Most smokers are very aware of how they feel when they stop smoking‚ but they may not know why. Nicotine is the main addictive substance in cigarettes and other forms of tobacco. About 80—90% of regular smokers are addicted to nicotine. 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, which can be uncomfortable. For most people, the worst of the symptoms only last a few days to a couple weeks. Many people just can't handle how they feel after they quit. They start smoking again to feel better. Most people slip up in the first week after quitting. This is when feelings of withdrawal are strongest. It helps to be prepared and know what to expect so you can stay smokefree.
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What are the Symptoms of Nicotine Withdrawal?
Withdrawal is different for every smoker‚ but here is a list of the most common symptoms:
- Feeling down or sad
- Having trouble sleeping
- Feeling irritable‚ on edge‚ grouchy
- Having trouble thinking clearly and concentrating
- Feeling restless and jumpy
- Slower heart rate
- Feeling more hungry or gaining weight
Medications and behavior changes can help manage the symptoms. Remember that these symptoms‚ including cravings‚ will fade with every day that you stay smokefree.
Why do I Still Want to Smoke? The Other Withdrawal Symptoms Stopped Weeks Ago.
For many smokers‚ the craving for a cigarette lasts longer than the other symptoms of withdrawal. This is because cravings can be set off by reminders of smoking. These reminders are sometimes called triggers. There are many people, places, and things that trigger a craving. This means it's important to have a plan for how you'll handle a craving when it hits.
Is Withdrawal from Nicotine Dangerous?
Although withdrawal can be uncomfortable and some people may feel high levels of symptoms‚ there is no health danger 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 week or so.
Some people do 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.
Can I Take Medication for Withdrawal?
Yes! Using medicines can double your chances of quitting for good. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you have questions. Remember, medication will help, but it won't do all the work. Be prepared for cravings and explore other quit methods that you can combine with medication.
Here are some of the medicines that can help with feelings of withdrawal:
Nicotine Gum‚ Patch‚ Inhaler‚ Spray‚ and Lozenge (NRT)
Nicotine gum‚ patches‚ inhalers‚ sprays‚ and lozenges are called nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). That's because they take the place of nicotine from cigarettes. NRT can help with withdrawal and lessen your urge to smoke. You need a prescription to buy the inhaler and nasal spray. But you can buy nicotine gum‚ nicotine patches‚ and nicotine lozenges without a prescription. If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant‚ talk to your doctor or pharmacist before using NRT.
Bupropion SR pills
Bupropion SR is a medicine that has no nicotine. You need a prescription to get these pills. They seem to help with withdrawal and lessen the urge to smoke. Some people have side effects when using bupropion SR pills. The side effects include dry mouth and not being able to sleep. Ask your doctor‚ dentist‚ or pharmacist if this medicine is right for you. Make sure to use it the way your doctor prescribes it.
This medicine is not right for:
- Pregnant women
- People who have seizures
- People with eating disorders
- Heavy drinkers
Varenicline is also a medicine that has no nicotine. You need a prescription to get these pills. This drug may help those who wish to quit by easing their withdrawal symptoms and by blocking the effects of nicotine from cigarettes if they start smoking again. The side effects include stomach issues, like nausea, and vivid dreams. There have been rare reports of mood swings‚ depression, and suicidal thoughts. Your doctor will want to monitor this carefully. Ask your doctor‚ dentist‚ or pharmacist if this medicine is right for you. Make sure to use it the way your doctor prescribes it.
This medicine is not right for:
- People with kidney problems
- Women who are pregnant‚ plan to become pregnant‚ or are breastfeeding
I'm Thinking About Using NRT. What Should I Know?
- Ask your doctor‚ dentist‚ or pharmacist if nicotine gum‚ the patch‚ or some other kind of NRT is right for you. These medicines can cause side effects in some people. Some people should not use NRT without a doctor's help. Pregnant women are a good example.
- Be patient. Using NRT correctly can take some getting used to. Follow the instructions and give it some time.
- Don't mix tobacco and NRT. Having one or two cigarettes while you use the gum‚ patch‚ nasal spray‚ inhaler‚ or lozenge is not dangerous‚ but your goal is to quit smoking for good. Use NRT only when you're ready to stop smoking. If you slip and smoke a cigarette‚ don't give up on NRT.
- Start out using enough medicine. Use the full amount of NRT in the instructions. Don't skip or forget to use your NRT after you first stop smoking.
- Slowly use less and less medicine, but don't stop completely until you're ready. You can set up a schedule with your doctor or pharmacist.
- Keep some of the medicine with you after you stop using it. This way you'll be ready for an emergency.
- Wait a half hour after using the gum‚ lozenge‚ or inhaler before you eat or drink anything acidic (like tomatoes‚ oranges‚ lemons‚ grapefruit‚ coffee‚ soda). Acidic foods and drinks can keep nicotine gum and inhalers from working.