Can I reduce the effects of nicotine withdrawal when quitting smoking?

Howard J. Shaffer, PhD
Addiction Medicine
The following are ways to manage nicotine withdrawal symptoms when quitting smoking:
  • Craving for cigarette: Wait out the urge; distract yourself with activities, for example, take a brisk walk.
  • Irritability, impatience: Exercise; take hot baths; use relaxation techniques; avoid caffeine.
  • Constipation, gas: Drink plenty of fluids; add fiber to diet; exercise.
  • Insomnia: Avoid caffeine after 6 p.m.; use relaxation techniques; exercise; plan activities (such as reading) when sleep is difficult.
  • Fatigue: Take naps; do not push yourself.
  • Lack of concentration: Reduce workload; avoid stress.
  • Hunger: Drink water or low-calorie drinks; eat low-calorie snacks.
  • Coughing, dry throat, nasal drip: Drink plenty of fluids; use cough drops.
You can reduce the effects of nicotine withdrawal when quitting smoking by using a combination of treatments. Studies show that a combination of medication and counseling works better than either treatment alone. Nicotine replacement products such as gum, patches and nasal sprays can help counter the physical effects of withdrawal. But nicotine cravings become less intense over time and, for most people, eventually go away.

You can deal with nicotine cravings by avoiding your triggers -- the situations that make you want to smoke. To quit smoking successfully, you need to address both physical and psychological aspects of cravings. Find other ways to unwind, such as yoga or meditation, instead of grabbing a smoke. You can also keep your mouth and hands busy by chewing gum, eating carrot sticks or keeping a cinnamon stick or flavored toothpick in your mouth. If none of these tricks work for you, your doctor can recommend prescription medications that may take the edge off your cravings.
Dr. Robin Miller, MD
Internal Medicine
You can definitely reduce the effects of nicotine withdrawal.  There are nicotine replacements such as nicotine gum, patches, lozenges, pills and inhalers.  If you need something more there are medications such as Chantix and Wellbutrin that can help decrease your desire to smoke.  Group and individual therapy can increase the chance for success. In addition alternative therapies such as acupuncture and hypnotherapy can be helpful. 


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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.