Navigating Nicotine Withdrawal: A Guide to Quitting Smoking

Smoking benefits of quitting is among the most harmful habits, and it’s one of the hardest habits to kick. Smoking damages nearly every organ in the body, and it causes 1 in every 5 deaths in the U.S. each year. Still, over 10% of U.S. adults smoked cigarettes in 2020.

Although you may want to quit smoking or other tobacco use, you might find it difficult to get through nicotine withdrawal. Nicotine withdrawal is the physical and mental symptoms that people have when they quit using tobacco.

Symptoms of nicotine withdrawal can be very uncomfortable. But the withdrawal process isn’t dangerous like with other substances. And you can do it on your own. Despite the effects of withdrawal, many people successfully quit tobacco.

What are the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal?

The symptoms and severity of nicotine withdrawal vary from person to person. It usually depends on how much nicotine you’ve used and for how long. People who’ve used large amounts of nicotine over a long period of time are more likely to experience severe withdrawal symptoms.

You’ll often have physical and mental symptoms during nicotine withdrawal.

Physical symptoms

Increased appetite is one of the most common physical symptoms of nicotine withdrawal. This may lead to weight gain.

Research shows that most people gain at least some weight after they quit smoking. And some people may even develop obesity or Type 2 diabetes. Average weight gain for people who quit smoking can be up to 10 pounds.

But the benefits of quitting outweigh the health effects of weight gain. And there are healthy and effective ways to manage your weight after you quit smoking.

Along with increased appetite and weight gain, other physical symptoms of nicotine withdrawal are:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Constipation
  • Sore throat
  • Gas or diarrhea
  • Chest tightness
  • Dry mouth
  • Nasal drip
  • Tremors

Mental and behavioral symptoms

The most common symptoms of nicotine withdrawal are urges and cravings for nicotine. After you quit smoking, you’ll likely experience strong cravings to use nicotine again. This can be both physical and mental.

The physical discomforts of nicotine withdrawal can lead to cravings. But, for some people, missing the ritual of smoking — taking the cigarette out, lighting it up, and smoking it — can cause cravings.

Nicotine withdrawal can also cause cognitive effects. People often report a slight increase in mental performance while they’re using nicotine, so they can feel mentally sharper. In withdrawal, you may have symptoms like trouble concentrating or remembering things.

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