Quit smoking! Now!

Quit smoking! Now!

When you decide to quit smoking, it can help to find out what to expect as you work through the process. Some people have only a few mild symptoms when they quit but others find it harder. 

While withdrawal can be challenging, it can help if you look at the symptoms as signs that your body is recovering from the damage smoking has caused.

Many people find withdrawal symptoms disappear completely after two to four weeks, although for some people they may last longer. Symptoms tend to come and go over that time. Remember, it will pass, and you will feel better if you hang on and quit for good.

20 minutes after your last cigarette

The positive health effects of quitting smoking begin 20 minutes after your last cigarette. Your blood pressure and pulse will start to return to more normal levels.

In addition, fibers in the bronchial tubes that previously didn’t move well due to constant exposure to smoke will start to move again. This is beneficial for the lungs: These fibers help move irritants and bacteria out of the lungs, helping reduce the risk for infection.

8 hours after your last cigarette

Within eight hours, your carbon monoxide levels will return to a more normal level. Carbon monoxide is a chemical present in cigarette smoke that replaces oxygen particles in the blood, lowering the amount of oxygen your tissues receive.

When carbon monoxide goes away, your oxygen levels start to increase to more normal levels. This increased oxygen helps nourish tissues and blood vessels that were getting less oxygen while you were smoking.

24 hours after your last cigarette

By the one-day mark, you’ve already decreased your risk of heart attack. This is because of reduced constriction of veins and arteries as well as increased oxygen levels that go to the heart to boost its functioning.

Nicotine levels in your bloodstream have also decreased to negligible amounts at this time.

Within Two Weeks of Quitting

After the first 72 hours, your peak withdrawal symptoms will noticeably subside, although the cigarette cravings can still persist. In the days and weeks that follow, you should start breathing easier as the air sacs in your lungs (alveoli) begin to relax and produce far less mucus. By the end of two weeks, your cravings will have reduced in their frequency and duration. While they may not feel any less profound—with minutes often seeming like hours—they'll impact your life far less. By this stage, most ex-smokers will experience no more than two cravings per day.

Within Three Months of Quitting

Over the course of the first few months, you will experience many of the more obvious improvements in lung function.

By week six, most people will have nearly doubled their FEV1. While these improvements may not be as dramatic moving forward, they tend to continue gradually in people with mild to moderate COPD and remain relatively stable for people with severe COPD. By the end of week six, the withdrawal symptoms (including anger, anxiety, depression, difficulty concentrating, insomnia, and restlessness) will have largely disappeared.

Within Nine Months of Quitting

The three-month mark can a tricky time for ex-smokers. People will often say that they feel a sudden letdown as the physical improvements taper off while the cigarette cravings persist (albeit at a lesser rate). This doesn't mean that your health isn't continuing to improve. In fact, the tiny, finger-like projections in your respiratory tract, called cilia, will have regrown during the first six to nine month, making it easier to clear debris and mucus from your lungs. While this may actually increase coughing, it is more a sign that your lungs are getting stronger and trying to heal themselves.

As a result, you should start feeling more energized and be able to perform daily activities with less shortness of breath and fatigue.

By the End of Year One

By the end of Year One, the rate of decline of lung function will have reached near-normal levels in people with mild to moderate COPD. By contrast, individuals with severe COPD will often experience a leveling off of their earlier gains or even a slight reversal, according to research from the National Heart and Lung Institute in London. This doesn't mean that you're going backward but rather that you need ongoing COPD treatment to further slow the progression of the disease.