The 3 Stages of Nicotine Withdrawal

by Dr Antonio Howell, MD

in quit smoking

Dr. Howell

Research has shown that the addictive properties of cigarettes are similar to that of heroin and cocaine. There’s no wonder why those who quit often experience undesirable symptoms. In fact, many people who have been addicted to cigarettes and other substances report that it is harder to quit smoking. Within several hours from your last cigarette, you may begin to experience the withdrawal symptoms. Fortunately, they are only temporary. Once you get through the withdrawal period, quitting smoking will become so much easier.

Stages of Nicotine Withdrawal

First Stage: Nicotine Craving


Several minutes to a few hours of not smoking will make you crave for cigarettes. Once a smoker develops an addiction to nicotine, he or she will most likely experience cigarette craving. Nicotine creates changes in the brain chemistry, affecting the areas involved in emotions and feelings of rewards and pleasure. Without nicotine, the smoker may feel anxious and irritable. These unwanted feelings grow larger the more the smoker resists his or her nicotine cravings.

Second Stage: Physical Symptoms



Quitting smoking also comes with undesirable physical symptoms. Long-time smokers who quit tend to suffer from cough, dry or sore throat, cold and flu symptoms, fatigue, headache, nausea, chest infections, and a lot more. Knowing they have to go through all these is one of the major reasons why many smokers delay, if not give up their goal of quitting. Smokers who quit may also encounter sleep issues. Nicotine cravings could wake them up in the middle of the night. Stress is also a risk factor for poor sleep. Since the withdrawal period can be very stressful, many smokers complain about sleeping problems, particularly light sleep and insomnia. Weight gain is another physical consequence of quitting smoking. Some smokers resist nicotine cravings through comfort eating.

Third Stage: Psychological Symptoms

For some, the mental stage of quitting smoking is the most difficult to bear. Aside from experiencing intense craving, the smoker may also suffer from other psychological symptoms such as impatience, restlessness, anxiety, frustration, even depression. Smokers undergoing smoking cessation may also struggle with concentration issues.

Dealing with Nicotine Withdrawal

The good news is that there are plenty of ways to overcome the withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting smoking. Among the most popular are the use of medications, NRT, and counseling. But before taking prescription medications as well as nicotine replacement therapy, seeking professional advice is necessary. Smokers can also resort to natural smoking cessation treatments. Making healthy lifestyle changes is also of prime importance. Smokers attempting to quit are encouraged to eat a balanced diet, stay active, and get enough of rest and sleep. For weight gain issues, exercise and proper weight control measures should combat these. Stress management techniques are also effective in overcoming nicotine cravings, anxiety and all the other psychological symptoms of withdrawal.

The stages of nicotine withdrawal may be difficult to handle. But it is possible to overcome them. Such stages are not permanent. After several weeks or months, the withdrawal symptoms will wane and there will be a greater chance of quitting smoking for good.

 


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