Based on the hundreds of anti-smoking commercials on television over the years, we know one thing: smoking kills. Other than seeing how smoking and tobacco can cause lung problems, infections, and cancers, there isn’t much else these commercials tell us. For one, nobody mentions how the main chemical in tobacco—nicotine—affects the body when someone begins to quit smoking. Here is what you need to know about nicotine withdrawal:
Is Nicotine Even Addictive?
Some people who smoke often say “I can quit at any time”, but that statement isn’t always true. Nicotine is highly addictive and in fact, the main reason most smokers use tobacco. Much like other “harder” drugs, nicotine works in the same way. When someone inhales or ingests nicotine, the chemical forces the brain to release endorphins and dopamine. Endorphins are the body’s natural painkiller, relaxant, and “reward chemical”. You’ll normally release endorphins when you complete a difficult task or do something you enjoy, but drugs like nicotine trick the body into releasing these endorphins early. Dopamine, on the other hand, is what makes you feel good, and is used to treat symptoms of depression and anxiety.
When the body is constantly receiving dopamine and endorphins, your brain will stop reacting to them and adjust to a new normal. This is what drives users to keep reaching for more cigarettes or turn to harder drugs.
Nicotine is most often found in tobacco products, like cigarettes and tobacco chews. However, it can also be found in electronic cigarettes and vape products as well. Cigarettes, cigars, e-cigarettes, vape packs, and “snuff” (chewing tobacco) are the most common products in the U.S. that contain tobacco.
Symptoms of Withdrawal
Breaking away from any addiction is a challenge, mainly because of withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms affect everyone differently, but there are a few common physical and mental symptoms that people experience.
When someone goes through withdrawal, their mood will change. Since nicotine can boost your mood, going through withdrawal means users will experience symptoms of depression, increased irritability, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, and difficulty sleeping. Physical symptoms of withdrawal include digestive complications, nausea, weight gain or increased appetite, sore throat, coughing, sweating, and headaches.
How Can I Manage My Symptoms?
It is best to consult your primary care physician if you are looking to quit smoking or using tobacco products. That way, your doctor can consider your medical history to find the best treatment and ways to quit. Sometimes, your doctor may recommend weaning off nicotine through nicotine patches or other products over time.
To handle withdrawal symptoms, remember to be gentle with yourself. Getting plenty of rest, eating healthy, and exercising on occasion can help deal with depression, insomnia, irritability, and digestive problems. To help with other issues (including the need to have a smoke), distracting yourself with something you enjoy is another excellent option.
As always, remember that you are not alone in your experiences. If you are having trouble, consult your family, friends, or doctor. To browse products that can help with pain management, visit Medical Supply Depot.