If you’ve ever tried to quit using tobacco products, you’ve probably experienced withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, headaches, fatigue, and even constipation.
Tobacco is grown for its leaves, which contain the addictive chemical nicotine. Tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, almost 70 of which can cause cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. The addictive power of tobacco is similar to alcohol, morphine, and even cocaine, leading to withdrawal symptoms when you quit. Learn more about how to manage the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal.
What Are the Symptoms of Nicotine Withdrawal?
Withdrawal symptoms typically affect people according to how long and how much they’ve smoked. The heavier the smoker, the more severe the withdrawal symptoms.
Nicotine withdrawal symptoms are a combination of physical and psychological manifestations. The most common symptoms include:
- increased appetite
- dry mouth
- intense cravings
- trouble sleeping
- trouble concentrating
How Can I Manage Nicotine Withdrawal?
Making withdrawal symptoms go away completely isn’t possible, but there are ways to minimize them. How often and how badly the symptoms affect you varies from person to person. It partially depends on how you quit. For example, if you choose the “cold turkey” method without the use of any smoking cessation aids (such as nicotine patches or gum), you’ll probably notice symptoms within as little as two hours.
People who use smoking cessation aids such as patches, gums, and inhalers usually experience less severe withdrawal symptoms. That’s because this method slowly cuts back on their levels of nicotine use rather than pulling the plug all at once. In this method, the physical symptoms should reach their climax approximately 72 hours after your last cigarette.
The withdrawal symptoms, both physical and mental, will make it tough to stick it out and not start smoking again. But there are things you can do to make sure you stick with it. Below are some helpful and practical tips for managing your nicotine withdrawal symptoms.
Quitting smoking can cause an increase in appetite. If you find yourself wanting to eat more, take advantage of your newfound appetite to eat a healthy array of vegetables, fruits, and lean proteins. Following a healthy diet can reduce the severity and length of your withdrawal symptoms.
Part of nicotine’s addictive power is that it elevates your mood. It’s common for people who quit smoking to fall into a mild depression. One way to counteract this problem is to exercise. Physical activity triggers the release of mood-raising endorphins in your body that will naturally help you feel better both physically and mentally.
Ask for Assistance
Having someone provide support and accountability can have a huge impact on your efforts to be tobacco-free. When discussing your goal of being tobacco-free, make sure to be completely open and honest. You should also allow your support system to speak honestly if they see you sabotaging your efforts through poor choices. A great way to utilize your partner is by calling them when you get a strong craving. Instead of giving in and smoking a cigarette, you can call them and get the support you need to make it through the craving.
Celebrate Small Victories
Celebrating small milestones can help you keep a positive outlook on your journey. Reward yourself when you reach significant benchmarks such as one week, one month, and beyond. These mini goals will help you focus on a short-term milestone and keep you from getting overwhelmed.
There seems to be an app for everything — including to help you quit smoking. If you’re one of the millions who own a smartphone, you’re in luck. There are apps that do everything from utilizing timers to creating reports that show how many days, months, and years you’ve added to your life by abstaining from tobacco. Apps range in price.
Find Alternative Stress Relievers
Many people turn to cigarettes as a means to relieve stress. It’s imperative that you find alternative and healthier ways to manage your stress. Simple stress management techniques such as listening to music, meditating, going for a walk, reading, or even cleaning can provide new ways for you to manage stress without smoking. Find something that works for you and incorporate it right away.
Change Your Environment
Although it’s entirely up to you to make the right choices to be smoke-free, there are things that others can do to support you. If you have friends and family members who smoke, ask them to respect your decision to stop by not smoking while you’re around. Who knows, this may even inspire them to quit right along with you.
Sometimes, making the decision to quit is the hardest step. Once you’ve come up with a plan to quit tobacco, make sure you have strategies in place to help you manage the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal. Talk to your doctor for more suggestions. You can also find more resources at smokefree.gov.