Quitting smoking can be a challenge because of the physical and mental dependency people develop on nicotine, the addictive drug found naturally in tobacco. After you stop smoking, you may experience both the physiological symptoms of withdrawal from nicotine, as well as the psychological withdrawal symptoms associated with having to give up a deeply ingrained habit. While some of these symptoms can be bothersome, they generally start to improve after a couple of weeks of remaining smoke-free.
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Quitting smoking can lead to nicotine withdrawal, which can cause a number of physical side effects. In the first 1 to 2 days after quitting, you may experience some dizziness which usually soon subsides. Headaches, chest tightness, constipation, gas, cramps, nausea, sweating, tingling in the hands and feet, sore throat, dry mouth, nasal drip, cough and signs of a cold are also common symptoms that may become most intense during the first few days after you quit smoking. Although some symptoms may persist for a month or two, most subside within a couple of weeks. Every day without a cigarette will lead to improvements in your physical symptoms.
Mental and Emotional Symptoms
Nicotine withdrawal can also cause a number of short and long-term mental and emotional side effects. Symptoms can appear as soon as 30 minutes after your last cigarette and peak within a few hours. Most moderate to heavy smokers will experience intense cravings after stopping smoking. Sometimes cravings can be extremely intense and debilitating, bringing up feelings of dependency. Other common symptoms include anxiety, sadness, irritability, frustration, impatience, anger or aggression, confusion, problems concentrating, restlessness or boredom, fatigue and sleep disturbances that include insomnia (trouble sleeping), having trouble falling or staying asleep and having nightmares.
Depression is also very common in response to quitting smoking, and may have short- or long-term effects. According to Health Central, people who are prone to depression have a 25-percent chance of becoming depressed when they stop smoking, and depressed smokers are less likely to succeed in quitting smoking. Those who become depressed may help themselves to succeed by participating in emotionally supportive therapy in combination with smoking cessation aids like nicotine replacements or antidepressant medications.
Weight gain can happen for a number of reasons after you quit smoking. First, the nicotine in cigarettes is an appetite suppressant. Without your usual daily nicotine, you may experience increased appetite. Second, your ability to smell and taste food improves after you quit smoking which may make you more likely to consume more. (See Reference 1) Weight gain is not inevitable, however. A study published in a 2005 issue of “European Journal of Cancer Prevention” reports on the long-term effects of smoking cessation and found that stopping smoking had only marginal effects on weight in the long run.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- Mayo Clinic: Quitting Smoking
- Health Central: Symptoms of Nicotine Withdrawal
- “European Journal of Cancer Prevention;” No considerable long-term weight gain after smoking cessation: evidence from a prospective study; U John et al.; June 2005
- American Cancer Society: Guide for Quitting Smoking