Won’t I have cravings when I quit smoking?


Quitting smoking has been touted as the best decision one may ever make.  Millions of people have successfully quit thanks to the many methods and support available.  However, some smokers fear that they will develop cravings once they stop smoking. Is this true?  If so, what can be done to prevent it?   Learning more about these cravings may shock you and these aren’t the answers you were expecting. 

What are cravings or cigarette withdrawals?

People mistakenly classify cigarettes as an addictive substance similar to narcotics.  And therefore, believe it must have withdrawal symptoms.  If someone with a cocaine addiction stops taking the drug, there will be a series of things that happen to them.  These symptoms are so well known that addiction specialists can give a timeline of when they will occur.  This is because the body has become chemically dependent upon that drug for essential functions, and with that drug removed, it has to achieve a new balance.  That may require medications, time, or counseling.  

But when someone quits something that is psychologically addictive, you won’t know what withdrawal symptoms they will experience.  Let’s look at a nail biter; if that nail biter just one day STOPPED bitting their nails, we don’t know what would happen.  Why?  Because biting the nails isn’t the thing that the brain desires.  There is something else deeper down that the brain has become dependent upon.  So a sudden quitting without satiating that need results in unpredictable results or even relapse.  This is the nature of psychological addiction or habit.  

Smoking is a habit, worse case, it is a psychological addiction.  But that means that body and brain aren’t dependent upon any of the cigarette’s components, even nicotine, to function.  

Why do I have cravings after quitting? These are strategies your brain has used to keep you smoking. Some part of your mind believes smoking is good for it.  Without cigarettes, those needs aren’t met. So it will manipulate you into smoking.

How long do cravings last?

Now that we see the nature of these cravings and their purpose is… how long should they last?  Well, that entirely depends.  They will stay until your mind believes you no longer need to smoke.  Most of the time, this means, once you start back up.  Let’s face the facts; if you don’t address the underlying needs, you will likely go back to smoking.  Some people can be stubborn enough to suffer through.  After a certain point, the brain will give up when that strategy doesn’t work; how long does that take?  It depends upon the person.    

If you do suffer through the cravings, what happens?  Well, if the underlying needs aren’t met, the mind may look for alternative strategies for meeting that need.  This may mean overeating as an example.  Let’s make it simple; Mary’s mind needs comfort, and for whatever reason, it developed a strategy of smoking leads to comfort.  When she quits smoking, her mind starts screaming, “I NEED COMFORT.”  It will attempt to lead her back to smoking, but let’s just say she is strong enough to suffer through it.  Her mind still needs that comfort… so it goes through its index and says, “What other times did I feel comfortable?”.  The next thing she knows, she is eating all the time.  Her mind came up with “eating = comfort” as a strategy to meet that need. 

If cravings are made up, why does everyone have the same ones?

I have been working with smokers for a while and hear a relatively common list of what people believe they will suffer after quitting:

  • Irritability
  • Snacking
  • Becoming an anti-smoking meanie
  • Unable to have fun with friends


We already know these aren’t biological, so they can’t be a part of a common experience. Then, where do they come from?  They are cultural!  “When you quit, you will be a B****.”  “When mom quit, she started eating and never stopped.”  These are the kinds of stories that people tell constantly.  

So we hear these stories and then keep them in our minds as beliefs. Eventually, we believe, “If I quit, this will happen.”  But that also means these are culturally driven.  The things you are told are based upon the local experiences.  If you ask people over-seas, their answers will be different.  There is no “STANDARD SET OF CRAVINGS OR WITHDRAWLS SYMPTOMS”.

What does that mean? They are optional, they are a made-up figment from a common set of misbeliefs. I often have to tear apart some of these beliefs when working with clients.  But I can tell you that quitting without cravings or withdrawals is completely possible. 

Next step

Schedule a time to start a conversation about your habit and find out what you can expect.  I’ll be happy to help you get over this habit and do so without cravings. 



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