Due to its highly addictive nature, nicotine dependence has been compared to that of alcohol, cocaine, and even heroin. Because of this, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that nicotine withdrawal symptoms can get pretty overwhelming. It’s possible to deal with them effectively, but first, let’s get some background insight into them.
Why It Happens
The nicotine “hit,” as it’s commonly referred to, is caused by the sudden release of dopamine – a pleasure hormone. The brain connects the feelings of joy with nicotine intake, and since the hits don’t last long, receptors crave them as soon as the effect wears down.
Only one cigarette has approximately 10 puffs, which is equal to 10 nicotine hits. The more a person smokes, the more the brain gets addicted to it.
Unfortunately, individuals can develop nicotine addiction in a concise amount of time and after smoking just a few cigarettes. Receptors always seek nicotine in order to get activated, and when they don’t receive it, withdrawal symptoms occur. To deal with these symptoms easier, it’s important to recognize them as they begin to onset.
Recognizing the Symptoms
Inability to Concentrate
Some of the other common withdrawal effects are constipation, fever, headaches, emotional instability, depression, fatigue, and insomnia.
Hours/Days After Quitting
If you’ve managed to resist the urges, within 8 hours, the nicotine levels in your blood will have dropped to almost 0%. Carbon monoxide levels are halved, and the number of oxygen increases. At this point, it’s normal to feel irritable, nervous, and fatigued.
The cravings are still going to be healthy, and you might even have trouble sleeping, but this is a sign that they’ll subside very soon. Your appetite is going to skyrocket, especially for sweet foods.
Weeks After Quitting
Near the end of week 4, the circulation/blood pressure is further improved. The risks of a heart attack drop all around, and lung function is better.
Months/Years After Quitting
Withdrawal symptoms are at an all-time low, but an event could still trigger a nicotine craving, albeit much more milder. Your cholesterol is back to normal, and after 15 years, your heart disease risks are back to that of a non-smoker.
Dealing With the Symptoms
Avoid triggers. Cravings will happen no matter how hard you try to avoid them, but you can at least reduce their frequency. They might be caused by being around other people who smoke or any other event which your brain associates with nicotine.
Find out what they are and do your best to avoid them. Remember that cravings last only for a couple of minutes. Take a walk, chew on gum, breathe deeply – anything to get your mind off of the craving.
Exercise. Alongside the well-known health benefits, regular physical activity has a significant positive impact on your mental strength. Hitting up the gym or going for a jog when you feel your mood shifting can act as a way to let off steam.
Furthermore, studies have shown that people usually gain 5 to 10 pounds in the first two weeks after they quit smoking due to the increased appetite. Exercising regularly will help keep the weight at bay while still allowing you to eat guilt-free.
Develop a routine. It’s common for people to resort to eating as a way to fill in the time during which they smoked/vaped. Find a new, healthy hobby which you’ll do in your free time, such as reading a book, learning a new skill, or going out for a walk. If you do start to snack more often, try to do it with healthy fruits and veggies to prevent unnecessary weight gain.
Believe in yourself. Many people before you managed to quit smoking, and there’s no reason why you can’t do it too. It’s not pleasant, and it surely isn’t easy. Even if you do happen to relapse, don’t beat yourself up over it. Identify the issue, develop a plan, and try again.
Long-term smokers most commonly use nicotine-free prescription medication. Although they have the highest success rate, they carry a lot of risks with them, which is why they should be used only as a last resort. Before considering this type of therapy, make sure to consult a medical professional.
A support group can also be of enormous help. By attending their meetings, you’ll be able to meet those who are fighting the same battle as you are. Knowing that you’re not alone and having a group of people by your side can make your journey a whole lot easier.