Monday, July 14, 2014

I just quit smoking, when will I feel better?

Most smokers feel better in three to four weeks. By this time the nicotine withdrawals have subsided or are being effectively managed and "habit" cigarettes have gone away.

Nicotine withdrawal is the main reason why smokers relapse the first month they quit. Physical withdrawal symptoms are: Cravings, depression, anger, irritability, insomnia, hunger or weight gain, fatigue, restlessness and frustration. For some smokers these symptoms can last up to six months.

There is no reason why a smoker should feel uncomfortable during this first month because there are seven FDA approved cessation medications to help with physical withdrawals. Often a combination of medications works better than using one. A recent study showed that the combination of Chantix with the Nicotine Patch worked better and had higher quit rates than using either of them alone. A professional tobacco treatment specialist can help a smoker figure out what combination of medications may work best.

Habit cigarettes are often seen as the hardest to quit. The one with your morning coffee, in the car on the way to work, or the one at break time. The cigarettes are a conditioned response. Your brain has associated different activities with the jolt of nicotine. This is the same conditioning as Pavlov's dogs. The dogs were taught to associate the ringing of a bell with food. Every time they heard a bell, they started salivating because they knew food was coming. A smokers brain is exactly the same - you smell the coffee and your brain immediately thinks of a cigarette. You get into your car and your brain immediately thinks of a cigarette.

What most people are not aware of is that Pavlov also taught the dogs to stop anticipating food when they heard the bell. It's called "extinguishing the condition". It takes about three to four weeks or about 30 different times where you have a cup of coffee without a cigarette. After this amount of time, your brain no longer anticipates getting a cigarette.

When nicotine withdrawals and the habit cigarettes are no longer an issue, a smoker will feel "normal" again. This is when a smoker may think they have the problem beaten. They have mastered their addiction. But they have only mastered two parts and the tools used for withdrawals and habit cigarettes are not the same tools needed to overcome what is needed to overcome the reasons for long-term relapse: stress, weight gain, emotional triggers, alcohol and being around other smokers.

So just because you feel better soon, don't let your guard down but develop new tools and strategies tostay quit for forever.

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