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Overview of Nicotine detox

Nicotine is among the most abused substances in the world. It is the stimulant chemical found in tobacco plants and is physically and psychologically addicting. It is used only for recreation and sold in multiple forms including cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, pipes and e-cigarettes. Nicotine is unique because it does not typically cause one to proritize it over all other aspects of their life. Many addictive drugs lead the user to lose jobs, become mentally and emotionally unstable, and isolate from family and loved ones. With nicotine, the negative effects are usually physical harm, especially with cigarettes and chewing tobacco. The severe physical effects of smoking or chewing coupled with its high addictiveness lead individuals seeking a specialized form of nicotine detox.

Tobacco has been used for hundreds, or maybe thousands, of years. It was first used by Native Americans for ceremonial purposes. As Europeans began colonizing the Americas they discovered tobacco and began using and trading it. Tobacco use exploded in Europe and America alike and became one of the most valuable and most traded crops in the world. Tobacco saw a steady increase in use all the way up until the 1900s, when studies started being released exposing the deadly harms of tobacco use. Tobacco is proven to cause lung cancer, mouth cancer, throat cancer, tooth loss, gum disease, emphysema and birth defects, making it one of the most harmful addictive substances.

Though tobacco does not ruin one’s ability to function, it is extremely deadly. Nearly half a million deaths every year in the United States are a result of smoking. On average smokers die at least 10 years earlier than non-smokers. Nicotine is often considered about as addicting as heroin, but many people overlook this fact because nicotine does not cause the emotional damage heroin may cause. Because tobacco is so harmful it leads people wanting to quit but they often find this extremely difficult. Many times people try over and over to quit and fail. This is what leads to so many deaths related to smoking or chewing tobacco.

Because of the seemingly “harmless” nature of tobacco, medical detox programs are not common. Often people wanting to quit must pay out of pocket for remedies, therapy, or nicotine replacement. There are also free support groups like Nicotine Anonymous to assist with quitting nicotine. Nicotine itself is not considered very harmful; it is the carcinogenic chemicals in tobacco that make it so harmful. This is why many people switch over to electronic cigarettes to avoid many of the harmful effects of naturally occurring nicotine products. Some universities suggest that electronic cigarettes are up to 100% less harmful than than smoking or chewing.

How Detoxing From Nicotine works

Detoxing from nicotine is the process of removing the substance from the body. Detox is different with nicotine than many other substances. Though it is physically addicting it is not dangerous like other drugs or cause severe emotional anguish. Physical and psychological symptoms will be felt but to less of an extent compared to opioids, benzos, or alcohol. Often cravings are very intense which lead to a person smoking or dipping again to relieve them. This cycle can seem never ending, leading to person giving up altogether or deciding quitting is too difficult.

With nicotine detox, a person often quits “cold turkey” which will lead to the most symptoms and is very unsuccessful. It is important to know all of the other options because often quitting suddenly does not work. There are remedies and treatments to assist with the pain of nicotine withdrawal.

Like other physically addictive drugs like benzodiazepines, opioids, or alcohol, a taper is suggested for detoxing from nicotine. Nicotine tapers are sold over the counter at pharmacies and supermarkets. These include nicotine patches, lozenges, or gum. They also even sell nicotine toothpicks to assist with the oral fixation aspect of addiction. These medications contain nicotine and slowly release it into the body to prevent withdrawal symptoms. Often they are sold in dosage increments, so over time you get less and less nicotine, effectively slowly tapering you off the drug. This can significantly reduce cravings and has a very high success rate especially when patches and lozenges are used together.

WHAT DOES THE Nicotine DETOX PROCESS LOOK LIKE?

The nicotine process can be frightening and discouraging. A person often thinks that can do it on their own and will be extremely hard to overcome, but this is not the truth. Support groups can be highly beneficial for people trying to quit nicotine. Nicotine Anonymous is a free fellowship of men and women who support each other in their journey to live nicotine free lives. These groups can give hope and lift the spirits of a person trying to quit.

Assistance can also be provided by a doctor. Doctors can come up with a plan of the best approach to quitting nicotine. They may suggest patches or lozenges, or both, like mentioned above. Patches and lozenges together work best because the patches keep nicotine in the system to prevent withdrawals, yet the lozenges can be used for spontaneous cravings. These two combined show the highest success rates which are up to 80%.

If other methods fail, there are also prescription medications that can assist with smoking cessation that also have high success rates. Chantix is one of these drugs and is often compared to suboxone in opioid withdrawal. This is because the drugs work in the same way. Chantix attaches to nicotine receptors in the brain so that the body thinks it is getting nicotine, thus reducing cravings and withdrawal. Unlike suboxone, a person can still smoke while on Chantix. Chantix makes smoking not pleasurable. This is why smoking is also suggested while on Chantix, because a person will be disgusted by smoking while they are taking Chantix. Chantix has very high success rates, but talk to your doctor about side effects and if it is right for you. Chantix can have unpleasant side effects which makes it a last resort.

Detoxing from nicotine does have symptoms. These symptoms, called withdrawal, are both physical and psychological. This is why different remedies and medications exist to help a person through this difficult process. Symptoms will include headaches, anxiety, irritability and trouble sleeping. Medications and nicotine replacement can almost diminish these symptoms all together. The most prevalent symptom, even with medication, will be cravings.

Cravings can last weeks after quitting, and can often make a person feel like they are going crazy. Medications assist with cravings but sometime they still persist. This is because even the motion and oral fixation of smoking can be addictive in itself. Even if nicotine is in the system a person might be so ingrained in their habit they still feel irritable from not having the motion of smoking. This is why often users prefer electronic cigarettes to assist with quitting because they still have the motion and feel like they are smoking a cigarette. Unfortunately, e-cigarettes are also addicting, and often a person may permanently switch to e-cigarettes. Though c-cigarettes are also very addicting, they do not have the nearly as much harmful effects as smoking or chewing. Though vaporizing is far less harmful, the withdrawal from quitting is is still painful and has equal symptoms as quitting tobacco.

Nicotine Detox Withdrawals

Pill Bottle Icon Brought to Europe from America in 1400s
Pill Icon Earliest known use was by Native Americans
Syringe Icon Roughly 40,000 people die annually due to secondhand smoke

Detoxing from nicotine does have symptoms. These symptoms, called withdrawal, are both physical and psychological. This is why different remedies and medications exist to help a person through this difficult process. Symptoms will include headaches, anxiety, irritability and trouble sleeping. Medications and nicotine replacement can almost diminish these symptoms all together. The most prevalent symptom, even with medication, will be cravings.

Cravings can last weeks after quitting, and can often make a person feel like they are going crazy. Medications assist with cravings but sometime they still persist. This is because even the motion and oral fixation of smoking can be addictive in itself. Even if nicotine is in the system a person might be so ingrained in their habit they still feel irritable from not having the motion of smoking. This is why often users prefer electronic cigarettes to assist with quitting because they still have the motion and feel like they are smoking a cigarette. Unfortunately, e-cigarettes are also addicting, and often a person may permanently switch to e-cigarettes. Though c-cigarettes are also very addicting, they do not have the nearly as much harmful effects as smoking or chewing. Though vaporizing is far less harmful, the withdrawal from quitting is is still painful and has equal symptoms as quitting tobacco.

List of Nicotine Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Intense cravings
  • Irritability/agitation
  • Headaches
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Anxiety
  • Heightened stress
  • Depression
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Constipation
  • Lack of concentration

Can you detox from Nicotine at home?

Unlike most other addictive substances it is most common to detox from nicotine at home. This is why they sell tapering medication over-the-counter in pharmacies. It is extremely rare to go to an inpatient medical detox for nicotine addiction. Even with prescription cessation medication one will still go through the detox process while at home, work, or school.

Although one will be detoxing from home, this does not mean he or she should not see a doctor. Doctors can come up with an individualized plan on the most effective way for them to quit. Depression and anxiety are common in nicotine withdrawal so doctors can prescribe medication to assist with this. This can make the detox process much easier and more successful. Some people also see therapists. Talk therapy also has successful results while trying to quit nicotine. Many people claim success through Nicotine Anonymous for emotional support.

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How long does it take to detox from Nicotine

Nicotine detox has two phases. The initial phase consists of physical symptoms. This phase typically lasts about a week, but the most severe symptoms being in the first 3 days after nicotine use. After the physical symptoms subside the lasting symptoms will mostly be psychological in nature. Anxiety, depression, and cravings may last weeks or months after use. It all depends on the person and medications they are taking to assist with their detox.

Some people using nicotine replacement will feel symptoms longer but less severe. People who quit cold turkey will have fast fading symptoms, but they will be much more severe. The severity and length of symptoms mostly depends on how much nicotine the individual was using. The psychological addicting of oral fixation and hand motions may be hard to overcome if a person was smoking or chewing very long term. They sometimes may feel boredom or like something is missing because they are so use to their habit. Talking with a doctor and seeing a therapist is the most ideal treatment to insure a speedy and pain free end to nicotine addiction.

  • Nicotine, in very high doses, is an extremely deadly poison
  • Smoking while using nicotine replacement therapy can lead to nicotine poisoning, which can be lethal
  • Worldwide, over 1.1 billion people regularly smoke cigarettes
  • 23% or more high school students use tobacco products
  • 9 out of 10 smokers first try smoking before the age of 18