Take Control of Your Cravings

Learn the “What” and “Why” of tobacco cravings and how you can fight back.

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Quitting tobacco is something to celebrate. It takes guts to quit. Give yourself a well-earned pat on the back for taking this huge step.

Now it’s time for the tricky part.

Cravings can be one of the toughest parts of quitting tobacco. That’s why it’s important to know what causes cravings and what you can do to get through them, so you can stay tobacco free now and into the future.

Why do I get cravings?

When you use tobacco, your brain produces structures known as nicotine receptors. When nicotine receptors are triggered by nicotine, they release a chemical called dopamine. Dopamine is released when you do something pleasurable or rewarding — anything from hearing your favorite song to checking your Facebook notifications.

When the receptors are not exposed to nicotine, they can cause some side effects inside your body. These are called withdrawal symptoms; the most common symptom is cravings. You may also feel grouchy, restless or sad, and some days, you may have trouble sleeping or thinking clearly.

While withdrawal symptoms can be uncomfortable, they’re not damaging your health. They will fade the longer you stay smokefree — and eventually, the number of nicotine receptors in your brain will return to normal.

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How do I fight cravings?

When you get a craving, there’s a lot you can do to fight it off.

A surefire solution? Distract yourself. Take a walk. Play a game. Listen to music. Cravings only last a few minutes, so finding a quick distraction can help you outlast the urge.

The key is to do something that keeps your mind engaged. If not, you’ll just think about how much you want to use tobacco. No matter what you do, make sure it can keep you busy for at least 10 to 15 minutes.

Another way to fight cravings is to keep your hands and mouth busy while a craving is happening. Playing a game on your phone, squeezing a stress ball or spinning a fidget spinner are all great distractions for your hands. If you miss the feeling of having tobacco in your mouth, sugar-free gum and hard candy will help. Pistachios or sunflower seeds are also great options to keep both your hands and mouth busy.

Lots of people find success in writing out a list of their reasons for quitting. When they get cravings, they can read it and remind themselves of why they quit.

Finally, cravings can often hit during the same time of day or week. Changing up your daily routine can help break patterns that often lead to temptation. In addition, it is important to identify what triggers your cravings so that you can tackle them.

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What if I need more help?

Dealing with cravings can be a challenge, but you don’t have to do it alone. If you’re struggling, call the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline at 1-800-QUIT NOW.

The Helpline can connect you with a trained Quit Coach who will talk you through your craving. You can even schedule weekly calls with your Quit Coach so you can work through struggles.

When you call, you can also receive a FREE two-week supply of nicotine replacement therapies, including patches, gum or lozenges. These are handy for easing you off tobacco, making the cravings less powerful at the start. NRTs are not a long-term fix, but they can be a bridge to your new tobacco-free life.

The Helpline is here for you, no matter what twists and turns your quitting journey takes. And the best part? It’s free. If you need nonjudgmental support in your quitting journey, call the Helpline or visit OKhelpline.com today.