Chewing tobacco, cigarettes, and cigars are made up of dried tobacco leaves that contain nicotine. But nicotine and other additives are added to make smoking pleasurable. These chemicals harm your body. 

Nicotine is addictive, and it may make it difficult for you to stop smoking. You may notice withdrawal symptoms once nicotine intake is stopped. Majority of the withdrawal symptoms peak between 1-3 days and gradually decline within a month. Being aware of the withdrawal symptoms can help you manage them while you try to quit. This article details withdrawal symptoms and how you can cope up.

Harms Of Smoking

Smoking affects almost all parts of your body.

It increases the risk of the following conditions:

Secondhand or passive smoking causes the death of many infants by increasing their risk for sudden infant death syndrome, slowed lung growth, and respiratory conditions.

It may also increase the risk of lung cancer, stroke, and coronary heart disease in adults.

Why Quit Smoking (Benefits)

Here are some short-term benefits:

  • Reduced heart rate
  • Reduce blood pressure
  • A drop in carbon monoxide level

Long-term benefits include:

  • Better lung functioning
  • Improved circulation
  • Decrease in symptoms such as shortness of breath and cough

After a year of quitting, the risk of heart attack reduces significantly. After five to ten years, the risk of cancer is reduced by half, and stroke risk also reduces.

After 15 years, your risk of coronary artery disease is the same as that of a non-smoker.

Quitting to smoke also has the mentioned benefits:

  • Lowers your risk of other cancers such as liver, cervix, and stomach
  • Reduces the risk of diabetes
  • Adds 10 years to your life
  • Improves the health of your heart, lungs, and blood vessels

Various Withdrawal Symptoms Noticed When Quitting Smoking

When you smoke, nicotine activates pleasure-causing areas of your brain. It also influences part of the brain related to memory, heart rate, breathing, and appetite. If you are used to smoking for a long time, it causes a change in the balance between chemicals in the brain.

When you quit suddenly, the change in chemical balance may result in various psychological and physical side effects, known as nicotine withdrawal symptoms. This may cause you to crave smoking, making it difficult for you to quit it.

Some common symptoms include:

  • Irritability or frustration
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Mood swings
  • An intense craving for nicotine
  • Low mood
  • Anxiety
  • Sweating
  • Restlessness
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Increased appetite
  • Constipation
  • Headaches
  • Tremors
  • Waking at night
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Difficulty concentration

With the negative changes, you can also notice some positive ones, including:

  • Less coughing
  • Easier breathing
  • Better sense of taste and smell

Dealing with Each Symptom

While nicotine withdrawal may make it difficult to quit, the good news is you can deal with the symptoms. It may take time, but with patience, it will increase your chances of successfully quitting. 

Here are some tips for managing some common withdrawal symptoms:

Nicotine Cravings

  • Take deep breaths
  • Chew apple, carrots, or a hard candy
  • Avoid tempting situations
  • Remember this craving will pass

Mood Changes

  • Exercise
  • Try meditation and other relaxations strategies
  • Reduce caffeine intake
  • Remember these feelings are temporary

Anxiety

  • Exercise
  • Try meditation and other relaxations strategies
  • Reduce caffeine intake
  • Remember it is temporary
  • Consult a doctor

Depression

  • Exercise
  • Do things you love
  • Seek support from family and friends
  • Consult a doctor if this feeling lasts for more than a month

Increase in appetite

  • Exercise
  • Maintain a balanced diet
  • Consult a nutritionist

(More on how each of these techniques helps in the next section)

Treatment/Medication to Help

The following lifestyle changes will help you manage the withdrawal symptoms:

Be Active

Nicotine offers a false sense of well-being, and without the drug, you may start feeling low. You can beat this feeling by exercising daily for at least 30 minutes. When you exercise, your body releases the “feel good” hormones— endorphins. Being active also promotes better sleep.

So, carry out moderate-intensity exercises 30 minutes a day for most days of the week or 150 hours a week. Some forms of exercise include swimming, running, jogging, or brisk walking. You can also include three to four days of resistance training exercises a week.

However, avoid exercising before you go to bed and keep a gap for at least 3-4 hours.

Get Adequate Rest

Your body undergoes various changes while it tries to get rid of nicotine dependence. So, you may feel lethargic while you go through nicotine withdrawal. Try taking naps and get adequate sleep. It helps your body to detoxify and heal faster.

Do Things You Enjoy

Many people try and have food to distract from the craving for a smoke. This may cause them to gain weight, which becomes a fear of quitting to smoke. Try and focus on other things except for food.

Do what you enjoy, such as drawing, listening to music, playing a game, or being in nature. The aim here is to distract your attention and focus on something else.

Stress Management Techniques

Most smokers have a habit of smoking when they are stressed. If you try and manage your stress, it will help curb your cravings to smoke.

Some strategies that may help to get rid of stress are:

  • Gardening
  • Cleaning house
  • Physical activity
  • Yoga
  • Meditation

You can try what works the best for you.

Seek Support

Make someone accountable who can help you stick to your quitting plans when you get weak or feel tempted. Be frank with them and let them know how you think. Do not hide if you try to smoke.

The accountable person can help you with strategies to get through the craving and identify things that go against the plan.

Cessation Aids

There are also many aids you can take help of while combating withdrawal symptoms.

Some common ones include:

  • Nicotine gums
  • Nicotine patches
  • Nasal spray
  • Nasal inhalers
  • Nicotine lozenges

These aids work by providing a small amount of nicotine to your brain. The idea here is to gradually reduce the amount of nicotine without the symptoms of quitting cold turkey.

Medications

Non-nicotine medications are also available that can help you to quit smoking, such as Bupropion or Wellbutrin. They work by sending signals that mimic nicotine effects.

You can read more about how the medication helps here.

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