Nicotine is a chemical present at a sizeable proportion in tobacco. The substance is known for its ability to form habits. Yes, nicotine is quite addictive and can make users yearn for it. Medical studies have observed that an irregular use of tobacco may also have you addicted to nicotine. You are likely to experience withdrawal symptoms when you discontinue the usage of tobacco products or other products containing nicotine. It is advised to know these symptoms if you have decided or planning to stop using products with nicotine.

If you are a regular smoker of tobacco products – such as cigars, cigarettes, etc. – you are exposed to the intake of nicotine in form or other. As nicotine enables your brain to activate transmitters called as dopamine (whose task is to boost your happiness levels), your body longs to have the experience more often. This is the reason why you may find frequent urges to smoke. But, you are at risk of being addicted to nicotine if you smoke habitually.

Medical studies reveal that even if you are not a habitual user of products containing nicotine, you are very likely to get addicted to the substance. These studies further indicate that those who have abused substances such as drugs or alcohol are more likely to nicotine addiction or dependence. Also, those who had smoked at a younger age may develop addiction as they become adults. People with a clinical history of nicotine dependence may become habitual smokers. The signs of nicotine dependence include urges to continue the smoking habit despite respiratory problems, impossibility to control smoking, etc. In order to treat these conditions, you need to seek medical help from a qualified physician. The treating doctor may want to know your family’s medical history amid other details such as how many cigars or cigarettes you are currently smoking, etc. All such inputs will help your doctor ascertain the extent of your addiction to nicotine.

How to treat nicotine addiction or dependence?

Experts believe that the physical aspects of dependence are often difficult to manage. To start with, the intent of a smoker to quit the smoking habit is critical to stop the addiction. It becomes important to alter the regular habits of the smoker. Among the many approaches used for quitting from smoking, the common ones are nicotine replacement plan, medications, joining a tobacco cessation support group, etc.

Addiction may also be treated with opting to consume foods in order to divert your hands and mouth, and opting to exercise regularly. Some people stay off from tobacco products and keep them far away from their sight – i.e., from their home or office; consume a balanced & wholesome diet and also set achievable goals (like cutting down on number of cigars smoked per day) or staying away from friends and colleague who smoke. Therapists insist smokers wanting to quit must pursue smaller targets (such as, not smoking for 2 consecutive days) and also reward themselves on reaching such short term targets.

Drugs, support group and alternative approaches to stop nicotine addiction

There are indeed drugs that can help reduce nicotine dependence. The main objective of these drugs is to minimize your urges to smoke. Popular methods are inhalers, lozenges, nasal sprays, patches, gums, etc. Most of these options provide a very minimal dose of nicotine. Though possibilities of getting addicted to these options cannot be ruled out, such risks are fairly low here. The major advantage these options possess is the lesser amount content of nicotine in most of them. Also, the delivery of nicotine into your system is way too slower when compared to conventional tobacco based products.

Support group that function to stop smoking may work either through one-to-one interactions or through group-based activities. In case of one-to-one mode of interaction, you may be offered with an appointment with an experienced person.

The smoking habit may also be controlled with the use of essential oils or herbs, hypnosis and acupuncture. Though these are increasingly gaining popularity, efficiency of these methods are not fully assessed. Also, safety aspects of these methods may not be adequately documented.

Nicotine withdrawal

Habitual smokers of tobacco products may need to stop smoking with needful caution. It is required because discontinuation may lead to effects of withdrawal. You need to understand that tobacco can be equally addictive as morphine, cocaine or alcohol. It is a fact that several million smokers try to kick this habit each year. As per established medical research, nearly 70% of smokers have expressed their wish to stop smoking once and for all. It is the addiction to nicotine that stands in their way from stopping to smoke.

Nicotine dependence is mainly due to the pleasant effects this substance creates in your brain. The deceptively pleasant effects nicotine causes include decrease in depression, development of an upbeat mood and drop in irritation levels, stimulation of short term concentration as well as memory levels, sizeable decrease in appetite and above all, a sense of happiness or wellbeing.

How to spot signs of nicotine withdrawal and what are the common symptoms?

It is fairly easy to spot the signs associated with nicotine withdrawal. These are sure to show up in less than half hour from your last smoke or in less than an hour from your last use of a tobacco product. The severity of these signs of withdrawal are based on how much tobacco you smoke or use per day, and also on how long have you been smoking or using tobacco. Medical studies show that a long term use of tobacco is likely to leave you craving for a smoke as soon as the effects of the previous smoke have worn off. Also, if you are a chain smoker or a smoker of multiple cigars or cigarettes every day, the signs of nicotine withdrawal are likely to be more pronounced.

The distinctive signs of nicotine withdrawal are sleepless nights, increased spell of sweating, numbing of fingers, a tingling sensation in your limbs, severe urges to smoke again, etc. These signs may also be accompanied by inability to pass stools, formation of gas, severe headache or migraine, inability to focus, memory lapses, stress, staying in an irritated state of mind, mood swings – including depression, gain of weight, intense coughing, soreness in your throat, etc.

If you are in the habit of chewing tobacco or tobacco-based products, signs of withdrawal are increased levels of anxiety or stress, nervousness, sleeping difficulties (insomnia), mood shifts, depression, enhanced appetite, etc. In some instances, such withdrawal may lead to increase in body weight and slowing down of rate of heartbeat.

Signs and symptoms of nicotine withdrawal – explained

As mentioned, the effects of withdrawal are likely to show up in less than half hour; especially if you are a habitual, long term smoker. The effects of withdrawal are explained in greater detail in these sections-

Blood pressure level – You will find your heartbeat as well as your blood pressure levels coming down closer to healthy levels. This is because of a better circulation of blood all through your system.

Smokers may have a cold and chilled sensation at the tips of their fingers. These chills will begin to go away, and your fingertips may soon become warmer.

Reduced risks of cardiac disorders – It could the biggest benefit of quitting to smoke tobacco. Yes, your journey towards reduced heart risks starts from the day stop smoking. In fact, the effects are visible by the end of the very first day you have stopped smoking. It is a known fact that smokers bear a high risk – as high as 69% – of cardiac ailments as compared to non-smokers.

Reduction of carbon monoxide in your system – This benefit again starts in very less time; say, as short as 24 hours from the time you have stopped smoking. You may be aware that carbon monoxide is an extremely toxic chemical. It is made in sizeable levels while you smoke, especially while you respire smoke from tobacco products. As monoxide gels well in the cells of your blood, your blood soon gets deprived of oxygen to that extent. It is this phenomenon that makes you go breathless and have other respiratory disorders. Also, when supply of needful oxygen is denied, your body is likely to develop a host of medical conditions. The good news however is – oxygen levels in your blood will begin to increase; your blood cells will start thanking you for not smoking!

Sense of taste (gustatory function) and smell (olfactory sense) gets enhanced – These functions turn more active in a matter of 36 hours from your last smoke. This happens because the never endings begin their regrowth. Such regrowth results in a better sense of taste as well as smell. In other words, you are getting ready to appreciate the finer aspects of your food and surroundings.

Workout with lesser difficulties –While you had been smoking, you had this excessively tired feeling. This sensation had been more pronounced when you worked out. But, as soon as you quit on smoking, you may find doing your exercises a relatively easy task to perform. This mainly happens as your body begins healing; this regenerative phase makes working-out a pleasant thing to do. A lot of factors contribute to your body’s overall regeneration; for instance, better functioning of your essential organs like heart, brain, lungs with your circulation system getting detoxed. A simple outcome is your ability to inhale and exhale with greater ease.

Stoppage of coughing spells – Your cells in the lungs will start getting repaired. This happens as cilia (hair-type of substances in your lungs) will get to flush away the risks of infections from your respiration cycles. You may need to remember that the main function of cilia is to keep mucus out from your airways. These changes eventually lead to a regenerated pulmonary function. In essence, your body can bid farewell to coughing spells as well as tightness in chest.

Apart from these, you will get to halve your risks of heart diseases within 12 months. It goes to prove that smokers tend to be exposed to twice the risk levels of likely heart disorders than non-smokers. Over a tenor of 60 to 90 months, you also get to lower the risks of strokes. You need to remember that strokes (a condition caused by blockage of oxygen from reaching your brain) are caused by the narrowing or constriction of vessels carrying blood. When less than needful amount of blood is supplied to essential organs, it leads to multiple conditions – the critical among them is likelihood of a stroke.

As your pulmonary health stands to gain, non-smokers also get to reduce the risks associated with cancers. The most common types of cancers smokers may experience are lung cancer, throat cancer, oral cancer, esophageal cancer and cancers in pancreas or kidneys. Of these risks, lung cancer is prevalent among smokers. Studies indicate that as high as 91% of incidence of lung cancers is attributed to smoking of tobacco products.

What happens in your system after nicotine withdrawal?

There are several receptors of nicotine in your brain. All through the smoking period, these brain receptors stood primed to receive this substance. In other words, these brain cells want you to smoke without any break. If you are continuing to smoke, these cells will never bother you. On the other hand, if you are not heeding to the call of these receptors (i.e., stop smoking), signs of nicotine withdrawal invariably show up.

These signs will continue to show up, hoping you would soon start using or smoking a tobacco product. With a stiff resistance (through your willpower and other support mechanisms to stop smoking), you can make these symptoms go away slowly. But, you may need to withstand these signs for at least three to five weeks from the time of your last smoke or use of a tobacco product. Medical research has come across several instances wherein signs of nicotine withdrawal have lasted for numerous months. In general, these signs are known to be severe in the first five to seven days of withdrawal of nicotine. One major positive impact of stopping to smoke tobacco products is the additional years of your life expectancy. Quitting your smoking habits is the best way to live longer and to lead a life with a better quality.

How to treat nicotine withdrawal?

The key aspect in this realm is to make a decision to stop smoking. Once you have decided to quit, have an open discussion with your doctor about how to manage nicotine withdrawal signs. Of the options available to treat the withdrawal symptoms, salient ones are nicotine replacement mechanisms, over the counter (OTC) tobacco cessation medications, etc.

The medications prescribed to manage withdrawal are varenicline, bupropion, etc. Some of these drugs are made as extended release or immediate release variants. Over the counter (OTC) tobacco cessation medications include skin patches, chewing gum, etc. Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is administered through nasal sprays, inhalers, etc. All these methods aim to reduce the quantum of nicotine in your body.

Most of these therapies focus on the physical craving of nicotine. However, if this craving has penetrated to a deeper (emotional) level, such therapies may only have limited use. Also, these therapies are not completely devoid of side effects. A few of the common side effects of nicotine replacement therapy are headaches, nausea, insomnia, drowsiness, etc.

In some instances, these side effects are known to overshadow the benefits of nicotine replacement therapies. A few smokers have experienced cardiac attacks while using patches (of nicotine), as they continued to smoke. If you feel any discomforts or a sudden increase in your blood pressure level, you are advised to contact your physician without any delay. However, it has also been observed that spike in blood pressure levels is due to the use of patch as well as smoking – all at the same time. When multiple sources of nicotine are at work, an increase in blood pressure is very likely to occur. Hence, you need to take proper inputs from your treating doctor about how to use the skin patch and the other precautions that are to be taken.

You need to remember that nicotine replacement therapies are administered to those who smoke nine (9) or more cigarettes per day. So, if you smoke a lesser number of them per day, you can choose to quit smoking without nicotine replacement therapies. The usual tools employed to quit smoking (without therapies) are (1) listing down the reasons why you wish to quit smoking, (2) enrol as part of tobacco cessation support groups in your locality or (3) set a timeline by which you would want to kick the smoking habit. You can also take the support of family members and friends for needful motivation to stop this habit. Support groups score a high as you can get to talk to smokers who also wish to quit smoking. Most support groups also organize professional help to smokers on a periodic basis.

You can avoid cravings by practicing mind relaxation methods (like deep breathing or meditation), having a glass of water (each time you have an urge to smoke), delay your desire to smoke and also by getting engaged in activities that can distract you from smoking. You can also keep snacks by your side – at office as well as at home – to keep the mouth and hands busy. On top of it all, develop a conscious mind and stay aware of the foods you consume and above all, start a regular workout schedule. If you need additional support, talk to your doctor about how to manage nicotine withdrawal symptoms.

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