Lauder is trying to quit smoking but withdrawal symptoms have intruded on his days – and nights – when he’s tried to quit in the past.
Today, he knows that with the help of his doctor, he can find ways to manage withdrawal symptoms and finally quit smoking.1
“I don’t want to be an angry man”, says Lauder. But when he’s tried to give up smoking in the past, he admits he has not been his usual self: “I’ve definitely been irritable.”
Lauder is not alone: many people who are trying to quit smoking suffer from the uncomfortable symptoms of nicotine withdrawal.2 These symptoms can be physical or emotional and include:
irritability or frustration
• low mood
• difficulty concentrating
• difficulty sleeping
• increased appetite
• abdominal discomfort and gut problems, including constipation.2
Along with feeling irritable, Lauder has had physical withdrawal symptoms, even waking up in the middle of the night craving a cigarette.
“It put enormous pressure on me, probably to the extent that I had to run down the road and buy another packet,” he says.
GP and addiction expert Dr Hester Wilson says: “Withdrawal is something, when you stop smoking, that you need to go through.”
Yet it’s important to remember that unpleasant withdrawal symptoms are only temporary.3 Withdrawal symptoms may kick in between four and 24 hours after you smoke your last cigarette.2 Some symptoms may peak around day three of quitting, with most symptoms usually diminishing gradually over the following three to four weeks.2
What can you do about withdrawal symptoms?
Dr. Wilson acknowledges that withdrawal symptoms can be “pretty intense…and they’re hard to manage on your own”.
Remember though, that the urge to smoke will come and go, and cravings usually don’t last for long.3
Here are some tips to see you through the tough times.
Breathe through it: To try to manage cravings and avoid reaching for a cigarette, take a deep breath in through your nose and out through your mouth, slowly. Repeat this 10 times and remind yourself that these cravings will pass.3
Keep your mouth busy: Substitute the feel of a cigarette for something else. Try chewing on carrots, apples, sugarless gum, or hard lollies.3
Know your triggers: Because the addiction to nicotine is psychological as well as physical, try to avoid situations that may trigger an urge to smoke, such as having an alcoholic drink or being around other smokers.2,3
By understanding what sets you off, you can prepare to distract your mind during trigger situations that you can’t avoid.3
Manage your emotions: If you’re feeling emotional or irritable during your quitting journey, try some of these tips for coping.
Get help from your doctor: Your doctor will be able to help support you as you try to quit smoking and can offer treatment options to help manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms.1
This time around, Lauder has made an appointment to see his doctor for the help he needs to manage his withdrawal symptoms.
Lauder says: “I just want to quit….finally. It’s going to be a long road – but I’m looking forward to the results.”
Research shows you’re 4x more likely to succeed with the help of a healthcare professional, compared with trying to quit smoking on your own.4 So make sure you get the support you need to manage your withdrawal symptoms as you try to quit smoking for good.
Start a quit chat with your doctor today
1. RACGP. Supporting smoking cessation: a guide for health professionals. Melbourne: The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, 2011 (Updated July 2014). Available at https://www.racgp.org.au/download/documents/Guidelines/smoking-cessation.pdf Accessed 4 November 2019.
2. Kandola A. Nicotine withdrawal symptoms and how to cope. Medical news Today (2019. Available at https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323012.php Accessed 4 November 2019.
3. National Cancer Institute. How to handle withdrawal symptoms and triggers when you decide to quit smoking. Available at https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/tobacco/withdrawal-fact-sheet#q3. Accessed 4 November 2019.
4. West, R. (2012). Stop smoking services: increased chances of quitting. NCSCT Briefing #8. London; National Centre for Smoking Cessation and Training.
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