Nicotine withdrawal: (What You Need to Know)

Nicotine withdrawal


This article is important for all the smokers so that they can know all about the withdrawal symptoms that may occur when they are actively attempting to quit smoking.

The withdrawal symptoms present physiological and psychological problems and need to be carefully managed and may sometimes require professional help from certified and trained mental health practitioners. 

Nicotine withdrawal

What is Nicotine?

Nicotine is one of the major elements causing a number of diseases commonly.

Interestingly, it is also used to treat tobacco-caused disorders as a smoking withdrawal aid, or otherwise, the person could suffer from Nicotine withdrawal. 

This is a term used when a person tries to quit smoking and faces adverse symptoms due to extreme addiction.

Therefore, it can be inferred that nicotine does have some mild soothing analgesic effects on non-users but only if taken in a small specified amount by a physician. 

Nicotine Overdose:

Overdose of this drug might lead to some physical and psychological side effects like stress, anger, irritation, and sleeping problems.

It is a highly addictive drug, although the percentage of getting high from this drug is comparatively lower than other drugs, yet the addiction level is the same and equally injurious. 

When a person tries to quit smoking or nicotine intake, that is when the body starts to adapt to the change, and some adverse effects surface up.

These withdrawal symptoms make smoking difficult to quit. 

Although the withdrawal symptoms period doesn’t last more than a month, usually, but the symptoms are very strong, which makes smoking very hard to resist.

That is the reason most people who try and quit smoking usually end up getting more addicted after a few days of quitting because their body starts averting signs of adapting to a sudden change.

Thus understanding withdrawal symptoms can help people a lot who are trying to quit smoking. 

Understanding Nicotine Withdrawal

Nicotine withdrawal

Nicotine is a drug that affects most parts of a human body like the brain, lungs, and heart.

That is why when nicotine is taken in higher dosage and on a daily basis, it affects all these parts resulting in boosting mood, reducing anger and stress, reduced appetite, and enhanced memory. 

All these effects might sound good, but as these effects are not produced naturally and also nicotine ratio in the body rises gradually.

With raised nicotine levels on a regular basis, the body starts developing dependence or become addicted to Nicotine. 

When the nicotine supply is cut, all these positive effects fade away.

As a consequence of ‘nicotine’ dependence, the person experiences extreme anger, feels irritated, depressed, sleep disturbances, changes in hunger, and experiences an uncontrollable urge to smoke.

Now, if a person trying to quit smoking knows and understands what effects he is going to experience and mentally prepares himself/herself beforehand, the process of quitting becomes a bit easier.

And if he/she starts substituting all the bad habits with good ones like clean eating, surrounding himself/herself with positive and motivating people, and starting to develop an exercise routine for a healthy working body, then the process even becomes easier on physical-level too. 

Nicotine withdrawal symptoms

Nicotine withdrawal symptoms generally elevate from the third day after you have stopped smoking (or nicotine intake).

Hence, the first week of the withdrawal is considered to be the worst of all, because that is when the nicotine content is being cleared out from the body, and no further dosage is being given. 

Therefore, the body starts signaling the brain and experiences various symptoms of nicotine withdrawal.

Some of the withdrawal symptoms are discussed below:

Nicotine Withdrawal: Physical Symptoms

Everybody has a different internal mechanism, smoking pattern, and addiction level.

Hence, the symptoms could vary in each individual, but the most commonly observed physical symptoms during nicotine withdrawal are as follows:

  • Increased Hunger: After two or more days of withdrawal, the appetite of nicotine-user increases as the higher nicotine levels in the body causes one to lose his appetite. So, when the nicotine amount starts flushing out of the body, appetite increases. So an added adverse effect of quitting smoking could also be a good 5- 10 pounds gain in weight. 
  • Cravings for Nicotine: Resisting is the hardest part of the withdrawal, and these symptoms start as early as you have the last cigarette. Whether it is your body that is signaling to have nicotine or whether you see someone having a cigarette, nicotine craving will start. Although the craving pangs would last only for a few minutes but dealing with those few minutes gets tough, especially within the first week when all the toxicity of nicotine flushes out from the body. 
  • Headache: Headaches are the most common and early symptoms of withdrawal. They are not that strong mostly but could get worse once in a while with mild dizziness.
  • Smokers’ Cough: As a result of nicotine pollution, lungs tend to cleanse out all the toxins hence producing cough, which could last for fewer weeks until the lungs finally can completely have fresh oxygen.
  • Fatigue: Nicotine is an agonist for two chemicals, i.e., dopamine and serotonin, that are considered as happiness-chemicals (they are actually neurotransmitters). So, as soon as the nicotine supply is cut body starts getting tired, and feeling of fatigue and constant pain is quite normal during withdrawal.  
  • Change in sleep patterns: As the body tries to get adapted to new changes the sleeping patterns also change. Nicotine withdrawal might cause insomnia or difficulty in sleeping, which could make a person agitated.
  • Constipation: Another irritating symptom could be constipation.
  • Tremors: Tremors are also a common effect of withdrawal. People quitting smoking might sometimes observe severe tremors in hand.
  • Difficulty in concentrating: As the nicotine boosts up concentration, thus, when nicotine quantity lowers in the body, so the mind gets a little snooze, and so does the body, making it a little difficult for a person to concentrate.

PSYCHOLOGICAL SYMPTOMS:

Everyone varies in the ability to cope up with the withdrawal symptoms.

These symptoms could be better dealt with if understood comprehensively before the withdrawal phase kicks-in.

Because this would give ample time to prepare for how to deal with withdrawal symptoms. 

Nicotine withdrawal

However, the person who is attempting to get rid of smoking must stay prepared that despite all strategies, it gets a little overwhelming when someone is actually experiencing these withdrawal symptoms.

  • Stress and Anxiety: Nicotine functions as a stimulant for serotonin, which relieves stress and creates a feeling of happiness and well-being; thus, when nicotine supply is called off, the person begins to feel stressed. The sufferer may also experience chronic anxiety during the initial days of withdrawal. Therefore, it is important to be well aware of the possible symptoms of anxiety and stress-related issues. 
  • Depression: This effect is also very common with the withdrawers, and one might need extra assistance to deal with this symptom. In order to seek help, you must understand all about the psychopathological aspects of depression. 
  • Irritation and overwhelming feeling: While experiencing the withdrawal symptoms, a person may experience extreme anger, irritation, feelings of loneliness or overwhelm that may lead the person to smoke again. 


How to Deal With Nicotine Cravings?

Nicotine withdrawal

The cravings that smoker experiences while attempting to quit smoking, are one of the most difficult aspects of quitting-process.

Most people can’t resist these cravings and end up smoking a lot.

So it is important that while trying to quit smoking, the individual actively navigates through these urges. Below are some tips to help ease this:

  • Either lick a pinch of salt or have a sweet substitute to calm the craving. 
  • It is advised to keep all the cigarettes and lighters out of reach and sight
  • Ask support from family or friends and let them know that you are trying to quit so they are able to avoid talking about smoking around you.
  • You can also go about quitting smoking by making a detailed quitting plan

Nicotine Withdrawal: Diagnostic Aspect

There is no diagnosis for this as it is obvious that the symptoms a person is experiencing after quitting smoking are (most likely) due to quitting nicotine.

Although, a physician would ask about your smoking habits to know the intensity of the symptoms and advise you treatments and drugs accordingly.

Treatment Options for Nicotine Withdrawal

Nicotine withdrawal is not a disease or a phase that lasts for a longer period.

Rather, it is a series of various psychological and physical symptoms that our body starts to experience when there is a sudden change in the concentration of an addictive substance (i.e., nicotine in this case). 

Thus, the treatments vary from individual to individual because of patterns of smoking, physical and mental health, and other connecting factors.

There are medical treatments and also home remedies and counseling therapies for coping with this series.

Medicinal Treatment

There are a number of medicinal therapies that are used to treat nicotine withdrawal symptoms.

Some of the most used and effective ones are as follows:

1. NICOTINE PATCH:

The most common and first approach of any quitter is the nicotine page. These patches are readily available and are very easy to use.

These patches allow a very minute amount of nicotine to be absorbed through the skin and enter the body to control and quit smoking. 

This is because a sudden and complete withdrawal of any addiction could even cause severe effects.

Therefore, nicotine patches are used to control the nicotine withdrawal symptoms.

Common effects that nicotine patches can cause skin irritation and insomnia.

2. NICOTINE GUM:

The nicotine gum again contains a mild amount of nicotine, which allows nicotine to enter your body by simply chewing this gum and hence fighting nicotine withdrawal symptoms.

This gum is also advised to curb the sudden cigarette cravings. Common effects of this gum could be mouth irritation and nausea.

3. E-Cigarettes:

Electronic cigarettes are a substitute for standard tobacco cigarettes and contain a small amount of nicotine and other harmful substances, thus are much less harmful than normal cigarettes.

However, it can’t be used for a permanent escape from smoking, and also the effects of this cigarette on health are not known.

4. Antidepressants:

Physicians may prescribe relaxants and antidepressants, which helps in increasing the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine.

These relaxants and antidepressants, therefore, works as a substitute for nicotine but has a positive effect and also helps in curbing the nicotine craving.

As a word of caution, such psychoactive medicines should only be taken with the prescription of a physician; otherwise, they may affect adversely.

Home Treatments & Counseling

Other than medication, there are also some self-help treatments that could help to fight these symptoms.

Treatments Involving Lifestyle Changes

  • Exercising regularly,
  • Surrounding yourself with non-smokers,
  • Curb cravings by having gums or tasting salt,
  • Avoid the vision of people smoking,
  • Keep all the tobacco products out of sight,
  • Just remember why you started the quitting process,
  • Eat healthily,
  • Stay motivated by talking to your partner or other friends.

Counseling and Psychotherapy

In addition to medicinal treatments and self-help techniques, psychotherapy and counseling help ease the withdrawal symptoms to a great extent.

1. ONLINE COUNSELLING:

Join online counseling programs to share your symptoms and feelings if you do not feel like sharing with any known person of yours.

2. Group counseling:

Join a group counseling program to surround yourself with more positive and quitting energy.

These groups not only provide counseling but include various techniques that could help in inhibiting the symptoms and also could take your mind off smoking.

3. Telephone counseling:

If you do not feel like going to some group or you want access to counseling from anywhere you are, then you can always opt for telephone counseling anytime and anywhere.

Some Helpful Resources:

  1. “Stop Smoking, Ease Nicotine Withdrawals & Control Cravings” is an audio book that is focused around helping people dealing with nicotine withdrawal.
  2. There are several options in nicotine patches and you may consult with a GP before opting one of these.
  3. You may also explore options available for nicotine gums.
  4. “I Quit: Stop Cigarettes Now! Nicotine Withdrawal Help From A Habit Tracker and Motivational Journal” is a great journal that helps you through the withdrawal symptoms and increases the likelihood of overcoming them successfully. 
  5. Another nice book that helps in dealing with withdrawal symptoms is “Stop The Craving And Smoking Habits: The Practical Strategies To Help You Survive The Nicotine Addiction And Start The Healthy Habits”

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What are the physical symptoms that indicate nicotine withdrawal?

The symptoms could vary in each individual because of their different internal mechanisms; usual symptoms are that the patient could experience hunger, resistance, headache, and cough

2.  What are the psychological symptoms observed?

The patient might experience stress, remain anxious most of the time, may feel miserable and could get irritated quickly.

3 .Is there a possible treatment of nicotine withdrawal?

Nicotine withdrawal is not a disease or a phase that lasts for a more extended period.

It is a series of various psychological and physical symptoms that our body starts to advertise when there is a sudden change in the chain of addiction.

Thus the treatments vary from individual to individual because of patterns of smoking, physical and mental health and other connecting factors.

There are medical treatments and also home remedies and counselling therapies for coping with this series.

4. Is there any medicinal treatment available?

There are several treatments available, such as a nicotine patch.

These patches are readily available and are very easy to use.

Other than that there are nicotine gums, E-cigarettes that can be used to relieve symptoms.

5. Can we possibly treat the patient with any home remedy?

There are several home remedies available, and they are quite useful.

The patient can exercise regularly, surround themselves with non-smokers.

Eat healthily and stay motivated by talking to their partners.

Q6. Is online counselling helpful to prevent it?

Online counselling programs can be helpful to share your symptoms and feelings if you do not feel like sharing with any known person of yours.

Other than that, group and telephone counselling is also available to help. 

Conclusion

No matter how long you have been smoking or how hard you feel, it is to give up smoking, and it is never too late to quit.

It is not injurious to health but also injurious to the environment as the smoke contains carcinogens.

With the right amount of dedication and support, one can always get rid of this deadly addiction.

The symptoms last for only a few weeks, but the benefits last for a lifetime. 

References

  1. What is nicotine withdrawal?
  2. How to Cope with Nicotine Withdrawal Symptoms
  3. Treatment options for nicotine dependence
  4. How to handle withdrawal symptoms and triggers when you are trying to quit smoking
  5. Symptoms of nicotine withdrawal and how to handle them

Nicotine withdrawal: (What You Need to Know)

Juanita Agboola

Juanita Agboola is the editor in chief of HFNE and an expert in mental health online. She has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues since 2012. All Guides are reviewed by our editorial team which constitutes various clinical psychologists, PhD and PsyD colleagues.