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Nicotine Withdrawal Symptoms & Recovery
The first few weeks after quitting smoking are usually the most difficult and it's safe to say that it normally takes at least 8-12 weeks before a person starts to feel comfortable with their new lifestyle change of being an ex-smoker. Withdrawal from nicotine, an addictive drug found in tobacco, is characterized by symptoms that include headache, anxiety, nausea and a craving for more tobacco. Nicotine creates a chemical dependency, so that the body develops a need for a certain level of nicotine at all times. Unless that level is maintained, the body will begin to go through withdrawal. For tobacco users trying to quit, symptoms of withdrawal from nicotine are unpleasant and stressful, but only temporary. Most withdrawal symptoms peak 48 hours after you quit and are completely gone in six months.
When you are experiencing symptoms of recovery (withdrawal), remind yourself of why you are quitting; write your reasons on a card and keep it with you. Remind yourself that whatever discomfort you are experiencing is only a tiny fraction of the probable discomfort associated with continued smoking (i.e. Painful diseases like cancer, surgery, chemotherapy, emphysema etc.).
Withdrawal in the First Two Weeks
Because the first two weeks are so critical in determining quitting failure rates, smokers should not be shy about seeking all the help they can during this period.
Withdrawal symptoms begin as soon as four hours after the last cigarette, generally peak in intensity at three to five days, and disappear after two weeks. They include both physical and mental symptoms.
Physical Symptoms. During the quitting process people should consider the following physical symptoms of withdrawal as they were recuperating from a disease and treat them accordingly as they would any physical symptoms:
Mental and Emotional Symptoms. Tension and craving build up during periods of withdrawal, sometimes to a nearly intolerable point. One European study found that the incidence of workplace accidents increases on No Smoking Day, a day in which up to 2 million smokers either reduce the amount they smoke or abstain altogether.
Nearly every moderate to heavy smoker experiences more than one of the following strong emotional and mental responses to withdrawal.
Some Common Withdrawal Symptoms
Anger and Mood Swings
Anger is part of the quitting process. You dont have to have a reason to feel that way, you just do. Accept it, vent it safely. Deal with the irritating situation by dealing with your feelings rather than suppressing them. Say whats on your mind without blowing your stack. Anger openly expressed or kept inside creates tension which may create the need for a cigarette. Reducing the tension will reduce your desire for a cigarette. Discuss your anger with your buddy. Take a walk. Do deep breathing exercises.
Try new things. Keep your hands and mind busy (write a letter, do dishes, cook, paint, do carpentry, knit, garden, sew). Run some errands, get caught up on jobs you havent had time to do, or go see a movie. If you have to stay in one place, have a book/crossword puzzles/deck of cards handy.
Constipation, gas, stomach pain
Feeling cooped up
Feeling of being cooped up are normal. You miss your old friend your cigarettes who used to go everywhere you used to go. Go for a short walk, go swimming, bike riding. Keep yourself physically and mentally busy.
Cough, dry throat/mouth, nasal drip
This is caused from your body getting rid of mucous which has blocked airways and restricted breathing. Drink plenty of fluids; drink cold water, fruit juice, tea; use cough drops, gum or hard candy.
Craving for a cigarette
Withdrawal from nicotine, a strongly addictive drug. It is most frequent the first 2 or 3 days. Occasionally, it can occur for months or for years. Wait out the urge; they only last a few minutes. Wait until it passes (in general 3 to 5 minutes). Get busy. Start another activity. Think of something else. Focus on your work. Drink some water, chew some gum or eat sugarless candy. Eat something (e.g., some fruit). Breathe deeply several times. Do a relaxing exercise. Brush your teeth. Tell yourself the symptoms will disappear in a few days.
Depression & Despair
Find a substitute reward to smoking. Deal with your emotions. Call your support buddy. Use positive self-talk. Dont cut yourself down; build yourself up. Dont allow a self-defeatist attitude (Im no good, I cant do this). This can lead to a decreased sense of control and a drop in self-esteem. Think of success, not failure! Its normal to feel sad, angry, or confused in the first few smoke-free weeks. These feelings will pass but If the depression does not appear to be going away, take it seriously and consult your doctor.
Your body is getting extra oxygen like it hasn't seen for a long time. Get fresh air, go for a walk, change positions slowly. It will last several days and will go away.
Nicotine is a stimulant. 2 to 4 weeks. Get
extra sleep and more exercise; take naps; dont push yourself. If you feel tired when
you first wake up, do some moderate exercises and take a cool shower. Drink 6-8 glasses of
water per day to speed up the healing process.
Take a walk. Do deep breathing exercises. Talk to your support buddy. Think of the positive reasons for quitting and the rewards you will be able to achieve. Take some time by yourself. Do a favorite hobby.
Take a warm bath or shower. Try relaxation or meditation techniques. Do more physical activities. Cut down on coffee and cola drinks.
Increase on Appetite
Craving for a cigarette can be confused
with hunger pangs or a simple craving for oral stimulation. For years, your mouth was
stimulated every time a cigarette landed between your lips. This has now been removed. Up
to several weeks What can I do?
Nicotine affects brain wave function. This can influence sleep patterns and dreams about smoking are common. 1 week Take a hot, relaxing bath, avoid caffeine (coffee, tea, pop) after 6:00pm Try relaxing at bedtime with a glass of warm milk, deep breathing and relaxation techniques. Work on a hobby.
Irritability, grouchy, tense
The body is craving for nicotine. Tobacco smokers are in a chronic state of nervous stimulation. Many of the symptoms quitters experience are the result of the nervous system returning to normal. It normally last for 1-2 weeks. Deep breathe, take walks, exercise, use relaxation techniques, chew nicotine gum, cut down on coffee and pop.
Lack of concentration
The body needs time to adjust to not having constant stimulation from nicotine. A few weeks Change activities, get some fresh air, exercise, deep breathe, listen to music, watch TV, do more physical activity, cut down on coffee and cola, plan workload accordingly, avoid situations that may trigger your desire to smoke.
Cigarettes are seen by many people as a close friend. Call a real friend. Go for a walk or a drive. Sing, pray.
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Updated June 2018