, which subsequently lead to addiction symptoms such as tolerance (which causes the smoker to progressively require more cigarettes just to get the same arousing effect), craving, and withdrawal.

One of the reasons for this is the thinning of brain tissue and even the decrease in cognitive functions that occurs with aging is accelerated by smoking. Where the rate of these changes increases by higher amounts and periods of smoking. The resulting abnormalities in the neural circuits that control cognition and decision-making will hamper an individual’s ability to exert self-control and autonomy. This initiates nicotine dependence and the continuation of addictive behaviors. Therefore, smoking is not only addictive, but it will lead you down a vicious cycle which will make you become more dependant and addicted to it. Due to this, tobacco is more likely to cause dependence in smokers compared to other addictive substances, including alcohol and opioids.

The Need for Help

Quitting alone, solely on willpower, is known as the ‘Cold Turkey’ method. Cold Turkey here refers to the withdrawal symptoms (anxiety, irritability, headache, trouble sleeping, fatigue and hunger) following abrupt cessation of smoking, without the aid of treatment support or replacement medications. The problem with quitting cold turkey is that it has a low success rate due to the nature of addiction. Addiction changes the structure of the brain and affects many areas, particularly those that influence decision-making, behavior control and learning. It works on a very primitive, instinctual level that often bypasses or impairs our brain’s higher-level functioning. As a result, most smokers succumb to relapse upon trying this method. Furthermore, repeated failures in smoking cessation may diminish a smoker’s motivation for attempts in the future.

That is where professional help comes in – the battle against smoking addiction need not be a lonely battle. Healthcare professionals can provide comprehensive management for smoking cessation and improve the success rate for long-term abstinence. The components of a successful cessation program involve professional advice, counseling and support, and the use of medications (pharmacotherapy). The holistic approach ensures that the willpower and the motivation of the smoker does not diminish, and withdrawal symptoms can be effectively managed. Besides that, crucial initial support can be given to help go through the tough first week of abstinence. Research on the efficacy of this comprehensive approach has been proven to be at least 5 times more effective than willpower alone.

The mQuit services

The mQuit service was inspired, in part, by the revelation made by the Malaysian National Health and Morbidity Survey in 2011 – according to the survey, 48.6% of smokers have made quitting attempt in the past 12 months but only 32.4% visited health care providers for smoking cessation. One of the main hurdles in accessing professional advice when it comes to smoking cessation was the limited access to cessation services within public clinics and hospital. In overcoming this challenge, as well as keeping the country in line with Article 14 of World Health Organisation (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), Malaysia has developed a holistic and structured program under the Malaysia Quit or mQuit services.

Inaugurated on the 27th of November 2015, mQuit services are a public-private partnership with the objective of making smoking cessation services accessible throughout the public and private sectors across the country. The mQuit programme involves the cooperation of Universiti Malaya, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Akademi Farmasi Malaysia, and Johnson and Johnson. To date, 160 private HCP and 764 government health clinics and hospitals have become mQuit providers but before they could do so, both public and private sectors must fulfil standard criteria set by the Ministry of Health before accreditation is given.

Accessing mQuit Services

The holistic approach and management embedded in the mQuit services include:

  • Helping smokers develop a customised quit smoking plan
  • Providing smokers with the right resources and advice on quitting tobacco
  • A comprehensive smoking cessation plan with follow-up sessions by dedicated healthcare professionals
  • Prescribing nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) to facilitate your smoking cessation journey by controlling withdrawal symptoms

Following its establishment, the mQuit services have undergone a series of enhancements which include the inception of the quitline counselling system and an official website (jomquit.moh.gov.my) to promote and facilitate the registration of smokers for the cessation program.

Aside from allowing you to easily locate the nearest mQuit centre and embark on your cessation journey, the website also provides education on the various forms of quit-smoking aids. You can even browse the website under the ‘Heroic Quit Stories section’ to find inspiring stories by previous smokers who successfully quit.

The mQuit services demonstrates the government’s relentless effort to assist smokers in their pursuit of freedom from nicotine addiction. The services under mQuit has been made widely available and accessible so that you don’t have to fight the battle against addiction alone.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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