Dealing With Cravings After Giving Up Smoking

Cravings are urges, which you get when your body gets accustomed to a hit of nicotine when you smoke; when you go without a cigarette, your body cries out for this hit and this is why you experience cravings. According to experts, including clinical psychologist, Gay Sutherland, one of the most important factors in giving up smoking is being able to deal with cravings. Cravings affect people in different ways and they can come on very quickly, as a sudden urge, or linger in the background, so that you feel like you’re constantly thinking about smoking and getting that next nicotine hit. 

Treatments to help with cravings

Often, the best way to cope with cravings is to use nicotine replacement therapy; this tends to be much more effective than quitting completely and going for the cold turkey approach. With nicotine replacement therapy, you get the hit your body is used to without being exposed to any of the other harmful chemicals in cigarettes; the treatments also release a much lower dose of nicotine, so your body gets used to receiving less and less and eventually, you won’t any form of replacement therapy. 

In addition to NRT, there are also medications available, which may help to prevent cravings; there are currently two types of drug available on the NHS, including bupropion and varenicline. Medicines don’t contain nicotine, like NRT, but they help to suppress cravings.


In addition to treatments available through your GP, it’s also a good idea to adopt some self-help techniques to help you battle cravings. These include:

  • Being aware of triggers: often, there are situations and settings, which cause you to think about smoking and start craving a cigarette and it’s beneficial to identify these triggers, so that you can try and avoid them. You may struggle in certain places or it may be as simple as having a craving when you have a cup of tea before bed because that’s when you’re used to having your last cigarette of the day. Make some subtle changes to your routine to avoid triggers; you don’t have to adopt these for good, but it will help while you are still going through the quitting process. 
  • Use every ounce of your willpower: at the beginning, it can be really hard to resist cravings, but use your willpower and stay positive; once you’ve got through those tricky first few days, you will find it easier. 
  • Get active: studies show that exercising can help to reduce cravings and it’s also really good for your mind and body. Try a new sport, join an exercise class, get outdoors or simply invest in a DVD to do in the comfort of your own home. 
  • Ask for help: if you need help or you’re struggling with cravings, there are plenty of people you can turn to. Contact the NHS Stop Smoking Helpline, call your stop smoking adviser, ring a friend or family member or get in touch with a stop smoking charity, such as ASH. If you haven’t already tried treatments such as nicotine replacement therapy, it’s a good idea to arrange to see your GP so that you can discuss treatments that will help you with your cravings.

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