Quitting Smoking? Are You Ready To Face Nicotine Withdrawal?

Nicotine Withdrawal: Symptoms And How To Manage - DoctorOnCall

Cigarettes And Nicotine

Have you ever seen someone try to quit smoking? It is very difficult for them to quit this habit. Why? Because one of the ingredients found in cigarettes is nicotine. Nicotine can be addictive and without a continuous supply of this substance, smokers will experience nicotine withdrawal syndrome. Let's follow this article further to find out what nicotine is and how it can cause withdrawal syndrome. 

What Is Nicotine Withdrawal? 

An average smoker stimulates the nicotinic receptor as high as 200 times in a day. Imagine a single cigarette producing 20 vibrations at the receptor, 10 cigarette butts in a day producing 200 vibrations, thus a year approximately 70 000 times the reaction to the receptor occurs. Nicotine cause addiction and some other effects are:

  • Better emotions 

  • Reduce stress

  • Reduces aggressive or irritable nature

  • Increase concentration in doing work

  • Reduce appetite

Looks wonderful, isn't it? But this effect is only temporary. Long-term use of nicotine causes dependence on nicotine. This means that those who smoke find it difficult to feel calm and control their emotions without smoking. This happens because they have now relied on nicotine to get these feelings. For them, this is the pleasure of smoking cigarettes. But imagine what happens when they quit smoking? All these effects will disappear from the smoker's body immediately. When a person tries to quit smoking, the brain will signal that nicotine is no longer in the body. The desire to get the nicotine supply will be so overwhelming that one may lose focus and feel miserable. Are you dependent on nicotine? Find out with this quiz!

Symptoms of Nicotine Withdrawal 

Cravings and addiction to nicotine occur when brain cells respond to nicotinic receptors in the brain. These receptors have increased their sensitivity from the beginning of the habit of smoking and persist even when one tries to quit. During the process of quitting smoking, the brain will begin to detect the absence of nicotine and try to adjust the nicotine receptor. This process will cause the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal to occur. It will cause withdrawal effects such as:

  • Excessive cravings for nicotine

  • Numbness in hands and feet

  • Sweating

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Abdominal cramps or constipation

  • Stomachache

  • Dizziness

  • Cough

  • Sore throat

  • Difficult to sleep

  • Lost focus and concentration

  • Depression

So how to quit smoking? Of course, it isn't easy. But don't worry, there are also nicotine products for quitting smoking available with a doctor's prescription if you want to quit. The amount of nicotine in this type of medication is controlled to balance the need for receptors in the brain. However, this type of nicotine still can cause symptoms of a withdrawal syndrome if stopped abruptly. Among the possible symptoms are:

  • Depression

  • Difficult to sleep

  • Missing focus

  • Not enough rest

  • Increase appetite

  • Weight gain

  • Decrease heart rate

How Long Will One Suffer From Nicotine Withdrawal?

Someone thinking of quitting smoking should be prepared to face a long period of nicotine withdrawal effects. The last nicotine smoked will usually disappear from the body within 30 minutes to 72 hours. Thus, the earliest nicotine withdrawal symptoms a person can feel is after 30 minutes. These symptoms will peak on the 2nd and 3rd day after quitting smoking.

What is worrying is that these symptoms will also continue for a few weeks or months before fully recovered. It is during this period that the main challenge for smokers is to fight their desire. Many have succeeded, but many have lost during this period as well.

How to Treat Nicotine Withdrawal?

Before quitting smoking, you are advised to seek professional consultation to guide you. The recovery process that takes a long time needs to be monitored by qualified people. In Malaysia, the government through the Ministry of Health Malaysia has committed to establishing a Quit Smoking Clinic to provide counseling and guidance to those who wish to quit. There is a therapy called Nicotine Replacement Therapy to treat smoking and nicotine addiction. You can also get help from a registered private healthcare institution.

Among the treatments you can consider in this therapy are:

1. Nicotine patch (nicotine patch)

According to a study,  nicotine patches can help reduce nicotine withdrawal symptoms by 50-70 percent. This nicotine patch can be applied to clean and non-hairy areas of the skin such as the chest, thighs, and arms. The patch should be worn at least 16 hours a day.

2. Nicotine chewing gum and nicotine lozenges

Smokers can eliminate the urge to smoke by chewing this candy. But it can only treat withdrawal symptoms in a short period of time. These candies contain nicotine which will be absorbed through the oral mucosa. Food and drink can affect the consumption of these sweets. You are therefore advised to avoid eating and drinking 15 minutes before eating this candy.

A combination of continuous nicotine patches and occasional gums is the most effective way to help a person quit smoking.

3. Nicotone inhalerdan nicotine spray

Nicotine inhaler and spray works just like the other forms of NRT by reducing the craving for nicotine. The nicotine is absorbed into the bloodstream from the mucosal membrane in the mouth.

It can be used as a means to stop smoking gradually or abruptly and its efficacy can be boosted with the combination of nicotine patches.  The inhaler and spray is a long-acting substance, therefore it is only used about four times or less per day depending on the smoker and the prescription by the doctor. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), nicotine replacement therapy users can use the above products for 8, 10, or 12 weeks.

Nicotine inhalers and sprays require a prescription from a doctor. However, both nicotine spray and inhaler are not available in Malaysia.

4. Smoking cessation medication

Varenicline is a medication and a type of nicotine replacement that is used in smoking cessation programs. It acts by binding to the nicotinic receptors and thus suppressing nicotine’s effect on the brain so that you have little urge to smoke.

To increase the success rate of varenicline, it is usually reinforced with patient education and support which are included in smoking cessation programs. 

There are various ways to start varenicline therapy; when you already set a date or not having a date to quit smoking. The treatment length usually took about 12 weeks and the consulting doctor will adjust the dose based to reduce the risk of having the side effects such as nausea and vomiting.

Are You Ready To Go Through Nicotine Withdrawal Syndrome?

Apart from nicotine replacement therapy, these are some tips on how to help yourself overcome nicotine withdrawal.

1. Find out why you want to quit.

Each individual has their own reasons why they want to quit smoking. Some quit for the health of the family, some to step into the realm of marriage, some because of their own awareness of the dangers of smoking. Always remind yourself why you are taking the steps to quit smoking. Every time you try to light a fire on a cigarette, imagine all your hopes destroyed again. Don't waste it.

2. Avoid things that encourage you to smoke

Sometimes you do not want to smoke, but the surrounding situation plunges you towards smoking. For example, decrease association time with smokers. This does not mean you have to break the friendship, just reduce unnecessary time spent with them especially when it involves hanging out and smoking. Find out what has driven you to smoke, and try to avoid it. Practice new routines that keep you busy and forget about cigarettes.

3. Control stress well

One of the causes of smoking in society is stress. No matter the stress at work or at home, your mind has been setto smoke to relieve stress. Do not give up easily! Control your emotions well. Perform tasks in the office effectively, take short breaks from work, relax your muscles and change your perception of "stress, smoking" to "stress, take a break”.

4. Practice a healthy lifestyle

Do exercise or sports activities at least 30 minutes a day, 3 times a week. Such activities not only keep the body healthy, but it can also divert your attention from smoking. In addition, practice a healthy diet to ensure your long-lasting health. Not only exercise, but you can also do activities such as gardening or decorating the house as an activity to forget about cigarettes.

5. Celebrate your success

Once you manage to quit smoking a day, a week or a month, celebrate your success with the things you love. Use the money that was used to buy the cigarettes with other more beneficial purchases. This way, you will begin to realize that you have invested a lot of money in cigarettes and that this money can actually be used for your hobbies or to buy something more useful.


Looking at the hardship that smokers will face when they try to quit, why do so many people out there still like to even start or try this habit? People need to be more aware of the dangers of smoking to the health of the body. Smoking not only costs money, it also hurts our lives which should be happier without it. Quit smoking from now on, you can do it!

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