Nicotine is as addictive as alcohol, cocaine and morphine, according to MedlinePlus. Smoking withdrawal results in both mental and physical symptoms. These withdrawal symptoms usually peak in between the third and fifth days and fade after two weeks, but some can last for several months, warns "The New York Times."
Physical withdrawal symptoms include headaches and intestinal disorders, sore throat and chest pain from coughing, sweating and tingling in the extremities. Withdrawal symptoms of smoking should be treated just as any symptoms of disease or illness would be treated. Medical aids can reduce withdrawal symptoms, reports Community Health and Counseling Services. The American Cancer Society reports that medications can double your chances of success.
Sore Throat, Cough & Chest Pain
Smoking withdrawal can cause physical pain in the throat. You'll often experience cold-like withdrawal symptoms from quitting smoking. NSW Department of Health reminds smokers that coughing is the way your lungs cleanse themselves of mucus and tar. You can develop sore chest muscles from coughing and because nicotine cravings may increase muscle tension, reports the Canadian Lung Association. Drink lots of water to help expel tar and thin mucus. Suck on cough drops or hard candies to ease a dry and scratchy sore throat. Take deep breaths to reduce muscle tension.
Headache is one of the most common sources of physical pain associated with smoking withdrawal. Shifting oxygen and brain chemical levels, dietary changes associated with quitting smoking, anxiety and tension and sleep disruption may all contribute to headache pain. The NSW Department of Health reports that some of the physical aches and physical pains you experience while quitting smoking are due to improved circulation. Your blood vessels are dilating and your body must adapt to higher oxygen levels.
Quitting smoking can cause changes in your intestinal and bowel movements and the anxiety related to smoking withdrawal may also come into play when you experience physical pain related to the gastrointestinal system. Constipation, gas, nausea and stomach pain are physical withdrawal symptoms associated with smoking withdrawal.
Increase your fiber intake and drink plenty of fluids to help ease the transition but be sure to add fiber slowly to give your body time to adjust.
While physical pain does play a role in smoking withdrawal, mental issues are much more prevalent when quitting smoking. These withdrawal symptoms are more likely to derail the quitter. Mental symptoms include anger, irritability and restlessness, anxiety and depression, difficulty concentrating or mental confusion and insomnia.
People prone to depression are 25 percent more likely to experience it when they try quitting smoking, and depressed smokers have a very low success rate, reports "The New York Times." Depressed smokers are successful only 6 percent of the time. Family members and friends may actually encourage smoking to end the hostility and/or mood changes a smoker goes through during smoking withdrawal.
Depression risk can last for up to six months among those quitting smoking, so anti-anxiety medication, antidepressants and supportive therapy may be in order.
- MedlinePlus: Nicotine addiction and withdrawal
- “The New York Times”; Making the Decision to Quit Tobacco; 2009
- NSW Department of Health: Nicotine Dependence and Withdrawal
- Community Health and Counseling Services: Smoking Cessation; September 2010
- Canadian Lung Association: Smoking & Tobacco: Quitting Smoking