What are the Side Effects of Quitting Smoking Cold Turkey?
Credit: stockvault.net

Effects of Smoking

Smoking is no doubt a deadly habit. The World Health Organisation (WHO) as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirms this with statistical data. And even if these two organisations didn’t confirm, we all know smoking is fatal. After all, Wayne McLaren, the cool guy who used to appear in ‘Malboro’ adverts, died in 1992 after a long and protracted battle against lung cancer. In interviews before his death, he attributed his illness to 30 years of smoking.

But in trying to quit, smokers are usually faced with several options including cold turkey quitting, Nicotine Replacement Therapies, Zyban, Chantix, Nicotine Inhalers, Gums, Lozenges, Injections and what have you.

Cold turkey quitting is used by most people who want to quit, but like other therapies, it comes with side effects which should be well dealt with, to ensure a successful quit attempt. These side effects are best described as the body’s way of protesting the withdrawal of a substance it has grown to like and enjoy. Now, let me break this down a bit.

Why Are Cigarettes Addictive?

Cigarettes contain several chemicals including nicotine, a highly addictive element which excites the brain and stimulates pleasure-releasing hormones in the brain. This characteristic of nicotine makes smokers crave for more cigarettes to experience the feeling of ecstasy and euphoria. This, in turn, leads to a situation where they ‘seemingly’ cannot function well without nicotine in their bloodstream. And so, when they totally withdraw from smoking (cold turkey quitting, as against a gradual withdrawal), the body reacts angrily. Let’s examine how the body reacts below.

Common Stop Smoking Cold Turkey Side Effects

People call them side effects but I honestly think they are nicotine withdrawal symptoms, which will go away if the smoker holds up long enough. Interestingly, some smokers do not experience these symptoms, while others do. But for those who do, the symptoms disappear after some days, once nicotine is not introduced in any form (gum, lozenge, injection, or the patch) to the body.

A study on the “self-reported abstinence effects in the first month after smoking cessation" lists anger, anxiety, depression, difficulty concentrating, irritability, restlessness, dizziness, and nausea as some of the things to expect in the first month of smoking cessation.

Anger – In the first few days after quitting, smokers experience anger with themselves, friends and even things around them because they simply can’t understand what’s happening to them. This could be controlled with understanding on the part of friends and family.

Insomnia- Smokers who quit abruptly have difficulty sleeping in the first few days after cessation. What normally happens is, a smoker will feel sleepy throughout the day but won’t be able to sleep in the night. This could be caused by the chemical changes that brain has to go through when smokers quit.

Irritability – As earlier stated, nicotine elicits excitement and pleasure for the brain. When a person stops smoking suddenly, this euphoric feeling also stops and the smoker feels irritation. It can even lead to unexplainable feeling of loss and an inability to concentrate.

Strong Cravings - Smokers attempting to quit cold turkey experience strong cravings for nicotine at short intervals. The cravings occur intermittently. But could be dealt with by drinking water, getting support, and exercise. Also, a huge craving for foods (especially sugary foods) is not left out but this should be watched to avoid substituting food addiction with tobacco addiction.

Emotional instability - a person who recently quit unassisted would experience mood swings now and then. He’ll be emotionally unstable because of the chemical changes in the body (don’t forget that smoking introduces several chemicals into the body but when a smoker quits, the brain tries to readjust to life without chemicals and this can cause mood swings).

Cold and Flu – Most smokers experience cold or the flu few days after cessation. This is because the body’s immunity drops as it tries to adjust to life without nicotine. Mild flu-like symptoms will last for a few days while cold turkey quitters who’re susceptible to cold can treat it with readily available pills.

Depression This is one nicotine withdrawal symptom which should be closely watched as it can last for a couple of weeks, in some cases. A smoker has many memories and habits connected with smoking (like smoking in the midst of friends or after food) but when he or she suddenly stops, he’ll be reminded of the loss each time a similar scenario plays itself out. For instance, a smoker would feel unhappy in the midst of friends who smoke, knowing he’ll never enjoy the pleasure of smoking with them again. If left unchecked, this can build up and lead to depression.

There are other side effects like dizziness, constipation and nausea but one thing to note is: cold turkey quitting could be successful if smokers learn how to beat nicotine cravings when they strike, how to keep smoking friends at bay and cleanse the body of nicotine as this reduces withdrawal symptoms to a bearable level and makes quit smoking beneficial.