Quitting smoking may feel like an insurmountable task, but with the right treatment plan in place, you’ll make your way to the other side.
At Smokefree, many of us are former smokers who have been down this path ourselves and are deeply familiar with the obstacles and pitfalls that can appear along the way.
In this comprehensive guide, we look at the timeline of quitting smoking as well as the strategies you can implement to aid you in your quitting journey.
The Nicotine Withdrawal Timeline
Quitting smoking can be very challenging. The severity of your symptoms will largely depend on the severity of your nicotine addiction.
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Nicotine gives your body hits of dopamine, making you feel calm, relaxed, and centred. It also prompts the release of adrenaline to give you a “high,” which can make you feel motivated, excitable, and “buzzed”.
These feelings are temporary and are typically followed by a crash, prompting the need for another cigarette.
When you stop smoking, your body and brain enter a state of withdrawal, which causes a range of symptoms.
It’s important to keep reminding yourself that while these symptoms may be strong and uncomfortable, they are not hurting you. Smoking, on the other hand, may feel good, but it’s doing a significant amount of damage to your body, one cigarette at a time.
The effects of nicotine withdrawal are most pronounced at the beginning of the quitting smoking timeline.
Symptoms of Nicotine Withdrawal
Did you know that cravings come in waves and only last for 15 to 20 minutes at a time?
That’s a short amount of time (only as long as an average YouTube video), and you can ride out a craving by directing your attention elsewhere.
As you proceed down the timeline of quitting smoking, you’ll experience a rise in the intensity of your cravings. This is typically the point at which smokers relapse.
You can resist cravings by creating a plan for how to deal with them. Cravings diminish in as little as 2 to 4 weeks. In a month, they will have dissipated entirely.
Restlessness, irritability, and nervousness
You may feel on edge, insecure, and irritable. All of these symptoms are normal, and as unpleasant as they may seem, keep in mind that they are also harmless and temporary.
Nicotine is a stimulant, which means it compromises sleep quality in smokers. The good news is that while you may experience sleep troubles early on in the quitting smoking timeline, they are typically short-lived.
As nicotine leaves your body, your sleep quality will improve over time.
Anxiety and depression
Smoking cessation is often hampered by an inability to deal with suppressed feelings that surface in the absence of frequent nicotine hits.
Smokers falsely believe that smoking heals their anxiety when it only masks it for a few minutes.
In the absence of an addictive substance, you will likely come face-to-face with your underlying emotions.
You may find that not having a strategy in place to deal with hidden saboteurs may derail your progress.
Nicotine suppresses appetite and boosts metabolism. As you wean off nicotine, you may notice renewed hunger signals as your metabolism stabilises.
Weight gain, therefore, is commonly experienced when people embark on the journey of quitting smoking.
How Long Do These Symptoms Last?
If you’re wondering how long nicotine withdrawals last, for most people, these symptoms start to diminish within about a month of quitting.
With the exception of weight gain, which may last up to a year, all of the above symptoms are short-term and should subside/disappear on their own within 6 weeks of quitting smoking. If insomnia or anxiety persists, please see a doctor.
For a deep dive into the topic, check out this guide detailing what happens in the months after you’ve quit smoking.
How to Flush Nicotine Out of Your System Fast
How long nicotine stays in your system depends on the method of ingestion of the tobacco product as well as the duration of exposure to it.
Nicotine is broken down into 20 substances in the body, which may stay in a person’s blood, saliva, or urine for up to 10 days.
Nicotine itself stays in your blood for up to three days after your last cigarette.
If you’re wondering how to flush nicotine out of your system fast, there aren’t any quick solutions, but you may try to do so by flushing out general waste from your body. You can do this by increasing hydration levels and undertaking strenuous activities (to produce sweat).
Quitting Smoking vs. Quitting Vaping
Vaping is intended as a smoking cessation method.
Ideally, you’ll use this tool in consultation with a GP who is aware of your medical history and has approved the use of NVPs as part of a smoking cessation plan.
How long it takes you to quit vaping will be determined by the progress you make as per the plan. Remember, vaping is a stop-gap measure in your quitting journey. Ultimately, going completely nicotine-free is the goal.
Research shows that vaping (under medical supervision) is an effective aid in smoking cessation.
Tips for a Successful Quit Journey
How long it takes to quit smoking differs from person to person. Cigarettes are insidious, and breaking free of them isn’t easy. Don’t blame yourself if you’ve slipped up somewhere along the timeline of quitting smoking. Instead, focus on understanding your triggers and creating a plan to set yourself up for success.
Understand your reasons for smoking
Do you smoke to escape certain feelings, to fight boredom, or to fit in with a crowd? Are you holding on to an outdated image of yourself in which smoking played a part? We can hang on to a habit mindlessly, especially when it’s as addictive as smoking.
Consider behavioural therapy
If you’re confused and don’t know where to start, an experienced counsellor can help you navigate overwhelming feelings and give you the tools that help you deal with them.
Establish better coping mechanisms
Try not to replace smoking with something addictive, like watching TV or bingeing on food. The internet is full of fun, creative, and healthy ideas of things to do when you feel the urge to smoke.
Seek out a supportive network
Join communities that offer you the empathy and support you need on your quitting journey.
Kick the Habit, Embrace Life
Quitting smoking and embracing a nicotine-free life are possible with the right support and the right mindset.
We know you’re reading this post because you’re eager to understand the timelines around quitting smoking.
Smokefree Clinic gives you access to many medically reviewed and trustworthy resources that can inform and aid you in your path to wellness, so have a look around!
If you’re ready to get started, Smokefree can connect you to bulk-billing Australian healthcare professionals who excel in helping patients quit smoking for good, including using responsible vaping products where appropriate.
Click here to book your bulk-billed telehealth consultation with an Australian healthcare professional and quit smoking today.