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Slow nicotine withdrawal - Good or bad?


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My boyfriend has been smoking since he was a teenager (mid-thirties now) and has been "trying to quit" as long as I've known him (about 7 years). He used to smoke more (when he lived with his chain-smoking family) but now he only smokes like 5-7 a day. We thought maybe gradually decreasing the amount would be an easier way to quit than cold-turkey, but I'm starting to wonder if it's maybe just prolonging the withdrawal effects. It's something that occurred to me that might contribute to his mental health, like the depression and paranoia he has been having. Would it be possible, after your body gets used to say... a pack a day... and you decrease to like 5 a day, for you to be in like constant withdrawal for years? Or should it not affect you too much? I'm wondering if the cigarettes could either be contributing to his current seemingly mentally ill state, or maybe even if they were helping his mental state and now his underlying illness is starting to come out.... Does anyone know anything about this?

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Dear ChasingDreams,

For most people smoking few sigarets is actually harder than quiting entirely. For some people it does work, in a mind-over-matter kind of way. But you're correct in your speculation that there's essentially prolonging of withdrawal going on, neurochemically speaking.

Nicotine withdrawal only lasts about 48h. After two days, the constant physical craving is over, and any feelings of craving will only come up occasionally with certain settings, cues, feelings,... It's psychological at that point. This psychological craving will fade much in the same way like a dog stops barking if he receives no cookie for doing so anymore. This process is essentially prevented in your boyfriend, because daily nicotine use keeps him trapped in the constant physical craving phase.

Yes, his sigaret restriction could well be contributing to his lack of well-being. I think there are more important issues to focus on right now. Best to leave his smoking habits alone for now.

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