Quitting Smoking- Coping with Withdrawal Symptoms and Learning To Lead A ‘Nicotine Free’ Life

Break Free From Nicotine Addiction

Smoking is rightly termed’ addictive’. And why wouldn’t it be? After all, Nicotine makes the brain release dopamine, a chemicalthat causes an individual to ‘feel good’, or in an addict’s language, give ‘a high’. Percentage of smokers has reached an all time high in the past few years. GCC countries in particular have witnessed an alarming increase in tobacco consumption by 24% from 1990 to 1997. Over the past 30 years, the number of smokers increased twice as fast as population growth, and continues to increase by 8% per year.

Alarming statistics show that there are 30,000 smoking-related deaths per year in countries of the GCC. With lung cancer topping the list of the region’s ailments, 15% of the total medical costs in the GCC, where health care is free, go towards the treatment of smoking-related illnesses. With a consumption rate of 2280 cigarettes per person per year, Kuwait ranks 19th globally in tobacco consumption and Saudi Arabia is 23rd, at 2130.

It is therefore not surprising that governments are relentlessly promoting quit smoking campaigns in an attempt to cure this fatal addiction.

What Is ‘Withdrawal’ or ‘Remission’?

It’s a period when the brain is permitted to physically re-sensitize neuronal pathways to again function without nicotine. This phase gives the conscious mind an opportunity to adapt, re-condition and transverse years of dependency rationalizations to arrive at a point when the individual can begin leading a normal life without a physical, subconscious or conscious need for nicotine.

In fact, one experiences physical withdrawal about twenty minutes after his last cigarette. This is a temporary phase and is often referred to as ‘quitter’s flu’ because nicotine withdrawal symptoms often mimic a cold or a mild case of the flu. It is during this phase that the individual is driven by an uncontrollable urge to suck another breath of nicotine. A strong will power is required to surge past this phase and go into ‘remission’ or ‘withdrawal’ that is more permanent.

Symptoms of Withdrawal

The following are the most commonly reported symptoms of nicotine withdrawal. Most people experience some of these, but rarely all of them as each individual goes through this phase of recovery from nicotine addiction a little differently.

  • Cravings to smoke
  • Irritability, crankiness
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Inability to Concentrate
  • Headache
  • Cough
  • Sore throat, sore tongue and/or gums
  • Constipation, gas, stomach pain
  • Dry mouth
  • Tightness in the chest

When one’s brain becomes dependent on nicotine, its neuronal pathways change and nicotine becomes the fuelling agent in managing a host of emotions like helping one concentrate, controlling anger and hunger, and helping one relax. Giving up nicotine dependency requires the brain to re-learn to do things that nicotine once helped it achieve.

Coping With Withdrawal Symptoms

Nicotine craving are natural and very tough to cope with, yet achievable. To begin with, applying the ‘5D mantra’ would help one get closer to their goal of eradicating nicotine dependency.

  • Delay until the urge passes – usually within 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Distract yourself.
  • Drink water to fight off cravings.
  • Deep Breaths – Relax! Close your eyes and take 10 slow, deep breaths.
  • Discuss your feelings with someone close to you.

The other ways to fight craving are:

Exercise: Doing something active when one has the urge to smoke, may help reduce nicotine cravings and relieve some withdrawal symptoms.

Get More Rest: A single cigarette pumps up the body with not just nicotine but with 4000 other harmful toxins that can, under the illusion of making one ‘feel good’, cause extreme stress. The stress of abruptly cutting off that supply, as unhealthy as it was, can leave one feeling tired and lifeless. Adequate rest is recommended therefore to wade through this phase.

Take a Multivitamin: Multivitamins will help offset nicotine withdrawal symptoms and replenish depleted nutrients.

Use a stop-smoking medicine: Medicines can help one deal with nicotine withdrawal and cigarette cravings. Research shows that they more than double one’s chances of quitting for good. They also help prevent weight gain.

Stay Put And Win The Battle With Nicotine

Smokers didn’t suck tissue destroying nicotine composed of over 4,000 chemicals and toxins into their bodies because they wanted to watch each puff destroy a their lung tissue piece by piece. They did so to quench their addiction and to get nicotine.  Therefore, winning the battle with such a potent chemical isn’t easy. Many people try several times before they actually quit. Not losing hope and bearing in mind that withdrawal is just a temporary phase and much better days lie ahead of recovery, will keep in individual undeterred in his fight against nicotine.

Article by Snigdha Taduri for Biomed-ME