Nicotine is a drug found in tobacco, which is what makes cigarettes addictive. In fact, the drug can be as addictive as alcohol, morphine or cocaine. Nicotine withdrawal symptoms usually only last from a few days to a couple of weeks. However, the cravings for cigarettes last much longer.
The body and brain get used to the presence of nicotine over a period of time, so when the individual stops smoking they go through withdrawal. Withdrawal from nicotine can be unpleasant, as nicotine affects many parts of the body including the brain.
- The First Few Hours
The onset of withdrawal begins just a few hours after the last dose of nicotine. Some common symptoms of withdrawal during this phase include:
- Decreased cognitive performance
- Decreased motor performance
- Feelings of irritability
- Feelings of restlessness
- Increased appetite
- Intense nicotine cravings
- Slowed heart rate
- The First Few Weeks
Certain withdrawal symptoms persist for a couple of weeks after the individual has stopped using nicotine. The individual may notice that symptoms like attention disturbance, insomnia, restlessness and cognitive performance changes last longer than a few weeks. Weight gain is often the result of increased appetite. But these symptoms should disappear after a few weeks. Nicotine cravings however, may continue to persist.
Treatment for Nicotine Withdrawal
Experts advise that medications and behavioral treatments are the best solutions to help an individual quit smoking the long run. Some medications that can help with nicotine withdrawal are:
- Antidepressants: Zyban is an FDA approved medication which contains bupropion. This can help people quit smoking.
- Nicotine Replacement Therapy: This means that the body is supplied enough nicotine to prevent withdrawal symptoms, but not enough to provide the jolt caused by inhaling a cigarette. Nicotine gum and skin patches are very popular and easily available over the counter, while nicotine nasal sprays or inhalers require a prescription.
- Smoking Cessation Medication: Medicines like Chantix are used to quit smoking. They are non nicotine based, but still affect the parts of the brain which are also affected by nicotine.
What makes quitting smoking or using tobacco difficult is that it is often associated with pleasant memories or rituals. Even years after an individual stops smoking, the urge to smoke can be triggered easily. Anticipating these cravings and learning how to choose different behaviors in response is important to control cravings.
The Villa can help you with your goal of quitting nicotine. We have the resources so that you don’t have to do it alone.