Nicotine Withdrawal Timeline: Your Path to Renewed Well-Being

When it comes to quitting smoking, there is no such thing as bad timing. Now is always the right time! If you want to lead a healthy lifestyle, drop that pack of cigarettes for good. What matters though is setting your expectations and being aware of the withdrawal symptoms that might discourage you from moving forward.

But the moment you make yourself aware of the nicotine withdrawal timeline, you’d be more prepared for what’s coming. Here’s what you could experience from the moment you throw away your last puff to the benefits you’d enjoy after years of being an ex-smoker.

Quit smoking timeline

20 Minutes After You Quit: Lower Heart Rate

One profound effect of nicotine is increased heart rate. Obviously, one immediate effect of nicotine withdrawal is decreased heart rate. For those dependent or addicted to the substance, cravings for another cigarette could easily start as early as 30 minutes to one hour of quitting. Take heed that you don’t give in to temptations by doing something else to distract your attention.

2 Hours After You Quit: Lower Blood Pressure

By not giving in to smoking within the first hour of quitting, your body continues to crave another stick. But at the same time, your blood pressure drops to normal. At this point, more obvious nicotine withdrawal symptoms begin to appear. These may include increased appetite, disrupted sleep pattern, anxiety and an increasingly intense craving to smoke.

12 Hours After You Quit: Reduced Carbon Monoxide in the Bloodstream

Twelve hours after your last puff, carbon monoxide in your blood cells starts to drop. Consequently, oxygen levels begin to rise. This is because the presence of carbon monoxide in red blood cells prevents the absorption of oxygen. In higher concentrations, carbon monoxide can cause death. But in milder, chronic conditions, carbon monoxide can result in cardiovascular conditions. At this stage, your longing to smoke becomes even more intense. You may also start feeling the uncomfortable signs, but keep going. Deep inside, your body begins to benefit. So don’t look back.

24 Hours After You Quit: Renewed Senses

After about two days of not smoking, your once-dulled senses — particularly smell and taste — significantly improve. It is because the nerve endings that line the olfactory tissues and those located inside the mouth start to repair themselves and regrow. This means you begin to appreciate more of the flavors of the foods you love. You’d notice an increase in appetite too.

Twenty-four hours after quitting smoking, your chance of having a heart attack drops. In general, smokers face 70 percent higher risk of heart attack than non-smokers. The good news is that 24 hours of quitting smoking immediately flips those chances and takes you to the good side of the statistics. That’s good news you’d want to keep in mind to motivate you to keep going despite the increasing intensity of the physical symptoms.

3 Days After You Quit: Uncomfortable Symptoms Peak, But The Bodily Repair Continues

After three days, nicotine from the cigarette will have all been flushed out from your system. The bad (yet temporary) news is that nicotine withdrawal symptoms become most intense. Bouts of headache, nausea, irritability, anxiety and cramps would be most profound and frequent.

So, this is the stage that should be given the most utmost attention. Fight your urge to smoke. Treat yourself. Go out and have fun with friends. Better yet, exercise even more frequently so you may benefit from the “runner’s high.” Natural endorphins (painkillers) produced by your body after intense exercise also tend to make you feel good. Start with short walks, and if you find more time, do jogging or even some resistance training.

2 to 3 Weeks After You Quit: Withdrawal Symptoms Begin to Subside

After two to three weeks, nausea, headache and other symptoms cease. This means the natural levels of neurotransmitters inside your body is already back to normal, no longer dependent on the effects of nicotine in the system.

At this point, you can continue with your exercise routine in a better pace because of the absence of bodily discomforts. Your blood circulation and lung function essentially improve. Any difficulty in breathing will have improved at this point. So start enjoying your new and healthier lifestyle

1 to 9 Months After Quitting: Overall Health Improves

After a month of quitting cigarettes, your overall health turns to the positive side. And at this point up to a few months, all nicotine withdrawal symptoms should be gone. This is true even for the heaviest smokers. One month to nine months of quitting should be the period to adapt new and healthy routine like exercise and make them a long-term part of your calendar.

You may not notice it much, but inside your body, cells continue to repair themselves. Your lungs, which once had taken much of the battery from the toxic smoke, also gradually retain their normal function.

1 Year On: A Much Healthier Heart

After a year of quitting smoking, you’d be 50% less likely to suffer from any coronary heart disease as compared to smokers. Continue you quest to healthy living and never ever give in to even just a stick of temptation. The hardest part at this point isn’t resisting the urge to smoke, but the act of saying “NO” to your friends every time you’re surrounded with smokers. Better yet, be in the company of friends who share the same path.

10 to 15 Years: A Completely Healthy Body

After 10 years, you’d less likely — by about 30% to 50% — to be diagnosed with lung cancer as compared to those who continue to smoke. Risk of cancer to other areas such as the pancreas, esophagus, throat and mouth also significantly lessens.

Fifteen years on, you’re as good as someone who never smoked at all. Your risk of any medical conditions resulting from smoking becomes almost non-existent. Inside your body, those repaired tissues continue to function optimally as if nothing ever happened. You’ll experience total rejuvenation and that sense of renewed state of well-being.

Congratulations!

But not so fast, of course, on being too complacent about not going on a relapse. Many ex-smokers return to their old habits out of curiosity, peer pressure or stress. So it would be best to surround yourself with friends with the same cause or those who respect your own. Also, stay away from situations where your possibility of trying even just a stick of cigarette is high. But if all else fails, here’s what you need to do:

How to Counter a Relapse

Things happen. And when the most dreaded one happens — that is, a relapse — to you, it’s never the end of everything.

Once you find yourself smoking again, don’t be too hard on yourself or punish yourself. Get your thoughts right and be mindful of the circumstances that led you to smoke again. Revisit your list of reasons as to why you quit in the first place. This way, your motivation gets renewed and reenergized once more.

Then, if you finally decide to choose quitting for good, set a date that you’d find the most opportunity to quit. Distance yourself from friends who do not value your commitment to quit smoking. Also, remove any cigarette, lighter or other accessories that might just get in the way as the day comes when you’d quit once more.

But most importantly, be realistic. How many ex-smokers admit that they weren’t at all successful in their first try to quit? Almost all. Remember how, every year, we list down our new year’s resolution, only to end up breaking them as early as January? Yes, the same cases hold true for people who plan to quit smoking. So don’t judge yourself or belittle yourself. Always try until you find a way to deal with the withdrawal symptoms and temptations the best way you can.

Conclusion

This timeline holds true for people who abruptly quit smoking without the help of nicotine replacement therapy. Your experience when going cold turkey (abruptly and completely purging nicotine out of your system) is different from those who choose nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). If you have the courage to face this nicotine withdrawal timeline, look on the positive side of each stage.

Even you suffer from uncomfortable headaches, nausea and other forms of physical discomfort, the unseen, inner workings of your body shows you’re on the right track — damaged tissues begin to repair, your chances of getting cancer or coronary heart diseases sharply decrease and your overall health greatly improves.

So let this timeline be your guide to making you aware of what you will experience the moment you put down that pack of cigarette for good. This will help you plan and come up with strategies to battle the symptoms, and eventually replace your bad habit of smoking with good ones such as exercise, exploring the outdoors and even improving the quality of your relationship with your friends and family. After all, you deserve a good life.