What makes cigarette smoking one of the most difficult habits to quit – Nicotine. The nicotine present in tobacco makes cigarette smoking addictive and it has quite an effect on a regular smoker’s heart, hormones and brain. Withdrawing from the use of this drug would bring about considerable mood swings, irritability and anxiety.
Nicotine withdrawal is the set of physical, mental and emotional distress experienced by the user when he stops using nicotine. Generally, withdrawal symptoms last for a month or more, depending on how long the person has been smoking. After quitting, the days from third to fifth, are the days a smoker craves for nicotine the most. Because that is when nicotine present in the body is completely drained and the smoker needs new source of nicotine, more as his body starts experiencing the distress. Overcoming nicotine withdrawal is the most difficult process in quitting cigarette smoking.
. A quitter will experience craving for cigarette at regular intervals, which he will need to conquer by abstinence, by not being in company of other smokers, and by keeping himself busy with chores that do not bore him.
. Increase in appetite, especially cravings for carbs and sweets. This will end up putting on pounds at a steady rate, which will get difficult to manage if there is no regular exercise for at least 45 minutes a day.
. Coughs that would last for a couple of days are common.
. Headaches, fatigue, dizziness, insomnia and constipation are other common side effects of nicotine withdrawal.
Mental and emotional distress
. Since smoking gave you a sense of well-being, quitting it will make you irritable and depressed. If the symptoms of depression linger over a few weeks, it is advisable to consult a doctor.
. Smoking was a great stress buster, so the opposite is to be expected when u quit. Anxiety is a major distress every quitter has to deal with at this phase.
. It is going to get harder concentrating for a while and the super-powers of your short-term memory will start wearing off with withdrawal of nicotine from your body.
Time-line of withdrawal symptoms
. After about 30 minutes to 4 hours of taking a cigarette, the effects of nicotine starts wearing off and you start craving for a fresh cigarette. The quitter can control this phase.
. From 10 hours onwards after quitting, restlessness creeps in, as it gets harder to control the craving.
. 24 hours down the line, appetite starts to increase and so does the irritability.
. After 2 to 3 days the nicotine in your body would have completely drained out craving has reduced, but anxiety and loss of concentration are on the rise.
. By the second to fourth week, you start feeling better. The cough, anxiety and cravings have reduced completely. You start concentrating normally and your appetite is back to normal.
Treating nicotine withdrawal
. Join a ‘quit smoking’ support group. As most of the symptoms related to quitting are mental, you need support of like-minded people.
. If you cannot handle the withdrawal symptoms, consult with a doctor. He may prescribe you non-nicotine drugs that will help in soothing your cravings.
. There are numerous over the counter helps you can find at your local drug store ranging from nicotine chewing gums and patches to inhalers and nasal sprays. These supply nicotine in very small quantity and help you to gradually cope up with the quitting.
Secret to staying a quitter
Many of us have quit smoking numerous times until we are triggered smoke again. To stay a quitter, we need have to consciously try everyday to stay away from triggers that would lure us into this habit. For many of us, it may be drinking alcohol with friends or merely hanging out with friends that smoke. Identify your triggering and stay away from it. The longer period you refrain from smoking, the lesser effort you need to stay away from you trigger.