Did you know that cigarette smoking alone accounts for over 480,000 deaths annually in the United States? That translates to 1 in 5 deaths and means that more than 15 per 100 individuals over the age of 18 are current smokers. And, even though the number of smokers has declined from 21 out of every 100 in 2005 to 15 in 2016, there are still over 16 million Americans suffering from smoking-related health problems.
What would happen if these individuals decided to quit smoking? They would experience withdrawal symptoms for a few weeks or months, but they would eventually be on the path toward positive changes in their overall health.
Nicotine Addiction and Withdrawal Symptoms
Nicotine, the main addictive component of cigarettes, is the cause for most addictions because it can trick the brain by reducing the symptoms of depression and improving mood, concentration and well-being. What some smokers do not understand is that these feelings are temporary, while the damage caused by tobacco and nicotine are more permanent.
Studies show that nicotine may be as addictive as drugs like cocaine and if not dealt with properly, can become a life-long habit. Along with causing severe addiction, cigarettes might also increase your risk for conditions like respiratory issues, heart disease, stroke and lung or oral cancers.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that as of 2015, 68 percent of current smokers claimed that they wanted to quit smoking completely.
Tips to quit smoking
- Pick a date and stick to it
- Remember that these withdrawal symptoms aren’t here to stay
- Ask for support from your friends, colleagues and family
- List out your personal reasons for quitting (children, personal health, etc.)
- Quit cold turkey
- Use nicotine patches or gums to gradually reduce nicotine intake
Symptoms of Nicotine Withdrawal
Just like smoking may temporarily make you feel energized and stress-free, quitting cigarettes can cause temporary withdrawal symptoms that can appear as soon as within half an hour of your last smoke. Its symptoms usually vary based on how long you’ve been a smoker and how many cigarettes you smoke a day.
Withdrawal symptoms can, however, be overcome with a commitment from you and encouragement from loved ones.
Look out for these symptoms if you have recently quit smoking:
- Weight gain
- Bipolar disorder and depression
- Dry mouth
- Hampered concentration
- Sleep problems
- Profuse sweating and tingling in the limbs
- Nausea and constipation
- Strong nicotine cravings
While these symptoms can reach their maximum intensity within the first few days of quitting, your doctor might be able to treat these symptoms, to help you deal with withdrawal without reaching out for another cigarette.
These treatments include nicotine replacement medicines like nicotine gums and skin patches that can provide a controlled dose of nicotine till you can deal with not getting any nicotine at all.
Some non-nicotine medicines like bupropion and varenicline might help with the withdrawal symptoms too.
So, whether you decide to quit cold turkey or prefer relying on nicotine replacement therapies to gradually quit smoking, understand that these withdrawal symptoms are a part of the quitting process and though it may be difficult to handle for the first few days or weeks, they can be overcome with the right coping strategies, medications, self-control and encouragement from your loved ones.
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Falck, S. (2018, March 23). Everything You Need to Know About Nicotine Withdrawal. Retrieved October 1, 2018, from https://www.healthline.com/health/smoking/nicotine-withdrawal
Smoking & Tobacco Use. (2018, September 24). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/adult_data/cig_smoking/index.htm