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Cold Turkey and Gradual Reduction

As it is common for ex-smokers to have made a number of attempts (often using different approaches on each occasion) to stop smoking before achieving long-term abstinence, identifying which approach or technique is eventually most successful is difficult. The most frequent unassisted methods were “cold turkey” and “gradual decrease” of cigarettes.

Nicotine Withdrawal

Nicotine withdrawal is the effect that nicotine dependent individuals feel after they discontinue or decrease nicotine intake. Nicotine is an addictive substance found most commonly in cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco, snus, and snuff. The symptoms of nicotine withdrawal usually appear approximately 2 or 3 hours after last dose of the drug.

Withdrawal Symptoms

The common symptoms are an intense craving for nicotine, anxiety, depersonalization, drowsiness, depression, headaches, increase in appetite, irritability, weight gain and difficulty with concentration. Approximately 75% to 80% of smokers who attempt to quit relapse before achieving 6 months of abstinence. However the more attempts a smoker makes, the greater the likelihood of quitting, because each attempt makes an individual more familiar with nicotine withdrawal symptoms.

Cold Turkey

“Cold turkey” describes the actions of a person who abruptly gives up a habit or addiction rather than gradually easing the process through gradual reduction or by using replacement medication. In this context, “cold turkey” indicates sudden and complete cessation of all nicotine use.

The supposed advantage is that by not actively using supplemental methods, the person avoids thinking about the habit and its temptation, and avoids further feeding the chemical addiction.

Gradual reduction

Gradual reduction involves slowly reducing one’s daily intake of nicotine. This can theoretically be accomplished through repeated changes to cigarettes with lower levels of nicotine, by gradually reducing the number of cigarettes smoked each day, or by smoking only a fraction of a cigarette on each occasion.