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01 November 2004

Quit smoking? Prepare for withdrawal symptoms

You've decided to quit smoking. But what about withdrawal symptoms? It’s important to be prepared for these symptoms that typically occur in the early stages of giving up.

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You've decided to quit smoking. But what about withdrawal symptoms? It’s important to be prepared for these symptoms that typically occur in the difficult early stages of giving up smoking.

What are withdrawal symptoms?
Withdrawal symptoms are physical and mental changes that occur following suspension of drug use. They are usually temporary and are the result of the body and mind becoming adaptated to long-term drug use. If the body has been under the influence of a powerful drug for a long time, and it no longer receives its usual ‘fix’, it undergoes a readjustment period which is felt as withdrawal symptoms.

Tobacco withdrawal
With smoking, you may experience some (but not necessarily all) of the following withdrawal symptoms:

  • Irritability or anxiety
  • Depression
  • Restlessness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Increased appetite
  • Light-headedness
  • Insomnia
  • Tobacco cravings
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Digestive disturbances such as constipation

Most of these symptoms usually disappear within the first month. Some ex-smokers may struggle with symptoms for a longer time period, particularly tobacco cravings, concentration problems and wanting to overeat.

Many people find nicotine replacement therapy very helpful in alleviating withdrawal symptoms. It’s also important to keep in mind that, although they may initially make you feel worse, these symptoms are actually positive evidence that your body is starting to free itself from addiction and fight its way back to health.

Note: if you experience symptoms of depression or anxiety, and these do not start to improve after about two weeks, you should consult your doctor. It may be that you have an underlying vulnerability to these conditions which your smoking habit helped to mask.

 
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