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Expert Interview

The WUNDERWEIB expert for addiction disorders: Dr. med. phil. Michael Heidler

Dr. phil. Michael Heidler is a graduate Psychologist for Clinical Psychology. His work focuses on addictions. Since 2000, he runs a private practice for psychotherapy, which specifically addresses addicts. He is also Head of the Institutes for Tobacco Cessation at the Vivantes Klinika Neuk├Âlln and Spandau as well as at the Humboldt-Klinikum in Berlin.

In the big WUNDERWEIB interview, the expert talks about the consequences of nicotine addiction, has advice on effective tobacco cessation and gives helpful tips for living without cigarettes.

What happens in the body after you have expressed your last cigarette?

Dr. phil. Michael Heidler : On the sudden lack of nicotine, the body reacts with various withdrawal symptoms. These include sleep disorders, weight gain, constipation, restlessness and irritability, as well as difficulty concentrating. To a lesser extent, a decrease in the heart rate and a slowing of the brain waves can be observed. In some cases, withdrawal leads to depression.

How long does it usually take to get "over the mountain" and not be plagued by withdrawal symptoms?

Dr. phil. Michael Heidler : Unfortunately, it is not possible to make a general statement, because each person reacts individually and differently to the Nicotinentzug. However, physical withdrawal can be expected to last between one and three weeks. Thereafter, the body works in most cases, even without nicotine back to normal.

What can one do against the withdrawal symptoms?

Dr. phil. Michael Heidler : A sensible way to fight against this is to work with nicotine substitution agents at first, ie, to supply the body with small quantities of the substance through nicotine patches or the like, and to reduce them continuously. In our therapy, for example, we work with Nicotinell's 24-hour patch, because it works around the clock and thus effectively suppresses the withdrawal symptoms. At the same time, however, it is also important to change one's patterns of behavior, that is, to resist the urge to use a cigarette in certain situations. However, if the physical withdrawal is alleviated by a controlled supply of nicotine by patches, chewing gum and lozenges, it is easier to focus on mental weaning.

Which aids are useful in smoking cessation?

Dr. phil. Michael Heidler : As already mentioned, the physical withdrawal symptoms are relieved by the use of, for example, nicotinic replacement preparations. This frees the mind to focus on the other aspects of tobacco smoking. However, if you would like to try it without substitute preparations, you can get support in the form of non-smoking courses or literature on smoking cessation.

How many people die every year from the effects of tobacco addiction?

Dr. phil. Michael Heidler : In Germany, around 110, 000 to 140, 000 people die annually from the effects of nicotine addiction.

What causes the high addictive potential of nicotine?

Dr. phil. Michael Heidler : The problem with that is that even after years, there is still a high risk of relapse. In most cases, it is sufficient to pull on a cigarette to get back to the old level quickly.

Which is the best way to get nicotine - slow or fast?

Dr. phil. Michael Heidler : It is best to stop smoking radically. Slowly reducing the number of cigarettes is less successful.

How do nicotine patches or gum and lollipops work?

Dr. phil. Michael Heidler : You reduce the nicotine level in the organism slowly and steadily. So the body has time to get used to it and adjust to the new situation.

Are there psychological tricks on how best to perform despite the withdrawal symptoms?

Dr. phil. Michael Heidler : Yes, there are a lot of so-called behavioral modifications that can help you get through the difficult phase of withdrawal without relapsing back. It is best to work individually and together with a specialist in a smoking cessation course.

How can you prevent replacing the cigarette with other stimulants and thereby gaining weight?

Dr. phil. Michael Heidler : In fact, there is a risk of addiction shift in smoking cessation, which rarely goes in the direction of alcohol or drugs. Basically, it is advisable to abstain from alcohol and caffeine in large quantities in the first few weeks after quitting smoking.

How long does it take for the lungs to recover and return to their normal normal age after quitting smoking?

Dr. phil. Michael Heidler : That depends on the initial situation, ie how long and how much nicotine was consumed by the smoker and therefore can not be answered.

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