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Smoking and Tobacco

What about withdrawal symtoms?

08/23/2000

Question:

Is it common to have headache when you cut way back on smoking? Going from 1 pack to 2 ciggarets a day?

Answer:

That is excellent that you have reduced your cigarette smoking to only 2 each day in your effort to quit smoking. Yes, there are several withdrawal or "recovery" symptoms that people may experience as the body responds to a drop in nicotine. These symptoms may include: trouble concentrating, feeling restless or irritable, having trouble sleeping, or a mild headache. These symptoms will decrease in intensity and frequency as your body adjusts to the absence of nicotine. Ways to help manage some of these symptoms include the 5 D`s: Deep breathing; Drink water; Do something else; Discuss with a friend; and Delay.

When you inhale on a cigarette you are taking a deep breath - when you stop smoking, you may not be breathing deeply, and this is a way to help you relax and feel in control. Drinking 8 glasses of water a day is helpful. Have plans for something to do instead of smoking - chew sugar-free gum, put together a puzzle, play basketball. Talking things over with a supportive friend or family member can help you put this in perspective. Delay a cigarette by counting to 100 or 200. The urge to smoke will pass in 3-5 minutes, whether you smoke or not.

There are several medications that can reduce the physical withdrawal symptoms during the first weeks of quitting that then give you the opportunity to focus on the psychological and social links you need to break with cigarettes. Talk with your physician or health care provider about bupropion (Zyban) which can reduce the nicotine cravings or discuss the use of a nicotine replacement product during this time of adjustment.

Most important - stay focused on your goal of quitting cigarettes completely.

For more information:

Go to the Smoking and Tobacco health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Karen L Ahijevych, PhD, RN, FAAN Karen L Ahijevych, PhD, RN, FAAN
Professor Emeritus
College of Public Health
College of Nursing
The Ohio State University