Nicotine withdrawal symptoms are a huge challenge for smokers trying to quit tobacco. Of course we all know that. If you’re a smoker you know that better than anyone and you don’t exactly need someone in a white lab coat explaining that to you.
The statistics on quitting smoking are grim. Thus far, the options that have been approved by the FDA have had a limited success rate. Very limited. That is not to say that those ‘approved’ options are not worth exploring, they are, but given the big picture nothing could possibly be more obvious than the fact that smokers need more help and more options to escape the dangers of tobacco.
Ecigs may be an option for many people and the fact that many health agencies are leading efforts to vilify vaping indicates a severe departure from logic. Websites like StillBlowingSmoke.org are chalk full of fear and misinformation and it begs the question of determining the real motivations at work. Is the pharmaceutical lobby so intent in protecting their smoking cessation monopoly that they will do anything to protect it?
Smoking and nicotine addiction are still a daily part of life for millions and burying our head in the sand and pretending smoking is not the issue that it used to be is a gross disservice to those of us still struggling to find an answer.
Escaping the dangers of smoking and tobacco depends on either replacing or overcoming the addiction to nicotine that is just so powerful. You can do it and when you do you are going to have accomplished something spectacular.
Overcoming nicotine withdrawal symptoms is the key to moving forward with a healthier, cleaner, better smelling, better tasting smoke free life. The list of symptoms of nicotine withdrawal can be a long one. Symptoms may include:
- Anger / Irritibility
- Digestive issues
- Decreased Heart Rate And Blood Pressure
- Drowsiness And Insomnia
- Difficulty With Concentration
- Increased Hunger That May Lead To Weight Gain
- Craving For Sweet, Sugary Foods
- The Urge To Smoke A Cigarette
Not everyone will experience all of these signs of nicotine withdrawal. Everyone is different but there are a few symptoms that seem to be more prevalent than others.
Understanding Nicotine Withdrawal Symptoms
The nicotine withdrawal issues that most of us notice right away are the irritability, headache, nausea, and anxiety. Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can ever do for yourself but the fact is that you might experience some of these symptoms. There will be days and moments when you will not be yourself.
Talk to your family and tell them that while you are going through this there may be times when they will need to bear with you.
They will support you in this but they also have to understand that you’re going to be going through some of these nicotine withdrawal symptoms issues. There will be challenging moments but the end result is well worth it.
If you are a smoker there is nicotine in your bloodstream right now. When that nicotine reaches your brain it stimulates reactions that cause your brain to say “this is cool so give me more”.
That nicotine molecule is very similar in shape and size to a neurotransmitter known as acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is involved in a large number of brain functions and stimulates the release of additional neurotransmitters and hormones that directly impact your mood, memory appetite and more. The nicotine molecule also activates parts of the brain that create sensations of pleasure and reward.
Understanding how nicotine affects the brain you can see why the addiction is so strong. That nicotine in your bloodstream right now is decreasing as you read this. As it decreases, your brain will urge you more and more to pick up a cigarette and give it a fix. Just remember where those cravings come from and know that they will pass. YOU are in charge here, not a bunch of molecules and neurotransmitters!
The amount of nicotine in 1 cigarette comes in at about 8 mg to 12 mg. When you smoke a cigarette, your body will absorb about 1 mg of that nicotine.
As you smoke you build up the level of nicotine in your system. The intensity of your nicotine withdrawal will be effected by the overall level of nicotine in your system. The more cigarettes you smoke, the higher that level will be.
If you plan on quitting smoking on a certain date, try to cut down before that date. It will be tempting to smoke a lot up until that time and justifying it by saying “I’m quitting soon so I might as well smoke a lot now and enjoy.” This type of “binge smoking” might actually make it harder for you to manage nicotine withdrawal.
The more nicotine that you have been giving your brain, the more that it will want. It’s like a spoiled brat that is used to getting its way and wants more and more. When you take that nicotine away, your brain may have a short term issues with fuzziness and a lack of clarity as it adjusts to operating without so much artificial stimulus. It’s not going to be happy.
Nicotine Withdrawal Timeline
The nicotine withdrawal timeline kicks in to action almost immediately. About 20 minutes after your last cigarette, you heart rate and blood pressure will start to head toward normal levels. That’s how fast your body reacts. Your body is amazing and it wants to heal.
As soon as that nicotine level starts to go down, your brain is going to start nudging you toward considering lighting another cigarette. It won’t be a real craving at this point but thoughts of a cigarette are likely.
This is your brain’s way of saying “Hey, I don’t really need the nicotine now but I sure hope you plan on giving me some more soon. Don’t forget.”
Two or three hours after that last cigarette, your heart rate and blood pressure will be in the range of medically normal. The cravings will increase as the neurotransmitters in the brain that control heart rate will be asking for more nicotine. The nicotine level in your system will be dropping and the cravings are going to start really showing up right about now or shortly after. This is the first real test and usually you can get through this one. You ignore the craving and after a while it passes. You go about your day.
About 10 or 12 hours later your cravings intensify. Nicotine withdrawal symptoms are starting to get real! Your brain is saying “What gives! The day is almost over, it’s time to get some rest. Knock off this silly ‘nicotine deprivation’ experiment. You can quit smoking later. Come on! Just have a cigarette and let’s get some rest. We’ll think about quitting tomorrow.”
Yes, all sorts of justifications for smoking will come to mind. ‘Tomorrow you’ll quit for sure.’ ‘Just one more cigarette.’ You know how it goes. But, you hold firm and refuse to give in. This is when you may feel restless, irritated or anxious. It may be hard to sleep. Hang in there, relax, remember you are in charge. Get some sleep and prepare for Day 2.
The nicotine withdrawal timeline tells us that you may not be yourself the day after you quit smoking. The next day the anger and irritability will probably be front and center. If you are prepared and your family and coworkers are prepared, you will get through this discomfort as well. It’s going to be a rough day but nothing you can’t handle.
The next day you may experience headaches. The irritability is still there as well. You may be experiencing a range of nicotine withdrawal symptoms. Just keep your mind on the end goal. Also, keep in mind the fact, the absolute proven fact that just one day after taking your last puff of a burning, toxic tobacco cigarette you have already begun to reduce your risk of a heart attack. How awesome is that? As our quitting smoking timeline shows, after only one day your health is already better off.
You make it through to day three. The cravings seem worse, not better at all. There is a reason for that. 72 hours after the last cigarette the nicotine will be gone from your system. Your brain will be in a very demanding, perhaps relentless mood.
Three to five days after your last smoke your cravings will be at their worst as your brain desperately tries to convince you that it needs nicotine now. It will use every dirty trick in the book to get you to light up. You will probably experience a number of nicotine withdrawal symptoms. You need to hang in there.
You know what you need to think about? Think about the medically proven fact that three days after your last cigarette your body is regenerating.
It’s true. By this point you will notice that you are less winded and that you can taste your food. It’s amazing to think about how fast the body recovers from smoking given a chance to do so.
Hang in there, today, the third, fourth and fifth days will probably be the worst.
The first week is the hardest. You may also notice that you are coughing up some mucus or still experiencing smokers cough. That is because your lungs are beginning to function normally again and they are doing some cleaning. The cilia in the lungs are starting to be able to do their job and clear out some of the gunk that has accumulated from smoking cigarettes.
Now, your brain is going to miss the pleasure and satisfaction of smoking. To compensate, it may want something else and most often that something else is food. Many times sweets and desserts. That is why so many people experience weight gain when they quit smoking.
Nicotine withdrawal duration can vary from person to person. Most nicotine withdrawal symptoms should diminish from the second to fourth week. You will notice the changes. If you experience fuzziness or confusion, that is usually gone after two weeks. It all will pass.
The first priority is to avoid lighting a cigarette. That is number one. Mitigating some of the side effects of nicotine withdrawal is actually not a bad problem to have because it means that you are winning and not giving in to the cravings. There are things that you can do to help.
How To Deal With Nicotine Withdrawal
There is no magic answer for how to deal with nicotine withdrawal. Then again, the same can be said for any endeavor so no worries, we find what works for us as individuals.
For some people a journal may help. Every time a nicotine craving arises, write it down. Write your goals and what is helping you not smoke. Your journal will be a record of your will and your success.
Many people find that doing something with their hands helps. Instead of a cigarette in your hands, have something else there. One great thing you can keep in your hands is a glass of water and drink a lot of it. It will help your body with the detoxification process that is underway as you rid yourself of tobacco contaminants. Maybe get yourself a Rubik’s Cube or do puzzles. Build a model, cook a healthy meal, or learn to juggle. Keeping your hands active may help you manage those cravings when they are at their worst.
The bottom line is that it won’t be easy but one universal answer that can help everyone with how to deal with nicotine withdrawal is to change routines. Change the routines that were associated with smoking. For example, if you like a cigarette with your morning coffee then instead of a cigarette take a walk with your morning coffee. Play Super Mario with your morning coffee. Just change it up with something else that you will enjoy.
We are all different and what might help Bob manage his nicotine withdrawal symptoms may not help Tricia manage hers. Changing routines will be about individual choices that suit you.
One thing that we all do have to be aware of is avoiding the triggers that caused us to smoke in the past. Those familiar triggers can activate nicotine withdrawal symptoms. For example being around smokers can intensify cravings. Try and avoid those situations. Other smokers will understand that it is not personal, you just need to be somewhere else when they are smoking. You might even inspire them to try to quit as well.
Stress can trigger cravings. That’s a big one. Smoking may have been a part of your stress management routine in the past but that ends now. You can manage your stress other ways.
There are a lot of resources out there with a number of tips to help you manage stress. Always remember that you may not be able to control everything that happens but you can control how you react to it.
Another very positive thing that you could do to help manage nicotine withdrawal symptoms would be to introduce an exercise routine. You are going to be feeling better, you will have the ability to exercise without being instantly winded. It is a great time to start enjoying the improved health that comes with quitting smoking.
Check in with your doctor to discuss and exercise program and see where your tolerances are. Design a program that suits your current fitness level. If you want, hire a personal trainer. You are going to be saving money by not buying cigarettes so go for it!
The main reason that folks avoid exercise routines or going to the gym is a lack of time. Time is scarce but any time you can find can be dedicated to an exercise routine. Even if it is 30 minutes three times a week.
Exercise also provides sensations of pleasure and reward. You can replace the pleasure and reward sensations of nicotine with those provided by healthy, invigorating exercise. You don’t have to lift weights like an Olympia champion to enjoy the benefits of physical activity. It doesn’t even have to be an exercise regimen. Perhaps you love basketball well this would be a great time to find a recreational league start practicing your jump shot!
How about this …. pick a target date perhaps six months down the road. Promise yourself that if you quit smoking that in 6 months you will celebrate with the vacation that you have been wanting for years. Nicotine withdrawal symptoms should not stand in the way of that vacation that you have been waiting for! Reward yourself with a new wardrobe or perhaps that putter you have had your eye on. You will deserve it!
Talking about nicotine withdrawal and how to deal with nicotine withdrawal we talk a lot about experiencing success. That is the goal but it brings us to one of the most important things that is essential to keep in mind. While success HAS to be your goal and a goal that you strive toward with all of your determination, many of us find ourselves giving in and smoking.
It happens. Don’t look at it as a failure. Do not give up.
Here is what happens and what you must guard against. All too often, when someone starts smoking again they say “well that didn’t work so I might as well go back to my old smoking routines”. One relapse in the effort to quit smoking may trigger an excuse to give up altogether. Don’t let this happen. This is your brain saying “Nice try, quitting didn’t work though. Let’s just go back to smoking like before and we’ll try quitting again another time”. Once again, you are in charge not the nicotine cravings.
Relapse happens. You pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get back to building your life without cigarettes. Every cigarette you avoid is a win. Don’t give up. Someday being a non-smoker WILL be your new normal.
Using Ecigs To Fight Nicotine Withdrawal Symptoms
Using ecigs to fight nicotine withdrawal symptoms has not been approved by the FDA. They have approved other nicotine replacement therapies that have been developed by pharmaceutical companies but not ecigs, at least not yet.
Be that as it may, it is estimated that between three and four million people now vape instead of smoke. While the FDA may not like ecigs, they do acknowledge the fact that getting nicotine from a source other than smoking can ease nicotine cravings. Ecigs provide nicotine without smoke.
Health experts around the world acknowledge that ecigarettes, used safely, do not produce a fraction of the toxins of tobacco smoke.
Using ecigs to quit smoking will save you a lot of money in comparison to smoking cigarettes. Ecig technology enables a mere 1 ml of eliquid to generate 150 to 200 puffs of vapor. That is 1 ml of eliquid sourced from 100% food grade ingredients offering roughly the equivalent number of puffs as an entire pack of cigarettes.
Ecigarettes may be an option for you just as other NRT’s (nicotine replacement therapies) can help you maintain a level of nicotine in your system but avoid the toxins of tobacco smoke. Nicotine is not a carcinogen or toxin in fact medical science is discovering nicotine’s potential as a treatment for many conditions. It is burning tobacco that causes disease in smokers, not nicotine.
If you decide that you want to mitigate nicotine withdrawal symptoms by using a nicotine replacement therapy the expert’s consensus, as proven by a number of studies, is that NRT’s can combat nicotine withdrawal and help curb the urge to smoke.
The FDA has approved a number of nicotine replacement therapies such as the patch or gum. Perhaps you’ve tried those before and they didn’t work but that doesn’t mean they will not work now. Don’t be afraid to try them again if you wish.
Patches and gums have been around for a while now but we still lose 450,000 people a year to smoking. We need all of the options that we can get.
Right now you have the option of using electronic cigarettes as a means of getting your nicotine without breathing in toxic tobacco smoke.
The other added benefit of using ecigarettes is the fact that you can maintain the same rituals and routines as tobacco cigarettes. Vaping mimics smoking in action and appearance.
Of course you need to understand which nicotine eliquid level is going to work for you.
If you are a pack a day smoker or more you should choose any liquid nicotine level of 16 mg or 18mg. That’s where to start. If you find that you are still having cravings to smoke even with ecigs then you might want to consider going up to a 2.4 mg nicotine level.
Pack per day or more smokers or more probably need to start at 2.4 mg eliquid nicotine level. Lighter or casual smokers should opt for a liquid nicotine level perhaps somewhere 0.6 mg range.
It is much better to adjust upward if you are unsatisfied then it is to try and adjust downward. After all we’re trying to reduce the nicotine cravings not increase them.
That’s a big part of the reason why we have concerns with Vuse vapor and it’s 4.8 mg nicotine level. 4.8 mg is 400 percent more than what you’re going to find in the tobacco cigarette. Ecigarette nicotine levels are not always indicated on the packaging of the ecigs you find in retail stores. Do not buy an ecig unless you know the nicotine level.
There’s something else we need to talk about here. Electronic cigarettes or personal vaporizers, whatever you choose to call them, give you the option to reduce nicotine level slowly and methodically over time.
For example, if you are vaping a 1.8 mg nicotine ecig you can then move on to a 1.2 mg nicotine level. Lowering the nicotine in your system can be made into a gradual, methodical process that you control.
The leading ecigarette companies all offer multiple flavors and nicotine levels. These are not the brands that you see on store shelves. Retail ecig brands generally offer very limited options and inferior products. Takeaway here, you get the best deals and best products when you buy ecigs online.
Not all ecigs are the same. Some are far better that others. You have to be careful because many of them might use lower quality components or get their eliquids from unreliable sources.
Many vape shops blend their own eliquids in house and while they may have the best intentions the results are often potentially dangerous.
Stick to professional, reputable ecig companies such as those recommended by ECCR.
You want to avoid “dripping”. Dripping is a practice of putting eliquid directly on to very hot heating coils. The result may be more vapor but in many cases the result may also include vapor contaminated with toxins caused by overheating the eliquid. This is the same thing that happens when you burn a steak. An appropriately heated steak has all kinds of nutritional benefit but a burnt steak is going to contain carcinogens.
If you walk into a vape shop, they will probably want to direct you toward a variable voltage device with refillable ecig tanks, Some of these may be okay but most often it is best to start with easy to use products. Cigalikes, the ecigs that look like cigarettes, are a great place to start. In the beginning, you want something to mimic smoking. Nicotine withdrawal symptoms are actually accentuated by the habits and rituals associated with smoking. Quitting and nicotine addiction are part of a complex relationship and ecigs address the habit of smoking on multiple levels.
If you have any questions about which ecigarettes you should be using take a look at our ecig ranking charts. There are studies that show that nicotine cravings can be helped with ecigs.
We also have consumer ecig charts where the rankings are established by consumers themselves.
We hope that you have found this information to be helpful. Nicotine withdrawal symptoms can be intense but understanding them and having different ideas to combat those nicotine cravings makes a huge difference. If you are a smoker or if you know someone who smokes, please share this information so that we can encourage people to tackle the challenge of quitting smoking.
Quitting smoking changes lives, it changes families and it can be done.