How to Cope with Nicotine Withdrawal

Dizziness. Depression. Anxiety. Headache. Weight gain. If someone suggested you do something that might cause these, and other, unpleasant symptoms, you'd likely run the other way. But what if a few days of discomfort could have a profound affect on your health?

These symptoms describe some of the potential side effects from nicotine withdrawal, which occurs when you quit smoking. Withdrawal symptoms begin within a few hours of smoking your last cigarette, usually peak in two or three days, and can last a few days up to a few weeks.

Nicotine and Cancer

Nicotine is one of about 200 toxic chemicals in cigarettes and the one responsible for creating an addiction to smoking. Nicotine is said to be as addictive as heroin or cocaine and causes both physical and emotional addiction. When you smoke, nicotine is absorbed into your blood stream and carried throughout your body.

Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the U.S. It's the main risk factor for lung cancer, and causes 80 to 90 percent of all lung cancer deaths. Smoking is also a risk factor for many other types of cancer.

Quitting smoking can significantly reduce your risk of developing cancer and other serious diseases. For example, if you quit smoking by age 30, you reduce your risk of dying from a smoking-related disease by 90 percent. The health benefits of quitting begin accumulating immediately. Even quitting after a cancer diagnosis helps your body heal, respond to treatment, and prevent recurrence. Patients with early-stage lung cancer improve their prognosis if they quit smoking.

Coping with Withdrawal Symptoms

Many smokers find a combination of withdrawal management symptoms work best.

  • Develop new habits. Unlink smoking to activities you associate with smoking. For example, if you normally smoke first thing in the morning, take a walk when you get up instead.
  • Don't go it alone. Support groups, such as Nicotine Anonymous, or smoking cessation classes can bolster your confidence and reserve.
  • Consider alternative therapies such as hypnosis, acupuncture, or acupressure.
  • Try nicotine replacement therapy. Replacement therapy provides low doses of nicotine to help relieve cravings and ease symptoms-without the toxins from cigarette smoke. You can buy nicotine replacement products in several forms, including transdermal patch, gum, lozenge, nasal spray, and inhaler.
  • Talk to your physician about using prescription medicines. Bupropion (Zyban) and Verecillan (Chantix) are antidepressants that may be used with replacement therapy. Although they are effective, they have not been studied in cancer patients.

Finally, reward yourself for your successes. Quitting smoking and making it through withdrawal symptoms is a big accomplishment.


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