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Quitting Smoking: Coping With Cravings and Withdrawal


Nicotine is addicting. Your body craves it. So when you stop smoking or using other nicotine products, you go through nicotine withdrawal.

During withdrawal, you may feel cranky, anxious, or restless. You may be hungrier than usual. And you may have trouble concentrating, sleeping, or managing stress.

Symptoms of withdrawal are at their worst during the first couple of days or so after you quit. Some symptoms may last a few weeks or longer.

Making a plan ahead of time can help you manage withdrawal and cravings for nicotine. Medicines and nicotine replacement products like gum or patches can help ease symptoms and cravings. This can help you feel better and make it more likely that you won't start using nicotine again. Quit-tobacco programs, support groups, and regular exercise may also help.

How can you get through it?

It's not easy to quit. When you try to stop smoking or using other nicotine products, you go through nicotine withdrawal. To help yourself through this time, plan how you will manage your cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

  • Get support.

    Tell your family and friends your plan to quit. Talk to your doctor about it. And be aware of the many organizations and tools that can help you.

  • Reduce stress.

    Think about how you will reduce stress. Many people smoke because nicotine helps them relax. Without the nicotine, they feel uptight and grouchy. But there may be better ways to cope with these feelings—ways that may make managing cravings easier.

  • Be more active.

    Physical activity may help reduce your nicotine cravings and relieve some withdrawal symptoms. It doesn't have to be intense activity. Mild exercise is fine. Being more active also may help you reduce stress.

  • Get plenty of rest.

    The more rested you are, the better you'll feel, and the better you'll be able to cope with the kinds of stress that can make you want to smoke.

  • Use a stop-smoking medicine or nicotine replacement.

    Medicines or nicotine replacement, like nicotine gum or patches, can help you manage nicotine withdrawal and cravings. Research shows that they may increase your chances of quitting for good.

  • Distract yourself from cravings.

    Try chewing on a toothpick or a piece of gum. Stop what you're doing, and do something else. Or work on a puzzle to keep your hands busy.

  • Reward yourself.

    You might want to do something fun with the money you save from not buying nicotine products. What else could you do as a reward to help you quit?


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