You've been thinking about quitting smoking for a while now, or you may already have decided to accept the mission and put yourself and your health first.
When you're planning to quit, it's normal to have lots of questions about the experience. One of the most common is: How am I going to feel when my body and brain are withdrawing from nicotine?
It is true that as your body works to rid itself of nicotine, you may experience some symptoms of withdrawal.1,2 The good news is, the more you know about the symptoms, and when they might hit, the better prepared you will be to try to beat them and hopefully emerge the winner.
So, regardless of where you are in your planning to quit journey, let’s take a look at the very first step of the mission in front of you: Week 1.
Step 1: The first week. This is the toughest part. But you’re stronger than the withdrawal. You can beat it.
So, what might you be going through in week 1?
Feeling irritable, angry, anxious or down. It’s normal to feel emotional in the first weeks after you quit, but try and think of it as just a passing phase.2
Crazy cravings. The urge to smoke will come and go, but cravings tend to last for only a short time.4 Try and resist each urge when it strikes. The cravings should gradually get less frequent as time goes by.4
Restlessness, difficulty concentrating or sleeping problems. Try practising deep breathing, listen to some music, or learn some relaxation techniques like yoga. Make sure you take a break from caffeine too.4
Increased appetite and weight gain.2,5 Try upping your exercise to help you manage your weight. Keep some healthy snacks on hand for when the hunger strikes.
Other symptoms. Although they are not as common, some people might experience some physical symptoms in the first few weeks. These might include:
- increased dreaming2
- mouth ulcers.2
If you’d like more help in understanding smoking withdrawal symptoms you're likely to encounter or that you're already experiencing, it’s well worth a visit to your doctor. You're up to 4x more likely to succeed in quitting smoking with the help of a healthcare professional compared to quitting unaided.6 So talk to your doctor about finding a way to put these symptoms, and the first week, behind you.
Once you've got through week 1, you will have made it through the period when some withdrawal symptoms typically reach their peak.2 Let’s see what weeks 2–4 have in store.
©Pfizer 2019. Pfizer Australia Pty Limited. Pfizer Medical Information: 1800 675 229. Sydney, Australia. PP-CHM-AUS-0989, 12/2019
- Hughes JR et al. (1984) Psychopharmacology (Berl), Vol 83, pp82–87.
- Hughes JR. (2007). Nicotine & Tobacco Research, Vol 9, No. 3. pp315–27.
- Hendricks PS, Ditre JW, Drobes DJ, Brandon TH. (2006). Psychopharmacology, Vol 187, pp385–396.
- NIH 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 21 October 2019.
- Greenhalgh, EM, Stillman, S, & Ford, C. (2016) Health and other benefits of quitting. In Scollo, MM and Winstanley, MH [editors]. Tobacco in Australia: Facts and issues. Melbourne: Cancer Council Victoria; Available from http://www.tobaccoinaustralia.org.au/chapter-7-cessation/7-1-health-and-other-benefits-of-quitting Accessed 13/11/19.
- West R. (2012). Stop smoking services: Increased chances of quitting. NCST Briefing #8. London; National Centre for Smoking Cessation and Training.