If you’ve recently quit smoking cigarettes, you know that nicotine withdrawal symptoms are no joke. Nicotine is the drug found in cigarettes that get us hooked. It gives us a mild mood-boosting rush that has us coming back for more over and over again. Our brains become accustomed to the steady supply of nicotine and become physically dependent on it. So when we quit cold turkey and the nicotine is all of a sudden absent, our brains react with some annoying symptoms. They include:
- Increased appetite
- Inability to concentrate
- Disturbed sleeping patterns
- Wet, mucosal cough
- Weight gain
- Dry mouth
Treating and managing nicotine withdrawal symptoms
There are 4 main ways to combat these uncomfortable symptoms. They include 1) quitting technique, 2) nicotine replacement therapy, 3) psychotropic drugs, and 4) natural home remedies.
Quitting all tobacco cold-turkey tends to produce nicotine withdrawal symptoms pretty quickly, which then last for weeks or months. For some of us, tapering down our smoking over time can help manage withdrawal symptoms. There are many ways to do this. You can set limits on your smoking that decrease every day or week. There are also some pretty good mobile phone apps out there that can help you create a plan for tapering down.
Nicotine Replacement Therapy
This would include e-cigarettes, dermal patches, nicotine gums, or any other form of tobacco-less nicotine supplement. The benefit of transitioning to these products is that you can taper down the nicotine withdrawal symptoms over time while still cutting out the 70+ carcinogenic chemicals found in tobacco smoke.
There are 2 main prescription drugs used to help people manage their withdrawal symptoms while quitting cigarettes, Chantix and Zyban. After conducting longitudinal studies with these two medications, researchers found that with:
- Chantix – 44% quit
- Zyban – 30% quit
- Placebo (sugar pills) – only 17% quit
This is a medication used specifically for tobacco sensation. Chantix acts directly on the nicotine receptors in our brain. It not only decreases the severity of withdrawal symptoms, but it also reduces the pleasurable reward of smoking. Unlike any other treatment, Chantix acts like a double-edged sword against smoking. However, as with all medications, Chantix comes with side-effects. The most serious of which include psychological changes like irritability, sleeplessness, and mood changes. Sometimes these side-effects can be so severe that people discontinue treatment, and choose another quitting route.
This medication was originally developed as an antidepressant, but scientists soon found that it helps with smoking-cessation too. Zyban is associated with fewer side effects than Chantix but is slightly less effective. For that reason, most people use Zyban along with nicotine replacement therapy.
Natural Home Remedies
Sometimes, the only option is to quit cold turkey without the use of any other substances like patches or pills. If that’s the case, natural home remedies may be for you.
1. Eat a small portion of fruit or vegetables whenever the cravings hit.
Take it up a notch by stepping outside for some fresh air while you snack. Personally, this is the step that made quitting possible for me; I never left the house without some fruit. You can use carrots, grapes, apples, nuts, or any other healthy little snack you love.
2. Avoid drinking alcohol.
Cravings intensify the more you drink. Once the withdrawal symptoms subside in a month or two, drinking won’t be so triggering. For now, just stay away from the bottle.
3. Come up with a bed-time ritual.
A well defined bed-time ritual will help you improve your sleep hygiene. This is a term psychologists use to describe how well you are conditioning your body to sleep restfully through the night. Good sleep hygiene means winding down and using “sleepy triggers” to tell your unconscious brain to start producing melatonin and get ready for bed.
Bath bombs, candles, soft music, essential oils. These lovely things can bring your bedtime habits to a higher level of relaxation. Get creative, think about what works specifically for you when planning your ritual. You will see results after a week or two of repeating your nightly ritual; the more consistent you are, the better your nights of sleep will be
4. Get moving.
Exercising a little bit extra during the first month or two after quitting tobacco will help with multiple withdrawal symptoms. Depression, cravings, irritability, restlessness, and your sleep quality will all improve with exercise. Also, upping the exercise during this phase will help you to avoid the weight-gain related to quitting. Expect these changes, and plan ahead for them to avoid a 10 lb. surprise on the scale.
5. Start carrying a reusable water bottle.
Drinking more water is healthy and will distract your hands and mouth when you want a cigarette. Drinking more water helps alleviate constipation, dry mouth, and weight gain too. Get your reusable water bottle out, and start drinking more water!
6. Pick up a new activity.
When you’ve just decided to put down cigarettes for good, you find yourself thinking 24/7 about how bad you want a smoke. Fixation is not good! This is why I recommend picking up a new hobby or interest once you decide to quit smoking. Making the effort to focus on a new activity will keep you from obsessing over cigarettes. At the end of this phase, you might even end up with a brag-worthy new skill, or a beautiful hand-made work to display. What have you always wanted to do, but never got around to starting? Now might just be the perfect time to start.
Quitting smoking is hard, I tried it about 50 thousand times before I managed to stop for good. If you’re still struggling with nicotine withdrawal after trying these tips, please reach out to us at intervention.com. We have the experience in smoking cessation that can help you reach your goals.