What is nicotine withdrawal?

What is nicotine withdrawal?

Nicotine is the chemical that makes smoking addictive. Nicotine withdrawal feelings and symptoms refer to the physical and mental effects that a person who is dependent on nicotine experiences after they stop smoking.

These feelings and symptoms are temporary, but they can be tough to deal with. The good news is that withdrawal feelings and symptoms get less frequent as the body recovers from its dependence on nicotine. A positive way to look at these feelings is to think of them as an indication that the body is recovering from smoking. Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) and quit smoking medications can help you deal with nicotine withdrawal symptoms and feelings, including cravings. Speak to your doctor or pharmacist about your options.

How long does nicotine withdrawal last?

Nicotine withdrawal symptoms can last from a few days to a few weeks. Most cravings, however, only last a few minutes. The first week without cigarettes is often the hardest because your body expects its regular nicotine ‘hits’. After the first few weeks, you will have a much better chance of staying off the cigarettes. And after a month without cigarettes, you will be feeling much better.

How do I manage withdrawal feelings and symptoms?
  • See your doctor if notice any change in your mood when you stop smoking.
  • Speak to a friend or family member.
  • Jenny’s tip: “If you get a bit of depression as your body adjusts, just watch TV or sleep it off and it will pass, keep positive and have your distractions ready. It is just your brain having a tantrum because you are not giving it what it wants.”
Feeling tense and irritable, frustrated or anxious
  • Go for a walk.
  • Try some relaxation exercises.
  • Have a bath.
  • Try some gentle stretching or yoga.
  • Amanda’s tip: “I would drive down to the beach, take my shoes off, dig my feet into the sand and literally ground myself.”
Difficulty concentrating
  • Break large tasks down into smaller, more manageable parts.
  • Take regular breaks.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
Increased appetite
  • Try to eat a well-balanced diet.
  • Eat a decent-sized, healthy breakfast to kick start your metabolism – try toast, muesli, fruit, eggs.
  • Keep ‘craving busters’ on hand such as chopped up fresh fruit and vegetables.
Sleep problems
  • Avoid beverages containing caffeine (for example, coffee, tea, cola) particularly before bed.
  • Try relaxation exercises before bed.
  • Linda’s tip: “Insomnia was something I got bad, and the inability to concentrate for long periods of time. I guess what I am trying to say here is, learn what to expect as your body adjusts.”
Cough, dry throat and mouth, nasal drip (flu-like symptoms)
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Sit down and have a rest until the dizziness is gone.
Constipation, gas, nausea, diarrhoea
  • Drink lots of water.
  • Eat plenty of fruit, vegetables and high-fibre foods.

Be sure to speak to your doctor if any of these feelings or symptoms don’t go away.

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