Everything You Ever Wanted to Know (But Were Afraid to Ask) About Withdrawal

Saturday, November 24, 2012

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Most smokers experience withdrawal when they quit smoking. Although they’re very aware of how they feel when they stop smoking, they may not know why.

Here is what you need to know about withdrawal:

  • Nicotine causes withdrawal
    About 80–90 percent of people who smoke regularly are addicted to nicotine. It’s the main addictive substance in cigarettes and other forms of tobacco. Nicotine is a drug that affects many parts of your body, including your brain. Over time, your body and brain get used to having nicotine in it.


    When you stop smoking, your body has to adjust to no longer having nicotine in its system. Withdrawal is your body adjusting to not having nicotine.

    If you have tried to quit before, then you know that some of this adjusting can be unpleasant, but you can get through it. For most people, the worst of the symptoms only last a few days to a couple weeks.


  • You may not feel like yourself
    Withdrawal is different for every smoker, but here's a list of the most common symptoms: craving cigarettes; feeling down or sad; having trouble sleeping; feeling irritable, on edge, or grouchy; having trouble thinking clearly and concentrating; feeling restless and jumpy; slower heart rate; and feeling more hungry or gaining weight. Remember that symptoms, including craving cigarettes, will fade the longer you stay smokefree. 


  • You may still want to smoke
    For many smokers, the craving for a cigarette lasts longer than the other symptoms of withdrawal. This is because craving can be set off by reminders of smoking. These reminders are often called “triggers.”

    There are probably many places and things that remind you of smoking and trigger a craving. This means it is important to have a plan and a few ways you will handle cravings. Over time, as smoking is no longer part of your life, activities will no longer remind you of smoking.


  • You may feel down
    Some people experience increased sadness after quitting smoking. This is especially important to watch for if you have ever had depression. If you do become depressed and are having extreme sadness, you should get help. 


  • Withdrawal is not dangerous
    Although withdrawal can be uncomfortable, there are no health dangers from nicotine withdrawal. In fact, quitting smoking is the best thing you can do for your health. Even extreme withdrawal symptoms will fade in a few minutes.


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