Nicotine withdrawal is a term used to describe the physical and psychological symptoms you experience when you quit smoking. As long as you do not smoke, these discomforts are normal and temporary.
Nicotine withdrawal symptoms
The following are the most common symptoms of nicotine withdrawal:
- Anxiety and restlessness
- Appetite and weight gain
- Want to smoke
- Difficulty concentrating
- Dry mouth
- Post-nasal drip
- sore throat
- Tongue and/or gum pain
- Chest tightness
Most people start to experience nicotine withdrawal symptoms within 24 hours after quitting smoking. Withdrawal is usually most severe in the first week after quitting smoking, and begins to dissipate after three to four weeks.
If you are concerned about the physical reaction of having to quit smoking, or the persistence or deterioration of nicotine withdrawal symptoms, be sure to consult your doctor.
Cravings may last longer than other withdrawal symptoms. Participants in a study reported that they had a craving for cigarettes for up to a year after quitting smoking; however, their cravings a year later were not as strong as when they quit smoking for the first time.
In other words, the longer you quit smoking, the less likely you are to crave cigarettes.
People who regularly use nicotine can become psychologically and physically dependent. Nicotine releases dopamine, a “feel good” hormone, into the brain and produces a pleasant sensation. This feeling is the reason why many people smoke when they feel anxious or stressed.
However, the effects of nicotine will soon disappear, and you may be more irritable after a few minutes of smoking than before. It takes another cigarette to feel the pleasurable effect again, which creates a cycle in which people smoke more and feel better.
Even if you are not addicted to nicotine, regular use of nicotine for a short period of time can cause withdrawal symptoms.
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People who use tobacco regularly for several weeks or longer will experience withdrawal symptoms if they suddenly stop or greatly reduce their use.
— American Cancer Society
People who quit smoking may continue to be affected by daily conditions. It is difficult to do things, meet people, or go to places related to smoking without craving. Sometimes, a strong desire can cause smoking to relapse.
Nicotine withdrawal treatment
If you plan to quit smoking, there are some ways to treat it before nicotine withdrawal begins. Discuss with your doctor which method of smoking cessation is best for you and which smoking cessation aid may be best for you.
Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)
Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) uses small doses of nicotine (without the other toxins in cigarettes) to help you quit nicotine slowly. NRT comes in the form of patches, chewing gum, lozenges, and nasal sprays. Treatment usually lasts no more than 12 weeks, after which you reduce your use and eventually stop.
Before starting NRT, be sure to consult your doctor, this is not for everyone. If you have kidney problems or a heart attack or stroke, NRT may not be right for you.
Side effects of NRT may include stomach upset, dizziness, headache, skin irritation (using patches), nose, throat, or eye irritation (using nasal spray), and sleep disturbances. In rare cases, some of these and other symptoms may indicate an overdose of nicotine.
Excessive use of nicotine replacement therapy can lead to nicotine overdose. If you experience the following symptoms, please call 911 or poison control immediately:
- Cold sweat
- Pale complexion
There are also non-nicotine smoking cessation aids, such as Chantix (varenicline) and Zyban (bupropion), which can help you avoid many nicotine withdrawal symptoms.
Chantix can help relieve withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Side effects may include headache, nausea, and dizziness. Chantix treatment usually does not exceed 12 weeks, usually starting one week before quitting smoking.
Zyban is actually an antidepressant drug that can help quit smoking by affecting the part of the brain that is addicted to nicotine. Treatment usually lasts about 9 weeks. Side effects may include dry mouth, sleep disturbance, headache, feeling sick, constipation and dizziness.
Chantix and Zyban are not recommended for people who are pregnant or breastfeeding.Talk to your doctor to find out if you are suitable for these medicines.
Mental health support
Because smoking has a major psychological impact, it is important to take care of your mental health. You can try any one or more of the following treatments that have been shown to have a positive effect on withdrawal:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Through CBT, the therapist will help you identify triggers and help you avoid relapse. Instead of reaching for a cigarette, you will learn healthy coping strategies to deal with difficult emotions.
- Mindfulness: You can participate in mindfulness-based therapy with your counselor, or you can practice mindfulness on your own. Although some studies have shown that mindfulness does not directly reduce smoking rates, It may help you learn to get rid of cravings and thoughts about cigarettes. You learn to replace them with healthier behaviors.
- Support groups: There are many smoking cessation programs that can help you take responsibility for your goal of staying smoke-free. In addition to face-to-face programs, there are also online counseling programs, smoking cessation hotlines, and smoking cessation apps that can provide you with more resources and encouragement.
In addition to smoking cessation aids that can relieve or even eliminate discomfort, there are many measures you can take to make nicotine withdrawal more tolerable.
A balanced, healthy diet helps to provide your body with energy and help you recover from smoking. Some people struggle with nutritional problems after quitting smoking. Their tastes may change, and they may view food as a coping mechanism to deal with uncomfortable emotions.
Try to eat slowly and consciously. Pay attention to the texture and taste of the food in order to appreciate the food rather than use it as a distraction. This practice also helps to avoid any unnecessary weight gain when you quit smoking.
Because certain chemicals in cigarettes will deplete essential vitamins in our body, It is also wise to consider adding multivitamins to your daily diet.
Although you may miss the dopamine released by cigarettes, there are some natural ways to increase your dopamine levels. For example, exercise also causes our brain to release dopamine.
Go for a walk or go to the gym. Exercise will help reduce stress and improve your mental and physical health.
Good hydration is always important, but even more so during your nicotine withdrawal. When dealing with withdrawal symptoms, drinking water can help provide your body with enough energy.
Reaching for a large glass of water is also a useful strategy for dealing with cravings.
In the first few days of quitting smoking, you may feel that this day is like a long-term desire to smoke. The fact is that most urges to smoke last three to five minutes. Instead of being nervous when the urge to smoke hits, try taking a deep breath. Breathing can be meditation and help you get rid of cravings in a more relaxed way.
Fatigue is common during nicotine withdrawal. If you are tired and can handle it during the day, take a nap. At the end of the day, go to bed earlier than usual.
On the other hand, if you find yourself suddenly falling into insomnia related to quitting smoking (which is also common), Try taking long walks a few hours before bed to help your body prepare for sleep.
List a series of ways to get rid of the urge to smoke or negative thinking patterns. You can use these methods at any time (water and breathing are good supplements). Suddenly change what you are doing, and your mind will also shift away from the downward spiral it is in.
Give yourself time
Over time, you will need to re-plan your psychological connection with smoking. This part of the recovery may take more time, but when you stick to your goal of not smoking, you will learn that you can perform daily tasks, see people, and go elsewhere without smoking.
When your withdrawal symptoms are at their worst, try to change your daily routine-you may avoid anything you know will cause you to smoke. Keep yourself busy with activities that interest you and make sure to reward yourself for not smoking.
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For most people, nicotine withdrawal is strong and difficult, but it is also temporary. Keep your point of view by reminding yourself that the relaxing days are coming. If you try your best, day by day, you will soon reap the many benefits of a healthier, smoke-free life.