The psychological symptoms are related to the habit of smoking and the things that are normally done while smoking like drinking coffee or talking with friends. Like any bad habit, the smoking habit can be replaced with healthier behaviours, but the physical withdrawal from nicotine may be more difficult to handle.Nicotine is a powerful drug related to cocaine and morphine. There is evidence that nicotine may be even more addictive than these drugs — the one-year success rate for heroin withdrawal is more than double that of nicotine withdrawal.
Nicotine affects the neurotransmitters of the brain. The brain becomes accustomed to receiving this kind of stimulation and sends out strong signals of craving when deprived of nicotine. A person trying to quit smoking will experience all kinds of withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, inability to concentrate, insomnia and fatigue. Symptoms are stronger in people who have been smoking longer, and people will often have a greater urge to smoke in places and situations where they are accustomed to smoking.
Side effects of quitting smoking
The symptoms of nicotine withdrawal can be alleviated with nicotine substitutes such as gum or patches. This can help overcome the habit of smoking and it may be easier to cut down on these kinds of secondary nicotine sources than it is by quitting smoking cold turkey. Some types of drugs (particularly antidepressants) can also be used to help lessen the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal.
Nicotine withdrawal symptoms will change over time. They will start as a strong craving for cigarettes. As you continue to deny your body nicotine, you may become irritable and have difficulty concentrating. The brain has become accustomed to working under the influence of this nicotine and may not function up to par when denied this stimulation.
Because the brain is not receiving stimulation from nicotine, you may also feel tired and lack energy. Ironically you may also have difficulty sleeping — insomnia is a common complaint among people who are trying to quit smoking and will add to your daytime fatigue.
Constipation can also be a problem related to nicotine withdrawal. The digestive system is sensitive to nicotine in the bloodstream. Many smokers are familiar with the sensation of needing to use the bathroom after having a cigarette. The digestive system can become dependent on the stimulation, and when it is removed, the result can be constipation.
Other symptoms related to the mouth, throat, and lungs are also quite common. You may develop a dry mouth and a sore throat and cough, and the tongue and gums may become tender and sore.
Not all people trying to quit smoking experience all of these symptoms, and some may experience certain symptoms more strongly than others. It is important to remember that all the symptoms will pass as long as you refrain from smoking.
The urge to smoke will come in waves, and if you can resist each wave in turn, the urges become less frequent and less severe. Each time that you feel a desire to smoke, try to find some kind of distraction. Doing a bit of exercise when the urge to smoke strikes has two benefits — your mind is distracted and your health is improved.
Even after you have overcome all of the physical symptoms of nicotine withdrawal, the psychological urge to smoke may remain for months or even years. Cravings may be stronger in situations where you have been accustomed to smoke like parties or pubs. This is due more to behavioural conditioning than actual physical dependence on nicotine.
There will come a day, however, when you will not feel the need to smoke. With time these days will become more frequent until finally the desire to smoke has been completely overcome.
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