It is easy to see that in front of tobacco we are not all equal.
Some people do not start smoking, others start later and some can never stop. Another interesting fact is that although women start smoking later than men, they develop a greater dependence and it’s more difficult for them to quit this habit. It is therefore important to know that beyond the each one’s will or motivation, there is also a biological reason influencing the easiness to overcome the short-term effects of smoking cessation.
To explain the different responses to the same product, researchers have resorted to genetics. There are three major classes of genetic factors that may determine vulnerability:
- Genes involved in metabolism of tobacco substances.
Some people carry the altered versions of the gene that encodes cytochrome P450, a small protein that participates in nicotine degradation. Thus, nicotine is degraded more slowly, persist longer in the body and people smoke less and quit more easily.
- Genes that encode nicotinic receptors.
Alteration seems to cause a moderate addiction or a late smoking addiction.
- A multitude of genes that play a role depending on the response to environmental factors (stress, taste, smell, etc.) and which can be converted into genetic factors of tobacco addiction
What is, in fact, nicotine withdrawal?
Nicotine withdrawal, known as DSM-IV disease, is defined as the sum of symptoms that appear with the sudden cessation of smoking after a prolonged usage.
The reason is simple: a drug per se, tobacco disrupts brain function, resulting in both physical and psychological dependence.
Generally, smokers tend to exaggerate the disadvantages of smoking cessation (withdrawal effects) and to minimize the benefits (improved health, physical performance, appearance and personal finances). But that does not mean they are right.
There are multiple withdrawal manifestations that vary depending on the person – there are smokers who have not had any of the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal, as there are people wo are severely affected. Fortunately they are transient – they reach a peak at about 48 – 72 hours and then gradually begin declining in three or four weeks.
Therefore, after stoping smoking, one may experience different sensations:
- the urge to smoke (“my body is asking”, “I would give anything for another smoke”)
This is most common and most typical symptom of nicotine withdrawal. Is due to decreased blood concentration of nicotine. Manifested by episodes of short duration (1-3 minutes), apparently without special reason, which can occur even several months after smoking cessation. Intensity depends on the degree of nicotine addiction but also on psychiatric factors such as stress and pain tolerance, motivation, social context, smoking gestures etc..
- IMPROVEMENT / REMEDIES: Action Plan, patience, understanding the cause, specific medication (bupropion)
- Nervousness, irritability, anxiety (“I can’t sit still”).
Substances inhaled through tobacco smoke affects the entire central nervous system, and nervousness caused by the lack of these substances may take several days. In addition, the absence of ritual, metry, habits induce a state of nervousness, anxiety, “malaise” that can last months depending on the person’s adaptive capacity.
- IMPROVEMENT / REMEDIES: plan of action, relaxation techniques like deep breathing or exercise program can minimize that effect. In extreme cases, an easy sedative can be prescribed – but only with the doctor’s consent.
- Frustration or anger, depression.
Often occur in those who were not ready enough before taking the plunge, or didn’t have a powerful motivation. In addition, the absence of the drug can cause such symptoms. Duration depends on the period of adjustment and acceptance of the former smoker to new conditions.
- IMPROVEMENT / REMEDIES: remembering why he gave up cigarettes, positive thoughts, long-term observation of the advantages can solve these problems. In the short term, specific medication prescribed by doctor can be helpful.
- Occasional dizziness, headaches (“My head is heavy”).
Many people mention these effects and the cause lies in the fact that quitting smoking increases blood oxygen concentration due to the disappearance of carbon monoxide in blood. In addition, due to the absence of nicotine (powerful vasoconstrictor substance), there is an increased blood flow to the brain, which can sometimes cause headaches. Dizziness may occur once or twice a day the first week and it usually lasts for a second or two.
- IMPROVEMENT / REMEDIES: action plan, symptomatics if they are too intense.
This symptom occurs in most of former smokers who noticed that they tend to eat more than before. Explanations are multiple: return to normal hunger and satiety center, return to normal metabolism, replacing the gesture of smoking with eating. In addition, the enhancement of food absorption, along with smoking cessation may lead to weight gain.
- Constipation. Without nicotine, and because the morning ritual changes, gut motility may decrease for a short period when the use of tobacco is reduced. This symptom rarely lasts more than a week.
IMPROVEMENT / REMEDIES: making another ritual, natural remedies, medication (if absence of the feces is too long).
- Tremor. It may be noticed a trembiling of the hands and fingers that will probably maintain over several weeks.
This is another reaction similar to the tremor, that it will disappears after a while. Frequent warm baths can help the disappearance of these two effects.
- Bradycardia and low blood pressure.
It is due to the lack of nicotine (which produces tachycardia and high blood pressure) and may explain some of the other symptoms. Values are normal for that person.
As airway cilia recover and begin to recover, they begin to clean the bronchial tree and remove the phlegm, causing an increase in cough which will last several weeks. In addition, among the additives added to cigarettes, are found some which produce a mild bronchodilation, masking a possible underlying disease. In these cases, giving up cigarettes “unmask” a disease – chronic bronchitis – that require the submission of emergency physician.
IMPROVEMENT / REMEDIES: it is necessary a physician’s council to differentiate a disease from the normal cure of the airways.
- Sleep disorders.
Some smokers complain that it is very difficult to go to sleep. The reality is that quitting smoking increases the amount of energy accumulated in the body, so that we wake up at 5 am is not necessarily a sign of insomnia but only a sign that we are sufficiently rested.
IMPROVEMENT / REMEDIES: physical activity for energy consumption and sleep hygiene measures.
Addiction to nicotine is the main reason why some smokers find it hard to quit. But addiction is not only physical dependence on nicotine, but also a psychological and social one, smoking being considered a way of coping with stress, boredom, anxiety or anger, or a method of social integration, acceptance in the group of friends, even a social norm in the Balkan countries.
The gesture of smoking a cigareand bring it to the lips becomes quickly an automatism, which further hampers the situation of those who want to quit the habit.
Therefore, in addition to nicotine withdrawal, smokers can still face a gesture withdrawal (the feeling that they have nothing to do with their hands, that they lack something) and social withdrawal (feeling that there is no opportunity to interact with others “which went for a cigarette “, etc.).
Sometimes, these sufferings are greater than the physical and the lack of a compensatory mechanism, the trying to quit can turn into a failure. Therefore preparation – Action Plan – is essential for long-term success.
Some smokers experience a feeling of loss and suffering when they quit smoking and many of them will confess feeling they have lost the best friend or even a part of their identity. These feelings are normal if we think that suffering appears when you have to give up something in your live. Grief reaction usually follows a pattern: denial, anger, depression, not necessarily in that order. And, as with other compromises, the thought of the good things that will come is the most important support for the former smoker struggling with withdrawal; and withdrawal is only the price to pay to be free again.
And do not forget!
If after some years you feel the need to smoke a cigarette, it is not a withdrawal symptom, but only a slight nostalgia.
How to bear the effects of withdrawal easier:
2. Try to find interests in the early days. Avoid exposing situations or places that will predispose you to smoking.
3. Keep the money saved from quitting smoking in a bowl or jar so as to see how their level increases every day. Use the money for a “Shopping Day” to celebrate the fact that you managed to quit.
4. Search the support of relatives and friends. We all need help and understanding to achieve certain things in life and family and friends will surely be more than happy to help you in this endeavor.
5. Eat healthy and rest well and give your full attention. It’s too easy to neglect yourself in favor of family or service, but if you don’t look after yourselves you wil get to the end of your rope.
6. Constantly remember youselves that only in a few weeks you will be released from tobacco addiction. Victory will be sweet and you deserve to enjoy it!
7. Call a physician trained in the field.