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Cold and Flu Center

Symptoms When Going Cold Turkey

author image Jerry Shaw
Jerry Shaw writes for Spice Marketing and LinkBlaze Marketing. His articles have appeared in Gannett and American Media Inc. publications. He is the author of "The Complete Guide to Trust and Estate Management" from Atlantic Publishing.
Symptoms When Going Cold Turkey
Man trying to alleviate his headache at a bar. Photo Credit: Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images

Smokers who go cold turkey will undergo withdrawal symptoms, both physically and mentally. The body is used to its regular dose of nicotine and craves it when you suddenly give up the habit. The ex-smoker may suffer from anxiety, frustration and impatience. This is a major reason many people go back to smoking. Beginning a few hours after the last cigarette, withdrawal symptoms may begin. It takes some strength and determination, but the symptoms last for a few days, and each day helps the person stay away from cigarettes.

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There is an intense craving for cigarettes when you quit, or particularly nicotine, which causes the addiction. The symptoms may be more severe depending on how many cigarettes your body is used to ingesting each day, according to the National Institutes of Health. The more cigarettes you were smoking the stronger your cravings and withdrawal symptoms.


Tension and headaches often accompany the sudden absence of nicotine or drugs. People who suddenly quit cold turkey have difficulty concentrating and may often suffer from irritability. Suddenly quitting cigarettes may lead to dizziness that can last for 1 to 2 days after the last cigarette, the American Cancer Society (ACS) notes. This is another symptom that can worry people, but it is another symptom that will go away shortly.

Sleep Disorder

Insomnia is usually a great obstacle to get over when going cold turkey. Sleep problems are common in people who quit smoking. People can have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. They may also experience bad dreams or nightmares.


Depression may also set in. When a smoker gives up cigarettes, he or she is losing a close friend. Smoking has been with the smoker for so long. He depended on it to deal with problems, boredom and other inconveniences. It is sad to see on old friend go.

Physical Discomfort

Other uncomfortable symptoms may include constipation, gas, coughing, dry mouth, sore throat, nasal drip and chest tightness, according to the ACS. The body is going through many physical changes when nicotine leaves. Smokers may even be frightened by these symptoms, but they should remember these are only natural changes that will be gone in 2 or 3 days.

Cold Turkey for Drugs

People giving up cigarettes have no serious physical issues to worry about, but people who want to give up drugs or alcohol do. They have symptoms that may include nausea, vomiting, chills, sweats, muscle aches and pains and other problems. People with serious alcohol and drug addictions should seek medical help through the detoxification process. This will help the person with support and also monitor the physical symptoms so quitting will be a lot easier and safer.

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