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  » Smoking and health effect  »   Nicotine withdrawal symptoms
Dealing with withdrawal

When you stop smoking, your brain and body begin the process of healing itself. Sometimes at the beginning of the quitting process, people can experience symptoms of nicotine withdrawal. The most common symptoms include:

  • Irritability, frustration, anger or anxiety
  • Difficulty in concentrating
  • Restlessness
  • Increased appetite
  • Problems falling asleep or frequent waking
  • Slight depression or feeling down

Not all smokers go through withdrawal. What's more, not all individuals who go through withdrawal experience the same number or intensity of symptoms.

How long does withdrawal last?

For many people, withdrawal is at its worst after about a day after they stop smoking. It begins to lessen after 3 or 4 days. After a week to 10 days all withdrawal symptoms should be gone.

Because the symptoms are most intense in the first few days after you stop, this is when you are most likely to start smoking again. Therefore, an important task is to find positive ways of helping you to cope. Your main task in quitting is to find a way to get through the first few days. If you do, you have a much better chance of succeeding for good.

How can you cope with withdrawal?

The first step is to plan for the possibility of withdrawal.

Be understanding with yourself during this time. For example, take time off, work at a slower pace, get busy with a new project or whatever works best for you.

Let people know what you're going through, and ask for their support and understanding. It may help to have someone to talk to about what's happening to you.

If you expect your withdrawal symptoms to be severe, consider using a medication designed to help people quit smoking. Research indicates that medications for quitting can reduce the number and severity of withdrawal symptoms that people who quit smoking feel.

If you experience severe depression or if mild depression doesn't seem to be going away within three weeks of your quit date, see your doctor.

Some people experience increased coughing and headaches for a few days or weeks after quitting. This is not due to nicotine withdrawal. Your lungs are attempting to clear themselves.

Can the addiction be overcome?

Yes. More than half of all people who have ever smoked in Canada have already quit smoking. This includes men and women of all ages and all levels of addiction. For smokers with low levels of addiction quitting may be relatively easy. However, for others, quitting for good or even reducing the amount you smoke may require some careful planning and learning some new skills. It may even require a few practice attempts before you succeed for good.