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Managing cravings and nicotine withdrawal

​​​​​​​​​​​Smoking is an addiction

  • Most people who smoke get addicted to a chemical called “nicotine” that is found in cigarettes.
  • Nicotine addiction is the reason many smokers find it hard to quit smoking.
  • You will likely experience cravings and perhaps even nicotine withdrawal symptoms when you quit smoking.

Your dependence on nicotine plays big role in your withdrawal symptoms. To find out your nicotine dependence score and what it means to you, take the:​​

How to avoid cravings – try the 4 “Ds”

  1. Delaying
    • If you feel the urge to smoke, let a few minutes pass.
  2. Distract yourself
    • During a craving, try to take the thought of smoking off your mind by listening to music, chewing gum, or going for a walk.
  3. Deep breathing
    • This may help you focus on something other than smoking.
  4. Drink wat​er
    • By holding the glass in your hand and slowly sipping the water, this will help replace the sensation of smoking.

How can I manage withdrawal symptoms if I...​

Feel irritable, anxious, or angry
​Talk to a friend or go out for a walk or light exercise.

Feel bored
You can try new things to keep your hands and mind busy.

Have a cough, dry throat or mouth, nasal drip
Drink fluids like water and tea; use cough drops, if right for you.

Feel hungry
Drink water and low-calorie liquids; eat low-calorie, low-fat snacks; chew gum.

Have trouble sleeping
Take a hot, relaxing bath; avoid caffeine; drink warm milk.

Lack concentration or feel restless
​Get some fresh air; exercise; practice deep breathing; listen to music; watch TV.

Do not give up! It may take many attempts before you quit for good so keep trying.  Ask for help from your health care provider.

Why do some people who are trying to quit get withdrawal symptoms?

brain releasing dopamine 

Smoking activates the brain's reward system and releases a chemical called “dopamine” [doh-puh-meen]. Dopamine gives you satisfying, positive feelings.

Some people find that smoking increases their alertness and gives them a sense of well-being. These feelings are the reason why smoking is an addiction.

brain stop smoking  

When you stop smoking, the supply of nicotine to the brain is also stopped. When your body and brain stop getting the chemicals in tobacco smoke that they have been used to, you may start to have withdrawal symptoms.

  • Think of your withdrawal symptoms as "recovery symptoms."
  • Because your body has become used to the effects of nicotine, it may take 2 to 4 weeks for your body to change and learn to work normally without nicotine. Your withdrawal symptoms will get better in time.
  • Learn about withdrawal symptoms and make a plan to tackle them. Your Doctor, Nurse Practitioner or Pharmacist can help.