Nicotine Withdrawal

What to Expect and What to Do

For folks addicted to nicotine in any of its forms, stopping means you will encounter some withdrawal symptoms. However, these symptoms can vary widely from person to person. The discomfort caused may not be directly related to the amount of nicotine you’ve been using or the length of time you’ve been using it. Symptoms can increase and decrease, stay the same, or come and go. Just like your relationship with tobacco/nicotine is uniquely yours, your withdrawal experience may be unique to you.

So, while there may not seem to be any rhyme nor reason, there are some general observations that can help us know what to watch for and what to do about it. Most symptoms end within 2 to 4 weeks. Knowing that they’re temporary can help you hold on to your freedom. When the symptoms occur distract yourself as best you can and relieve the symptoms if you can.

Remember, people don’t die from nicotine withdrawal!

IRRITABILITY is due to your body’s cravings for nicotine. Try taking a walk, a hot bath, and learn some relaxation exercises. One of my favorites is taught by Dr. Jud Brewer in the video right here!

FATIGUE is due to the lack of nicotine (a stimulant.) Take naps when you need to. Be gentle with yourself during this temporary adjustment phase.

INSOMNIA is a result of nicotine’s effects on brain wave function. Avoid caffeine later in the day and try relaxation exercises.

COUGHING, DRY THROAT, NASAL DRIP may occur as your body tries to get rid of mucous that has blocked airways. Drink plenty of water. Cough drops may help, too.

DIZZINESS might occur as your brain and body adjust to getting extra oxygen. Just be careful changing positions.

LACK OF CONCENTRATION can happen as your brain and body adjust to the lack of stimulation from nicotine. Plan your workload and avoid additional stress.

TIGHTNESS IN CHEST may be caused by tension due to lack of nicotine or increased stress. Deep breathing, hot baths, and relaxation exercises can help. (And remember – all of these symptoms are temporary.)

CONSTIPATION, GAS, STOMACH PAIN can occur because intestinal movement decreases for a brief period. Drinking lots of fluids and add fiber to diet (fruits, vegetables, whole grain cereals.)

WANTING A CIGARETTE may be related to the drop in nicotine, or it could be due to a familiar behavior that used to occur when smoking (coffee, driving, etc.) We call those behavioral triggers and distracting yourself and exercising are good strategies.

HUNGER may occur when you confuse a nicotine craving with hunger pangs. Drinking water or low-calorie drinks and having low calorie snacks available can help.

HEADACHES can occur because there is more oxygen and less carbon in your system. Drinking water and practicing your relaxation exercises will help.

How You Think About it Matters!

If you look at the temporary discomfort as evidence that your body is changing, it may be easier to be patient with these symptoms. Your body is working to recover – get stronger – heal itself! That’s pretty exciting, even while unpleasant. In groups we often talk about “paying the ransom.” Maybe these temporary symptoms are the price you need to pay for your freedom. Pay the ransom! You’re worth it.

Thanks for taking good care of you!

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