Nicotine alters the balance of chemicals in your brain. It mainly affects chemicals called dopamine and noradrenaline. When nicotine changes the levels of these chemicals, your mood and concentration levels change which many smokers find enjoyable.

The changes happen very quickly. When you inhale the nicotine, it immediately rushes to your brain where it takes effect to produce feeling of pleasure. This is why many smokers enjoy the nicotine rush and become dependent on it.

The more you smoke, the more your brain becomes used to the nicotine. This means that you have to smoke more to get the same effect.

The more addicted to nicotine a person is the more withdrawel symptoms may occur. The good news is most of these symptoms will go away within the first week or two of giving up.

Remember – not everyone will get all of these!

  • More coughing and bringing up of phlegm or mucus.
    Millions of tiny hairs called cilia designed to keep the air passages clean start to work again, to clear away the dirt caused by tobacco smoke.
  • Light-headed or dizzy feelings.
    Improved blood supply as level of poisonous carbon monoxide in blood falls and oxygen supply to brain increases.
  • Tingling sensations.
    Better circulation in hands and feet is an immediate health benefit.
  • Feeling extra hungry.
    Due to lack of nicotine, which acts as an appetite suppressant by encouraging higher levels of blood sugar.
  • Tearfulness, anxiety, irritability and loss of concentration.
    All of these are associated with the body getting used to being without Nicotine. Smokers may be breaking a long established habit and may go through a grieving process, which will take time to adjust to.
  • Sleep changes.
    Feeling extra tired and sleepy or unable to sleep, is very common – probably linked to changes in the metabolism and lack of nicotine.
  • Sore tongue and mouth ulcers.
    Chemical and bacteria content of the mouth is changed. Immunity is lower during early days of stopping.
  • Bowel changes – constipation or diarrhoea.
    Tobacco has a laxative effect.
  • Craving – an intense desire both mentally and physically to smoke.
    Lasts typically, two to three minutes before easing. Becomes less frequent and overwhelming during the first three weeks.


Key Points

  • They are normal reactions and will not last
  • Some of them are signs of recovery and the first signs of health benefits.
  • A balance is needed between reassurance and not painting too gloomy a picture
  • Past symptoms can be used as learning experiences
  • Many people believe that smoking roll-ups/cigars or pipes are not as bad for your health as smoking shop bought cigarettes. This is simply not true and by using these different forms of tobacco, similar health risks will still apply.

Did you know…

You will very quickly notice changes in your physical wellbeing when you quit smoking.

Within a day or so of quitting, your body gets rid of all the poisonous carbon monoxide gas found in cigarette smoke.  As a result, oxygen levels in your blood increase and this will improve the appearance of your complexion and give you more energy.  Smoking also constricts blood vessels, so your blood will begin to flow more easily.  If you have poor circulation, this means your fingers and toes won't feel the cold as much.