stop smoking

Does going cold-turkey work?

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quit smokingWhat is going ‘cold-turkey’?

Quitting ‘cold-turkey’ is when you withdraw from smoking completely, rather than gradually cutting down. This method is often the most appealing for first-time quitters, but is not always suitable. It’s important that you choose the method that will work best for you.

Quitting cold-turkey has been found to significantly increase your chances of abstaining from smoking in the long run as opposed to quitting gradually[1].

Withdrawal symptoms usually peak within the first 7 days of quitting and going cold turkey gets you past this point quicker than quitting gradually[2].

Smokers save an average of £1500 a year when they quit (based on £128 a month being spent on cigarettes)[3].

Withdrawal symptoms are often more severe when using this method because the body has to adjust quickly[4].

Only between 3% of people who try to quit cold-turkey, without help, are successful in quitting[5].

To improve your chances of quitting, and gain extra support, you can join a quit smoking service. Be Smoke Free offers one to one as well as group session support during your quitting journey.

cigarette cravings

What happens to your body when you go cold-turkey?

When you quit smoking, the nicotine withdrawal can cause several unpleasant symptoms[6]:

  • intense cravings for cigarettes
  • nausea
  • feeling down
  • increased appetite
  • cough or sore throat
  • restlessness
  • difficulty sleeping
  • trouble concentrating
  • changes in bowel habits
  • irritability
There are several ways you can counter your withdrawal symptoms and improve your chances of abstaining;
  • Make plans with non-smoking friends and family. Their support will help you through the process.
  • Exercising or doing other activities can reduce your nicotine cravings, relieve withdrawal symptoms and boost your mood.
  • To cope with your increased appetite and cravings, make sure you have lots of healthy snacks available. Foods that keep both your hands and mouth busy like carrots, pretzels, and apples are a good option.
  • You may develop a cough and/or a sore throat so having cough lozenges to hand may be helpful
  • It is may also be beneficial to buy over-the-counter medication in case you experience nausea and other flu-like symptoms.

tips for quitting

What if going cold-turkey isn’t for you?

Going cold-turkey certainly isn’t for everybody, but don’t worry because there are alternatives out there.

  • Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is available for free on the One You’s Be Smoke Free programme and helps to reduce the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms by providing a low level dose of nicotine.
  • Prescription stop smoking medicines are a popular aid to quitting. Champix has been found to double your chances of quitting successfully.
  • Zyban is another prescription medicine that reduces withdrawal symptoms and the urge to smoke.
If you’d like some free support to help you quit smoking, why not try our Be Smoke Free programme where you’re four times more likely to quit than if you go it alone. Find your nearest clinic and start your journey to becoming smoke free.

[1] https://www.nhs.uk/news/lifestyle-and-exercise/quitting-smoking-overnight-better-than-cutting-down-gradually/

[2] https://www.healthline.com/health/quit-smoking-cold-turkey

[3] https://www.nhs.uk/smokefree/why-quit/cost-calculator

[4] https://www.verywellmind.com/i-quit-smoking-cold-turkey-this-is-how-i-did-it-2824494

[5] https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/quit-smoking/stop-smoking-coping-with-cravings/

[6] https://www.healthline.com/health/quit-smoking-cold-turkey#withdrawal