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Smoking: Withdrawal Symptoms – What to expect

Smoking: Withdrawal Symptoms – What to expect

Everyone is aware of the dangers of smoking and how hazardous it is to our health. When you make that important and life-changing decision to stop smoking, it is necessary to understand the withdrawal symptoms that will arise. Let’s take a look at withdrawal symptoms as well as cravings that may result.

Nicotine is a drug found in tobacco and this is what makes smoking so addictive. Nicotine can have many effects on the brain, such as reducing irritability and depression, boosting moods, aiding concentration and short-term memory as well as reducing appetite.

Withdrawal symptoms are the side effects that occur when you stop using an addictive substance.

The most common symptoms of nicotine withdrawal include:

  • Severe cravings for nicotine
  • Sweating
  • Tingling sensations in hands and feet
  • Nausea
  • Cramping
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Weight gain

Let’s take a look at the stages that the body goes through during nicotine withdrawal:

  • Week one is usually known as the acute phase and it is the toughest part of the process as this is the time when the body is trying to normalise after constant exposure to nicotine.
  • Most of the symptoms that are experienced during the first week continue on through most of the process.
  • Nicotine withdrawal can begin 30 minutes after quitting and the severity of the symptoms will vary according to the length of time you used tobacco for and how often you used it.

Symptoms are usually at their highest in the first 3 to 5 days and then start fading slowly.

  • 4 HOURS after your last cigarette– the first craving begins – this is the time that your body starts wondering why you haven’t had a cigarette yet as this is usually the time you take a cigarette break, isn’t it? Try to avert your attention to something else such as a household chore – clean the kitchen and hopefully you will forget about the craving soon enough!
  • 10 HOURS after your last cigarette – you try to relax as it is nearly time for bed, however you start feeling restless and can’t relax enough to fall asleep. The thought of a cigarette keeps popping into your mind. In order to take your mind off of it, start your usual bedtime routine and get into bed.
  • ONE DAY LATER – it’s a tough morning without your usual cigarette break and you are experiencing mood swings which include irritability. This is to be expected so try to sit down and have a nice breakfast.
  • TWO DAYS LATER – you start experiencing terrible headaches, but just remember you are nearly two thirds through the toughest part of the process and by the time the evening arrives, the headache has probably subsided.
  • 5 DAYS LATER (60 HOURS) – By this time you are experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety – increase your water intake and do 30 minutes of cardio exercise to calm you down.
  • 3 DAYS LATER – The worst part is now over and the cravings have started to subside, as it takes 3 days for the body to have cleared all the nicotine from the last cigarette.
  • Other physical symptoms which occur during the first week include constipation, dizziness, and fatigue and stomach pain. Many smokers notice an increased tightness in the chest, mucus and a developing cough. This is just the way that the respiratory system is able to heal itself and remove all the toxins that it could not do before.

Weeks 2-4

  • Energy levels will be low for the first two to four weeks.
  • Mental fatigue should reduce in the first two weeks.
  • Appetite should return in the first four weeks.
  • Heartburn, nausea and stomach pain should reduce in the first 2 weeks, however constipation can last up to a month.
  • Coughing and mucus can last up to 3 weeks or longer.
  • Restlessness and boredom are usually the last side effects to wear off.

Week 5 onwards

It is now up to you to be vigilant and not be tempted by the memories of the good times you had while smoking. This will be a constant battle that you will have to fight, however it will be worth it as you will be a cleaner and healthier version of yourself!

Here are a few tips to help you fight those nasty withdrawal symptoms:

  • Create a support system – make sure that your close friends and family are there for you and understand that you might need them for support as your body goes through physical and emotional changes.
  • Reward yourself with something such as a new item of clothing or your favourite snack when you avoid the urge to smoke.
  • Keep your hands busy- your hands are used to holding a cigarette so keep those fingers busy by taking up a hobby such as knitting or simply find a great game on your phone to distract you.
  • Believe in yourself and think positively as this is the best way to achieve great things. If you believe in yourself and strive for a healthier lifestyle then the cravings and the withdrawal symptoms won’t get you down!

If you or anyone you know has recently quit smoking, please take note of the above so that you can fully understand the difficult process that lies ahead. However, with the right will power, support system and patience you will live a better life and you will realise it was all worth it!