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What are the withdrawal symptoms when quitting smoking?

Here are some common withdrawal symptoms you can expect to experience when quitting smoking:
  • Irritability: Cause -- Your body craves nicotine. This can last 2 to 4 weeks. For relief, take walks and hot baths, use relaxation techniques and consider nicotine replacement.
  • Fatigue: Cause -- Nicotine is a stimulant. This can last 2 to 4 weeks. For relief, take naps, don't push yourself and use nicotine replacement.
  • Insomnia: Cause -- Nicotine affects brain-wave function and influences sleep patterns. Coughing and dreams about smoking are common. This can last up to 1 week. For relief, avoid caffeine after 6 p.m. and use relaxation techniques.
  • Cough, Dry Throat, Nasal Drip: Cause -- Your body is getting rid of mucous that has blocked airways and restricted breathing. This can last a few days. For relief, drink plenty of fluids and try cough drops.
  • Dizziness: Cause -- Your body is getting extra oxygen. This can last 1 or 2 days. Take extra caution when moving. Change positions slowly.
  • Lack of concentration:  Cause -- Your body needs time to adjust to not having constant stimulation from nicotine. This can last a few weeks. For relief, plan your workload accordingly. Try to avoid additional stress during your first few smoke-free weeks.
  • Tightness in chest: Cause -- Probably due to tension created by your body's need for nicotine. It may also be caused by muscles sore from coughing. This can last a few days. For relief, use relaxation techniques, especially deep breathing. Nicotine replacement may help.
  • Constipation, Gas, Stomach Pain: Cause -- Intestinal movement decreases for a brief period following quitting smoking. This can last 1 or 2 weeks. For relief, drink plenty of fluids. Add fruits, vegetables and whole grain-cereals to your diet.
  • Hunger: Cause -- Craving for cigarettes can be confused with hunger pangs or with desire for something in the mouth. This can last up to several weeks. For relief, drink water or low-calorie liquids. Be prepared with low-calorie snacks.
  • Craving for a cigarette: Cause -- Withdrawal from nicotine, a strongly addictive drug. This is most frequent during the first 2 to 3 days but can happen occasionally for months or years. Wait out the urge, which usually lasts only a few minutes. Distract yourself. Make a phone call. Walk around the block.

This clip from Discovery Health's "Continuing Medical Education" series explores ways to ease withdrawal symptoms when you quit smoking.


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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.