Many ex-smokers say quitting was the hardest thing they ever did. Yet millions of people have been able to do it—and you can, too.
Nicotine in tobacco is addictive. When you quit, the level of nicotine drops in your body. Because of addiction, your body wants more nicotine. Withdrawal is the way your body reacts to not having the nicotine it’s gotten used to. Withdrawal feels different for every smoker.
Symptoms can start within two to three hours after your last cigarette.
Smoking triggers are “high risk” situations or cues that bring on the urge to smoke. There are four types—most people experience at least one of each.
Knowing your triggers helps you learn what causes cravings. And then you can make a plan to manage them.
There are lots of ways for you to manage triggers and cravings.
Medications can reduce your withdrawal symptoms and double your chances of quitting for good. VA offers veterans all FDA-approved quit smoking medications.
Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)
Patches, gum, and lozenges are types of NRT. The patch is a long-acting form of NRT that releases a small, steady amount of nicotine through the skin. This helps satisfy your craving for nicotine. Gum and lozenges are a short-acting form of NRT. They release a small amount of nicotine into the lining of your mouth.
You can use combination NRT—a long-acting form and a short-acting form—to fight cravings. Use our NRT explorer to learn more about these products and how to combine them. You can get NRT from your VA health care provider or from your local pharmacy without a prescription.
This medication doesn’t contain nicotine. You do need a prescription to get it. It can help with withdrawal. And you can combine these pills with NRT for better results.
This medication doesn’t contain nicotine. You do need a prescription to get it. It can help with withdrawal and helps block the effects of nicotine from cigarettes if you start smoking again. Varenicline is not used in combination with any other medication.
VA patient medication guides describe how to use quit smoking medications.
You can use medications and other strategies to deal with triggers and cravings. In fact, taking a combination approach helps boost your chances of success. Take a look at some examples of physical things you can do to manage withdrawal.
Get active! Exercise is another solid tool for managing both cravings and stress. Even 10 minutes of activity can go a long way toward helping you manage cravings and stress.
For the first few weeks after you quit smoking, you may find it helpful to avoid places that trigger strong cravings. Go to places that don’t allow smoking—like shops, movie theaters, or any smokefree restaurants.
Replace smoking with a substitute behavior.
You can’t just get up and walk away from a trigger, but there are still many things you can do.
Find more ways to manage stress and emotions without smoking.
Quitting is tough. And many people slip up—they have one or two cigarettes. That’s a common part of quitting. If you have a slip, it could be harder for you to stay smokefree.
A slip is different from a relapse. A relapse means going back to smoking regularly.
You can learn from slips. They’re just temporary setbacks. You have not failed, and you’re not back to square one. A slip doesn’t make you a smoker again. It’s also not an excuse to relapse.
Prepare yourself to recover from slips and avoid a relapse. Counselors at 1-855-QUIT-VET can help you make a plan.
Need support? Get help on your quit journey.