There are many factors in determining how long it takes for a person to quit smoking. The actual quitting part takes no time at all: simply, stop smoking cigarettes. The hard part is to not start smoking again. Many people fail at their first attempt at quitting, and some people never actually manage to. This being said, there is a general guideline to how long these withdrawal symptoms will last, and as long as you can get through this initial timeframe quitting will become much easier.
In this article we will discuss this timeline as well as quitting cold turkey and the ways to fight anxiety and cravings that come with quitting smoking.
Quitting Cold Turkey
Quitting cold turkey simply means setting a date where a person will have their last cigarette and then sticking to that plan, hopefully forever. This method is one of the most popular quitting methods and of the people who do end up quitting for life, 80% used the cold turkey method. Despite this success rate, this method also carries with it the burden of having to experience all of the nicotine withdrawal symptoms upfront, the timeline of which we will discuss in detail later on.
These withdrawal symptoms can include:
- Trouble with sleep
- Inability to concentrate
The cold turkey method may be effective to some degree but it does have drawbacks. These withdrawal symptoms can be mild for a lucky few, but most describe them as somewhere from unpleasant to unbearable.
Ways to Fight Anxiety
Anxiety is one of the first symptoms experienced after someone quits smoking. The overwhelming feeling that they might never smoke again can seem like a frightening prospect. They may feel like they will relapse and be a failure to those around them, or that quitting is such a daunting task they may as well give up now. Most people are too hard on themselves and the anxiety that comes with quitting smoking does not help matters. Anxiety causes stress and stress is one of the reasons people often revert back to smoking.
Here are some ways to combat these stressful feelings:
- Signs of Stress – Recognizing certain signs of stress such as headaches, sleeplessness, depression, and anger is key so that people can react accordingly to help combat such feelings
- Enjoyment – Doing things a person enjoys can greatly reduce anxiety
- Physical Activity – When many people, not just smokers trying to quit, feel anxiety and stress they do physical activity to relieve it
- Relaxation Techniques – Yoga, deep breathing, and meditation are ways people can teach themselves to learn to relax more in times of stress
- Caffeine – Reducing a person’s caffeine intake is a good way to reduce anxiety
- Life Problems – Resolving short-term problems before quitting can be beneficial so there will be one less thing to worry about when quitting. After quitting, not worrying about long-term problems for the time being will also help
Using these techniques can help combat one of the first and most powerful symptoms of nicotine withdrawals; anxiety. If a person gives themselves a break, realizes that the road is going to be tough, and uses some of these techniques they will have a better chance of quitting.
How to Fight Cigarette Cravings
Another of the most common symptoms of nicotine withdrawal are cravings. A person’s brain gets used to the nicotine and other chemicals it absorbs from years of smoking cigarettes. When these chemicals are cut off, the brain goes into withdrawals. One of strongest withdrawal symptoms is nicotine cravings.
Many people revert back to smoking because the nicotine cravings are too much to handle. There are many ways to fight these cravings, and they typically only last 5-10 minutes, so here are some tips to get through that time:
- Support – Having a support system is very helpful to managing cravings. A friend or family member, a help line, a counsellor, or even an app can be the difference between a cigarette and another smoke-free day
- Environment – Ensuring that the first 2-4 weeks of quitting are spent in as many smoke-free places as possible will help keep the mind off of wanting a cigarette
- Keep Your Mouth and Hands Busy – Chewing gum or lozenges will keep the mouth busy, while knitting, physical activity, or even puzzles can keep the hands busy.
- Use NRT’s – Nicotine Replacement Therapies such as patches, gums, or pharmaceutical aids can help subdue the cravings gradually
While the exact timeline will obviously be different for each individual, there is a general guideline for what happens to the body and mind when a person has their last cigarette.
Here is a timeline for how long it takes to quit smoking:
- 20 minutes – Blood pressure and heart rate return to normal levels
- 12 hours – Blood oxygen and carbon monoxide levels return to normal
- 24 hours – Anxiety levels are at their peak
- 48 hours – Nerve endings have regrown and sense of smell and taste have returned
- 72 hours – Withdrawal symptoms and cravings have peaked because the body is now nicotine free. Lungs are healing and breathing is easier
- 5-10 days – The time that cravings last reduces from 5 minutes to 3 and the regularity of cravings also decrease
- 2-4 weeks – Most, if not all, withdrawal symptoms have ceased and lung and heart function will return to that of a non-smoker
For all intents and purposes, it takes the average person 2-4 weeks to get rid of the nicotine that has built up in the body and to no longer experience nicotine withdrawal symptoms. After this period the risk of coronary disease, lung cancer, heart attack, and stroke all will return to normal.
Clinical Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy
The length of time to quit smoking does vary with each person, but that is a secondary factor compared to the initial, life-changing decision to quit smoking. There are many methods to quitting smoking including Nicotine Replacement Therapies such as gums and patches, the cold turkey method, and even medical treatments. These all have about the same percentage of effectiveness and can often involve significant nicotine withdrawal symptoms. Clinical Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy is an option that uses no chemicals or carcinogens, and also helps with the relaxation of the mind and body when experiencing nicotine withdrawal symptoms.
Joseph R Giove is a licensed Clinical Hypnotist with over 30 years of experience at his clinic practising Clinical Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy. His techniques involve gently altering the brain patterns in order to make cigarettes unwanted and eventually disliked.