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Nicotine is an addictive substance that comes from tobacco leaves, which have been dried to make cigarettes and other tobacco products. Because of the many negative health effects associated with nicotine and other toxic substances obtained from tobacco smoking, millions of people around the world have stopped smoking or are still trying to quit. Although their decision is the best thing they can do to improve their health, many are still struggling with the effects of nicotine withdrawal.

What are the Symptoms of Nicotine Withdrawal?

The body reacts to nicotine withdrawal in a similar way as it would to other addictive drugs like alcohol. However, individuals have different ways of experiencing these symptoms. Some may get over them quickly while it may take a longer period for others to cope with them. These symptoms may start within a few hours after one decides to have the last cigarette and may last for a few days to several weeks, depending on how much you were smoking. It is important however, to remember that these withdrawal symptoms do not last forever and will go away as long as you do not go in and out of the habit.

These symptoms include:

  • irritability, restlessness and frustration - because you are craving for nicotine

  • depression, low energy levels - because your body and brain was used to the stimulant effects of nicotine

  • sleeping problems - because your body needs to adjust to new sleeping patterns

  • increased coughing, phlegm, post-nasal drip - because your lungs and airways are trying to get rid of tar and other substances left in your respiratory system

  • chest tightness, shortness of breath - because of coughing and tense muscles in the chest

  • dizziness - because your body is adjusting to increased oxygen levels

  • feeling hungry/increased appetite - because your body is craving for nicotine, and seeks food as a substitute

  • nausea, gas pain, constipation - because your bowels are less active without nicotine

  • difficulty concentrating - because of the withdrawal of stimulant effects of nicotine, the body is trying to stay alert without it

  • Other symptoms - headaches, sweating, tingling sensation in hands and feet, weight gain

Ways to Deal with Nicotine Withdrawal

It is not easy for everyone to quit smoking completely because of the withdrawal symptoms that may trigger one to reach out for another cigarette. One way to deal with this is to avoid the things that can trigger smoking or withdrawal symptoms such as being in the company of smokers, drinking coffee, drinking alcohol, feeling stressed, or just eating a heavy meal.

Other ways to reduce cravings for nicotine or distract one's self from giving in to cravings include:

  • Cleaning your home, office and car of cigarettes, ash trays and other smoking paraphernalia.

  • Engaging in physical activities.

  • Engaging in a hobby or other interesting endeavor.

  • Eating a healthy, balanced diet that includes high-fiber foods.

  • Trying various relaxation techniques, including meditation, deep breathing exercises, etc.

  • Drinking lots of water.

  • Brushing your teeth after eating.

  • Chewing gum, using lozenges, inhalers, or nasal spray to replace nicotine.

  • Avoiding too much work and stress.

  • Participating in smoking cessation programs.

  • Seeking the support of family and friends.

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