Everybody knows that withdrawal comes with the territory of quitting, but that doesn’t make it any easier! It can be hard and even frustrating for the person quitting to deal with withdrawal and for those around the person. But understanding what’s going on, physically and psychologically, can help!
When smokers quit, they begin to go through some changes, some physical, some emotional. The physical symptoms, while annoying and difficult, are not life threatening. Nicotine replacement products such as the patch or gum can help reduce many of these physical symptoms. For most smokers, the bigger challenge is the psychological part of quitting.
This psychological part of smoking is really hard to beat because smoking becomes linked to so many things – things like waking up in the morning, eating, reading, watching TV, drinking coffee, etc. It’s like a ritual. Your body becomes used to having a cigarette with certain activities and will miss this link when you first become smoke-free.
It will take time to “un-link” smoking from these activities. Unfortunately, the patch or gum can’t relieve the psychological need to smoke. That’s why it’s so important for the smoker to create a plan to deal with situations that trigger their urge to smoke. Smokers can also ask friends and family for support with simple things like walking around the building before class instead of having a cigarette.
If and when a smoker goes through withdrawal, they need to keep this in mind. Even though they may not act like themselves, and they may feel rotten, these feelings will pass. After 30 days or so, and after they’ve quit smoking, all this will be behind them. In the meantime, here are some of the withdrawal symptoms smokers may experience and what they can do about them.
This is the body’s physical addiction saying, “I need nicotine now!” Each craving will last for only a couple of minutes and will eventually stop happening altogether in about seven days. Smokers should use nicotine replacement products to help reduce cravings. Smokers who still feel the urge, they can admit out loud to themselves or someone else that they are having a craving. Then they should count to one hundred and let the feeling pass – and it will, usually within a couple minutes.
“Help, I quit smoking and I can’t concentrate!” Some people say nicotine helps focus their attention. When they quit smoking, the increased blood flow and oxygen can lead to a feeling of mental fogginess. If this happens, they should try making lists and daily schedules to keep organized, then set aside some total relaxation time when they don’t have to concentrate on anything!
Trouble sleeping and fatigue are common symptoms of withdrawal. Because nicotine increases one’s metabolism to an abnormally high rate, when people stop smoking their metabolism drops back to normal, making them feel like their energy level has dropped. So what can they do? They need to get their body used to the new metabolic rate by getting plenty of sleep, whenever possible. Although sleep patterns may be interrupted at first, this is normal and temporary.
If you have snapped at someone or had a new non-smoker snap at you, you know what we are talking about. Irritability is caused by the body trying to adjust to the sudden disappearance of all those chemicals it has been used to. The best way to handle this is for smokers to simply be honest with those around them that they are trying to quit and they do not feel like themselves.
Be smoke-free! Sign-up for the email listserv today or call Health Promotion, Programs, and Education (an office within Health Services) at 501-569-8302 for more information.