People who stop using nicotine may experience irritability, anxiety, depression, sweating, headaches, insomnia, confusion, cramps and weight gain. Understanding what feelings and symptoms that accompany nicotine withdrawal is important because there are steps you can take to manage your symptoms. Most nicotine withdrawal symptoms are short-lived and they pass in time, usually in less than a week. People may try the methods mentioned below to tackle nicotine withdrawal symptoms.
- Dress to stay cool and drink plenty of water. Metabolic changes and increased circulation after quitting smoking may result in sweating and distress.
- Withdrawal may cause blood pressure to dip and cause headaches. Take some ibuprofen or acetaminophen and try deep breathing or meditation. It will relieve some anxiety from withdrawal.
- Smoking can cause peptic ulcers and other digestive ailments. As your digestive tract recovers, you may feel temporary discomfort. Avoid spicy, irritating foods as you wait for this phase to pass.
- Nicotine is a stimulant, so it definitely affects your sleep–wake cycle. Treat yourself to extra soothing activities before bedtime—a warm bath, a head massage or total quiet.
- If you aren't using a nicotine replacement treatment, you may have cravings. Cravings last only a few minutes, but will feel much longer at first. Stay busy, especially during times when you used to smoke. Plan a small snack or distracting task during these times such as chewing on roasted nuts, sugar-free gum, etc.
- Frustration of leaving your desire for nicotine unfulfilled affects your mood. You will feel irritable. Talk to your friends about your mood. Going for a walk or other exercise can take the edge off.
- Smokers with pre-existing anxiety disorders have a harder time quitting. Other quitters may have new feelings of anxiety. Anticipating this frame of mind and knowing that it's related to quitting is the first step. Try to wait it out or take a break to talk to a friend who knows what you are going through.
- Some of the prescription drugs for smoking cessation treatment also treat depression. If you are quitting without those, realize that you may start to feel down. Rely on your support system and engage in distractions during your transition to the non-smoking life.
- Your circulatory system is making positive adjustments after you quit, which can create some new sensations. A tingle in the extremities is a good thing; do not get frustrated by it.
- Nicotine gives smokers focus and clarity. Its absence can make you feel a bit foggy. When confusion takes over, stop. If you're in the middle of a task, take a break. Confusion gradually dissipates as you adjust to the absence of nicotine.
- Weight gain following smoking cessation is mostly due to a decreased metabolic rate, increased food intake and decreased physical activity. Moreover, an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase (LPL), which affects the fat cells’ metabolism, becomes more active after you quit. Some appetite control agents, including leptin and neuropeptide Y, are influenced by nicotine. People who are concerned about gaining weight are more likely to relapse after quitting. Exercise would be a great substitute for smoking if you're concerned about gaining weight.
What are the common signs and symptoms of nicotine withdrawal?
Smoking affects many parts of the body, including the heart, hormones, metabolism and brain. Apart from weight gain, people may experience the following side effects immediately after smoking cessation.
How soon will I benefit after I quit smoking?
Benefits may start within a few days and you may feel normal within a few months.
- Blood pressure and heart rate stabilize. Circulation improves.
- Carbon monoxide levels in the blood reduce and may be eliminated.
- Oxygen level normalizes and the risk of a heart attack is usually reduced.
- Lungs can hold more air and breathing becomes easier.
- Lung function and blood circulation improve.
Within a month
Within a year or two
- The risk of heart problems reduces by half in non-smokers compared to the risk in smokers.
- Risk of cancer reduces gradually.
Discuss ways to manage your withdrawal symptoms with your doctor. Your doctor might suggest over-the-counter nicotine replacement medications such as nicotine gum or vape kits if they're allowed in your country or state. They may also provide you information about support groups in your community or prescribe nicotine replacements. Nicotine replacements can help reduce the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal because they help you slowly decrease your nicotine intake. Getting over nicotine withdrawal is often very difficult, but with some preparation and determination you’ll be sure to overcome the challenge.