According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), quitting smoking forces a physical nicotine addiction .The body reacts to this absence. Common symptoms include stomach pain & gas, fatigue, increased appetite, cough & sore throat, insomnia, constipation, headaches, sore gums and/or tongue, dry mouth, post nasal drip, and tightness in the chest. CDC research indicates that addiction to nicotine is just as strong as addiction to cocaine, heroine or alcohol. Other than the physical symptoms, there are also psychological and emotional symptoms that last for weeks. They include difficulty concentrating, irritability, and anxiety.
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Withdrawal symptoms (nicotine cravings) last for several days and for weeks in some people. Nicotine works by releasing neurotransmitter dopamine and this and the fact that the brain takes time to normalize (nicotine changes the brain chemistry) causes the cravings. The cravings are also because there is mental addiction where you associate smoking with regular places, situations, or activities.
Each craving lasts between 3 and 5 minutes. Note that the blood becomes nicotine-free just 100 hours after a cigarette. You will reach maximum craving between 3 and 7 days after the last cigarette. The craving will start subsiding, but note that it never disappears. Cravings vary from one person to another. People who rely on willpower-based methods to quit get more cravings than those who use methods related to cognitive behavioral therapy.
Once you decide to quit smoking, there are several things that you can do to fight nicotine cravings or to ensure you do not act on the cravings. There are several things you can do each time you get a craving. You could write in a journal about your feelings. This is important because it gives you helpful insight. An alternative to this is starting a blog. You may help others with a problem similar to yours when you do this. You could go to sleep whenever you get a craving. This is particularly important during the first few days when you are going through physical withdrawal symptoms. Slow, deep breathing, visualization, thinking of your kids, and counting the money you save also helps whenever you get a craving.
You could fight nicotine cravings by going somewhere you are not allowed to smoke. This is a good idea if you do not trust your willpower. You could go to a house of worship, the library, a movie theatre, a coffee shop, or a bookstore. Ensure you have an activity to do where you visit so that you are not tempted to walk out for a smoke.
Consider engaging in an activity that makes it physically impossible for you to smoke whenever you get a craving. You could take a long bath or shower, chew on mint toothpicks or on a straw, brush your teeth, use mouthwash, or learn to play a musical instrument such as the keyboard/piano, harmonica, harp, or guitar. Particularly effective are activities that keep your hands busy. These include playing a board game, playing cards, painting your nails, playing a computer or video game, drawing/painting/sculpturing, and cooking.
Exercising is one of the most effective ways of helping you fight addiction. Other than giving you something to do instead of smoking, exercising is also advantageous in that it stimulates your body. Some of the exercises you can do are pushups, jumping rope, punching bag, bike riding, walking, swimming, and jogging.
There are foods that help you fight nicotine cravings. Eating also helps you avoid acting on the cravings. You should, however, avoid ice cream, sugary candies, and pastries because you will only quit a smoking problem only to have a weight problem. You could eat sunflower seeds, raisins, pickles, grapes, oranges, celery, berries, spearmint leaves, or carrot sticks.