This helps with typical nicotine withdrawal symptoms

This helps with typical nicotine withdrawal symptoms

Those who stop smoking often have to contend with severe withdrawal symptoms. Both physical and psychological consequences of nicotine withdrawal make it difficult for many to stop smoking permanently and not relapse. Weaning is divided into different phases, which can be roughly divided into weeks, months or years. Simple tips and behaviours can help you better manage the intermittent symptoms. You can find out here which typical “side effects” can occur when you stop smoking, how long the symptoms last and how you can best alleviate the symptoms of withdrawal.

 

When do nicotine withdrawal symptoms appear?

When you stop smoking, the nicotine remaining in the body is wholly eliminated two days after the last cigarette, but the hormonal change takes longer. For most nicotine addicts, the first withdrawal symptoms appear a few hours after the last cigarette and peak after two to three days.

 

Six stages of withdrawal

Nicotine withdrawal and the symptoms that occur can be divided into six phases:

  1. Stable smoking phase: The person is not yet ready to quit smoking and is looking for arguments against quitting.
  2. Consideration phase: The idea of ​​quitting smoking is raised for the first time, and consideration is given to quit within the next six months.
  3. Decision phase: The decision phase lasts about four weeks, at the end of which the person concerned makes a serious decision to withdraw from nicotine.
  4. Action phase: Smoking cessation is implemented. This phase lasts about six months. This is also when the most severe withdrawal symptoms appear.
  5. Maintenance phase: This phase lasts about five years. During this time, it should be relatively easy to stop smoking cigarettes.
  6. Non-smoker phase: The former smoker successfully became a non-smoker. The conviction prevails that they will no longer relapse. The person can resist the temptation to start smoking again.

 

Psychological withdrawal symptoms from nicotine

  1. With nicotine withdrawal, various symptoms can occur to a greater or lesser extent – ​​sometimes not at all. The most crucial psychological manifestation of nicotine withdrawal is referred to as craving, addiction pressure or languor. Craving is characterized by an intense, almost insurmountable desire to consume a specific substance – in this case, nicotine.
  2. Other psychological symptoms of nicotine withdrawal include:

Physical symptoms of nicotine withdrawal

  1. Typical physical symptoms of quitting smoking are:

How long do physical withdrawal symptoms last?

  1. The most severe physical withdrawal symptoms from nicotine last about seven to ten days for most people. The body needs at least this time to re-regulate hormone balance and metabolism. After four weeks, the hormonal changes are back on track and hormone secretion is normal. 
  2. An increased susceptibility to infections shortly after leaving is also standard. A London study found that the likelihood of cold symptoms and mouth sores increases in the first three weeks of quitting smoking.
  3. When physical symptoms occur for a long time, many people are unsettled and suspect serious illnesses. To rule this out, it is advisable to seek medical advice. However, it is also important not to drive yourself crazy if withdrawal symptoms last longer than expected.

When do the psychological withdrawal symptoms from nicotine subside?

  1. The change is much more difficult if you have a strong psychological dependency, which can take two to three months . It is also not unusual for symptoms to still occur after six to nine months .
    • Üblicherweise wird das Verlangen nach Zigaretten, das meist in Schüben auftritt, mit der Zeit immer schwächer und lässt etwa nach acht bis zehn Wochen nahezu komplett nach.
    • Oftmals kommt es zwischen der sechsten und der zehnten Woche nach dem Ausstieg zu einer Art “depressivem Loch”, bevor sich das psychische Befinden nach und nach wieder verbessert. Ein Wechsel von Hochphasen und traurigen Phasen während des Entzugs ist nicht ungewöhnlich.
    • Häufig treten einige Monate nach dem Rauchstopp noch einmal starke Entzugserscheinungen – vor allem Craving – auf, die auf den Abbau des nikotinähnlichen Stoffes Nornikotin zurückgeführt werden können.
    • Grundsätzlich richtet sich die Dauer des Entzugs nach der Menge und Länge des vorausgegangenen Nikotinkonsums. Je mehr konsumiert wurde, desto länger ist mit Erscheinungen des Nikotinentzugs zu rechnen. Die Dauer der psychischen Entzugserscheinungen ist von Mensch zu Mensch unterschiedlich.

Symptome lindern: Stress vermeiden

  1. Viele Raucher*innen schätzen den beruhigenden Effekt einer Zigarette in Stresssituationen. Das Verlangen nach einer Zigarette in Stresssituationen resultiert jedoch aus einem psychologischen Trugschluss.
  2. In einer Studie konnte nachgewiesen werden, dass eine Zigarette in erster Linie den Stress lindert, der durch den Nikotinentzug ausgelöst wird. Im akuten Moment denken die Betroffenen jedoch, das Rauchen würde den situationsbezogenen Stress reduzieren.
  3. Rauchen bekämpft daher keinen Stress, vielmehr löst es durch regelmäßige Entzugserscheinungen mehr Stress aus. Ein Rauchstopp trägt daher langfristig gesehen auch zu weniger Stressempfinden bei.
  4. Nichtsdestotrotz: Wer mit dem Rauchen aufhört, sollte versuchen, Stresssituationen zu vermeiden. Es gibt zahlreiche Aktivitäten, mit denen der Stresslevel gesenkt werden kann, beispielsweise Sport oder regelmäßiges Meditieren. Schon ein täglicher zehnminütiger Spaziergang hilft, spürbar entspannter zu werden.

Was tun bei Reizbarkeit in Folge von Nikotinentzug?

  1. Wer unter erhöhter Reizbarkeit und Frustration leidet, dem hilft insbesondere viel Bewegung. Beim Sport werden Glückshormone ausgeschüttet.
  2. Entspannungsübungen wie Meditation oder der Austausch mit engen sozialen Kontakten tragen ebenfalls zur Entspannung und Ablenkung bei.
  3. Es kann ratsam sein, Ihrem Umfeld Ihre Situation zu erklären und so frühzeitig um Verständnis zu werben sowie etwaige Missverständnisse infolge Ihrer angespannten Gefühlslage auszuschließen.

Was hilft bei Müdigkeit als Entzugserscheinung?

  1. Müdigkeit und Schlafstörungen sind häufige Symptome des Nikotinentzugs. Das regelmäßige Einlegen von kleinen Erholungsphasen während der Arbeit hilft, diese Symptome zu bekämpfen und neue Energie zu schöpfen.
  2. Um das Einschlafen zu erleichtern, kann man zum Beispiel auf die Hilfe von altbewährten Hausmitteln zurückgreifen, wie etwa heiße Milch mit Honig oder Tee mit Baldrianwurzel. Auch Einschlafübungen können helfen, die kreisenden Gedanken zu beruhigen und zur Ruhe zu kommen.

Entzugserscheinung “Heißhunger”: Was tun?

  1. In der Phase des Entzugs sollte auf eine ausgewogene Ernährung geachtet werden. Um auf Heißhungerattacken vorbereitet zu sein und nicht zu Süßigkeiten zu greifen, kann man sich gesunde Snacks, wie zum Beispiel Früchte oder Nüsse, bereitlegen. So kann man einer starken Gewichtszunahme infolge des Rauchstopps entgegenwirken.
  2. Ein starkes Hungergefühl hängt in vielen Fällen auch mit einer unzureichenden Flüssigkeitszufuhr zusammen. Daher ist es beim Entwöhnen vom Nikotin besonders wichtig, viel zu trinken.

Nikotinentzug: Was tun gegen Konzentrationsprobleme?

Bei Konzentrationsproblemen hilft es, zu erledigende Aufgaben in kleinere Blöcke einzuteilen. Belastende Situationen sollten möglichst vermieden werden. Ein Spaziergang an der frischen Luft in den Pausen oder das bewusste Zulassen von kurzen Tagträumen tragen ebenfalls zur Entspannung bei und können so helfen, sich anschließend wieder besser zu konzentrieren.

Was tun bei depressiver Verstimmung nach Rauchstopp?

  1. Because smoking releases the happiness hormones dopamine and serotonin, depression is a common consequence of nicotine withdrawal. The body must first learn how to produce the happy hormones differently.
  2. Anyone who suffers from depression or depression as a result of quitting smoking should do things that make them feel particularly happy. These can be social activities such as dancing or team sports. It often helps to find a new hobby that gives you a sense of fulfilment and validation.
  3. If the depressive mood is particularly severe, psychological advice should be sought.

What to do against psychological addiction to smoking?

  1. While the physical signs subside after a short time, overcoming the psychological dependence can be much more difficult.
  2. Reaching for a cigarette has numerous social and psychological functions. Depending on the situation, a cigarette can be used, for example, to start a conversation, to take a break or to cover up insecurity. Habits also play a role, for example, cigarette rewards after work.
  3. The longer someone has smoked, the more situations they associate with smoking a cigarette. What helps here is to replace the trained smoking ritual with other rituals. For example, initially, each time you feel the craving for a cigarette, write down that situation and consider what replacement ritual you could perform. For example, a relaxing cigarette after work could be preparing and enjoying a delicious, soothing tea or eating an apple.

How Can Nicotine Replacement Products Help You Quit Smoking?

  1. Nicotine replacements are a popular way to quit smoking. The body continues to be supplied with nicotine, for example, through chewing gum or patches containing nicotine. The withdrawal symptoms are subdued, and the dose is gradually reduced until no more withdrawal symptoms occur.
  2. Concrete nicotine replacement products to support can be, for example:
    • Nicotine gum
    • Nicotine patches
    • Nikotinsprays
  1. In some instances, such nicotine replacement products can help to make smoking cessation easier – but their effect is controversial, and previous studies have only been of limited significance. It is best to seek advice from a doctor or within the context of addiction support as to whether these drugs are suitable for you.
  2. E-cigarettes are also sometimes used to help people stop smoking. However, their actual benefit in this respect is disputed since the so-called “vaping” is suspected of also hurting health. In particular, little is known about the side effects of long-term use, even if it is assumed that e-cigarettes are at least less harmful to health than conventional cigarettes.
  3. However, according to the current guidelines for the treatment of tobacco dependence, e-cigarettes should not be used to reduce cigarette consumption.

Smoking cessation medication

Different active ingredients help against withdrawal symptoms and should make smoking cessation easier. Three active ingredients are currently approved in Germany.

Bupropion

Bupropion belongs to the group of antidepressants. The active ingredient reduces the absorption of dopamine and norepinephrine in the central nervous system. Since the effect only sets in after about two weeks, it is recommended that bupropion be taken for the first time about 14 days before you start smoking cessation. The dosage is increased throughout treatment. Widespread side effects include insomnia, headaches and gastrointestinal problems.

Varenicline

Varenicline binds to the same receptors in the brain as nicotine, thereby inhibiting its effects. The “reward system” that would otherwise be activated by the nicotine in the cigarettes is thus overridden. As a result, smoking is no longer associated with positive feelings. This drug should also be started one to two weeks before the planned withdrawal. Headaches, insomnia, nausea or taste disorders are common side effects.

Cytisin

  1. Cytisine has only been available in Germany since 2020. It works similarly to varenicline, occupying the same receptors as nicotine. Smoking should be stopped on the fifth day of treatment to avoid increased side effects. Side effects such as gastrointestinal complaints, tiredness, dizziness or skin rash are common.
  2. All three active ingredients cause different side effects. Interactions with other medications are also possible. Drugs for smoking cessation require a prescription, so a medical consultation must always take place in advance. In general, such agents are only recommended if other nicotine replacement products, such as chewing gum or patches, do not show any effect.

The social environment makes it easier to stop smoking.

  1. Anyone who quits smoking is well advised to talk to ex-smokers in their circle of acquaintances, in forums or in self-help groups. These can often give those affected confidence and valuable tips on how to break the addiction as comfortably as possible.
  2. Quitting is often incredibly difficult, especially if everyone around you continues to smoke. In this case, the social environment of smoking cessation should be communicated. Ideally, you stop together with a friend. This way, you can motivate and control each other. Smoking areas should be avoided.

When is a good time to quit smoking?

  1. Phases of rest, such as on vacation, are particularly suitable for quitting smoking. Therefore, anyone currently in a stressful phase should wait to stop so as not to make the exit unnecessarily tricky.
  2. The important thing is that a relapse is not a disgrace. Instead, see it as an opportunity to learn from it and do better next time!

Why do people smoke at all?

Indeed, everyone is aware of the adverse effects of smoking on health. Yet many people smoke – why? Nicotine intake when smoking causes the happiness hormones dopamine and serotonin to be released in the brain. As a result, one experiences a feeling of reward when smoking. In addition, adrenaline is released when smoking, and the vessels dilate, which creates a stimulating effect.

Conclusion: Quitting smoking is worth it!

Quitting smoking is rarely pleasant, but the positive effects far outweigh it. Non-smokers live longer, healthier lives, are more relaxed, and less prone to illness. In the case of particularly severe withdrawal symptoms, however, medical advice should always be sought.

 

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