Nicotine withdrawal: What to expect when you’re quitting
8 August 2018 HEALTH & WELLNESS
By: Natasha Archary
Whether you have been smoking for a few weeks or years before you decide to quit, nicotine withdrawal is still terrible. It may bring relief that it’s the worst during the first week since you quit.
Nicotine is an addictive substance in cigarettes and cigars. A drug that can affect many parts of your body, especially the brain. It’s more difficult to quit if you’ve been smoking for years and smoke “like a chimney” (more than a pack a day). Over time your body and brain become dependent on nicotine, the head rush is intoxicating. Once that passes (after the first month or so) you can be sure you’re hooked on it.
With stricter laws around smoking in the country, many are making the decision to quit. It may be a wise choice but it’s not an easy one to make and going cold turkey means bracing yourself for a discomfort like no other.
To quit or not to?
You don’t need a thesis on the matter, smoking isn’t good for you. You’re knowingly inhaling harmful and intoxicating substances which filter into your lungs, affecting many vital organs. Let’s not forget that smoking has been linked to cancer.
The decision to quit is yours and yours alone to make. Whatever the reason for you starting, your reason to quit needs to be a valid and motivated one. One that nothing and no one can reverse or you’ll just cave to the cravings and start up again.
Is quitting easy?
Honestly? No. It’s as difficult as a drug addict trying to get sober and the withdrawal symptoms are similar. You need to have supportive and understanding friends and family who encourage your decision during this transition.
This may motivate you to continue on your newfound nicotine free path and they may hold you accountable if you do give in. Once you’ve made a decision to quit, it’s important to set a date for when you begin to transition to smoke-free.
Going cold turkey is advised because you have the shortest chemical withdrawal reaction. Many prefer to wean themselves of to avoid the horrible withdrawal symptoms.
Nicotine Withdrawal symptoms may differ but the most common are:
The uncontrollable shaky hands or feeling jittery will subside after the first week being nicotine-free.
- Nicotine cravings
Smelling the smoke from a cigarette or catching a whiff off a colleague who’s just had a smoke are not the only triggers for the craving. Your body is trying to adjust to the swift change and the craving is a natural part of the quitting process. You’ll have to learn to manage this.
- Shortness of breath
Ironically, once you quit smoking you will find it difficult to catch your breath.
- Flu-like symptoms
These may include fever, headache, nausea, sinusitis, persistent cough and body aches. It’s basically your body’s response to an unfamiliar state.
- Sleep irregularities
You may not be able to fall asleep for the first few days following your last cigarette. Insomnia is never fun but when all you’re thinking about is getting a smoke in, it’s a lot worse.
- Mood swings
Many smokers attribute their zen-like state to cigarettes, claiming smoking calms them down. Removing their happy fumes may be enough to trigger terrible mood swings.
- Cramps and constipation
It hurts oh how it hurts when your body is fighting for some normalcy. This too shall pass, just remember to drink lots of water and limit the alcohol consumption during the withdrawal stage.
Nicotine withdrawal is an intense experience but it’s a phase that won’t last forever. Don’t use the withdrawals as an excuse to start smoking again, find healthier ways to manage the symptoms. In the end, the benefits of quitting outweigh any short-term discomfort you will go through. As with anything in life, take it a step at a time or in this case, one cigarette less at a time.