Quitting can be hard. It can make you grumpy, sad, and restless. You start becoming aware of feelings that might be uncomfortable or unsettling but that’s a normal part of quitting and withdrawal. Understanding what’s happening inside your body can help make the journey easier. When you smoke, nicotine travels to your lungs, then through the blood, and rushes to your brain like an Olympic sprinter. nicotine can influence a pathway in the brain called the reward pathway.
Nicotine attaches to the nicotine receptors on the surface of the brain cells, called neurons. Nicotine targets neurons in the reward center stimulating the reward pathway. Stimulation of the reward pathway releases dopamine, a chemical that makes you feel warm and satisfied. This feeling will want to make you do it again. The longer you smoke, the more nicotine receptors are created in the brain and each one craves its nicotine fix. The more receptors in the brain, the more nicotine is needed to fill the receptors to make them filled with chemicals.
Smokers believe that a cigarette makes them feel good, but the cigarette is just taking away the bad feelings created by low dopamine levels and lots of empty nicotine receptors, craving nicotine. About two hours after the cigarette the nicotine disappears and again the cycle continues. The nicotine receptors crave the cigarette because of low dopamine levels. Without nicotine in their brain, their bodies crave the smoke and smokers get withdrawal symptoms.
When you quit, these receptors get cranky. Less nicotine means there is less dopamine to make you feel happy. Together these can give you cravings for a cigarette and withdrawal symptoms like being tired, anxious, hungry, irritated, having trouble sleeping, and being unable to concentrate. But these symptoms won’t last forever, and it might help to recognize that these are just signs that your brain and your body are fighting nicotine addiction. Cravings only usually last a few minutes, but they can vary in strength depending upon the habits and the triggers you associate with having a cigarette like having a coffee or seeing someone else smoke. Many people can resist most cravings by just ignoring them. The symptoms of nicotine withdrawal are usually strongest two to three days after your last cigarette.
There are two types of withdrawal from nicotine. One may experience either physical withdrawal or emotional withdrawal or most of the times, both. For physical withdrawal, there are nicotine replacement therapies that have nicotine in them which will help you withdraw slowly and physically. Nicotine addiction is 80% psychological and 20% physical. Either way, it can be an exceedingly difficult withdrawal.
One of the first suggestions we have for you is to treat yourself like a little kid, like a child. Get plenty of rest. Eat proper nutritious meals. Take a nap when you’re tired if you can. Take walks around the block or if you live around a body of water or near the beautiful mountains, take a walk around and look at the sky. Take deep breaths. Divulge yourself into meditation and practice the art of abstinence. One of the especially important suggestions is to drink a lot of water. It will be of huge help to you with the cravings.
The practice of meditation and deep breathing will help you when you’re feeling panicky and full of anxiety. It’s the first thing a paramedic will tell you when you’re feeling terrified. There are many other things that you can do that will help you with your nicotine withdrawal. Don’t let yourself get too lonely. Feelings like getting angry and unnecessary fighting, these things can be exasperated by the withdrawal. You could end up picking up a cigarette instead of having to deal with the actual situation.
For most people, these symptoms gradually fade away over the next two to four weeks. Without nicotine, many, but not all these receptors will go to sleep but they’re not all gone. That’s why it is essential to try to avoid listening to cravings such as ‘just one cigarette won’t hurt. It just takes one puff to reawaken those receptors and begin the cycle of addiction again. Really strong cravings can be managed with nicotine replacement therapy products. NRT binds to nicotine receptors in just the right amounts to release dopamine to help with the cravings
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