What are some of the withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting smoking?
Quitting smoking may cause short-term problems, especially for those who have smoked heavily for many years. These temporary changes can result in withdrawal symptoms.
Common withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting include the following:
- Nicotine cravings (nicotine is the substance in tobacco that causes addiction).
- Anger, frustration, and irritability.
- Weight gain.
- Studies have shown that about half of smokers report experiencing at least four withdrawal symptoms (such as anger, anxiety, or depression) when they quit. People have reported other symptoms, including dizziness, increased dreaming, and headaches.
The good news is that there is much you can do to reduce cravings and manage common withdrawal symptoms. Even without medication, withdrawal symptoms and other problems subside over time. It may also help to know that withdrawal symptoms are usually worst during the first week after quitting. From that point on, the intensity usually drops over the first month. However, everyone is different, and some people have withdrawal symptoms for several months after quitting.
What can I do about nicotine cravings?
As a smoker, you get used to having a certain level of nicotine in your body. You control that level by how much you smoke, how deeply you inhale the smoke, and the kind of tobacco you use. When you quit, cravings develop when your body wants nicotine. It takes time to break free from nicotine addiction. Also, when you see people smoking or are around other triggers, you may get nicotine cravings. Cravings are real. They are not just in your imagination. At the same time, your mood may change, and your heart rate and blood pressure may go up.
The urge to smoke will come and go. Cravings usually last only a very brief period of time. Cravings usually begin within an hour or two after you have your last cigarette, peak for several days, and may last several weeks. As the days pass, the cravings will get farther apart. Occasional mild cravings may last for 6 months.
Here are some tips for managing cravings:
- Remind yourself that they will pass.
- Avoid situations and activities that you used to associate with smoking.
- As a substitute for smoking, try chewing on carrots, pickles, apples, celery, sugarless gum, or hard candy. Keeping your mouth busy may stop the psychological need to smoke.
- Try this exercise: Take a deep breath through your nose and blow out slowly through your mouth. Repeat 10 times.
- Ask your doctor about nicotine replacement products or other medications