Quit Smoking Cold Turkey





Smoking cessation or quitting smoking is the process in which an individual discontinues his or her practice of smoking tobacco. One can successfully stop smoking with or without medications and professional help. There are various ways of giving up smoking including cold turkey, nicotine tapering, medicines, hypnotherapy and acupuncture. This article deals with the cold turkey method for quitting smoking and its benefits, success rate, risks and side effects.

How to Quit Smoking Cold Turkey?

“Cold Turkey” denotes the process of abruptly discontinuing the habit of smoking without using any medicines or going through nicotine replacement methods and other formal therapies. This method helps smokers to give up smoking on their first attempt. It is one of the most popular ways of giving up smoking, used by majority of smokers around the world. However, very few people succeed in stopping smoking permanently using the cold turkey method.

This method has been used by smoker for quite a long time. In this process an individual just stops smoking on a pre-decided day, without any medicines or smoking cessation aids. On one hand, it is one of the toughest processes of giving up smoking as an individual has to deal with the cravings and nicotine withdrawal symptoms alone without the help of any medicines. On the other hand, cold turkey is one of the simplest methods to quit because it just involves making a decision and sticking with it.

Pros and Cons of Giving up Smoking Cold Turkey

There a few advantages of using this process. Find out some of these benefits:

  • An individual does not have to pay for medicines and therapies and can stop smoking at no cost.
  • It has a good success rate for light smokers who smoke less than ten cigarettes a day.
  • Heavy smokers suffering from serious smoking related illnesses can successfully use the cold turkey method as they have strong motivation for quitting. It helps them to stop smoking within a very short time.

The Cold Turkey method has several shortcomings and experts do not generally recommend this method for stopping smoking. Following are some of its disadvantages:

  • Very few people can successfully quit smoking by this process. Due to this reason, medication and counseling are believed to be more useful.
  • According to researches, people who use medicines and nicotine replacement therapies such as nicotine gum, nicotine patch and nicotine inhaler are two to three times more likely to quit smoking successfully.
  • An individual may suffer from various withdrawal symptoms while quitting smoking cold turkey. It can cause severe headache, irritability, insomnia and anxiety.

Stages of Quitting Smoking Cold Turkey

Following are the different stages of giving up smoking:

Deciding to Give Up Smoking: This is the first and most important stage of giving up smoking cold turkey. This process is all about deciding to quit and then just giving up smoking on a specific date. So, realizing that one has to quit smoking is most important.

Setting a Specific Date for Quitting Smoking: Once an individual decides to give up smoking, the next thing he or she has to do is setting the date on which to quit.

Dealing with Withdrawal: The person will start experiencing the symptoms of withdrawal and a strong urge to smoke tobacco. The symptoms will relapse fast within the first month, making it the most difficult stage of giving up smoking. People trying to quit smoking in the cold turkey process experience the strongest cravings for tobacco as they do not have any medicine or nicotine replacement methods that assist in beating the nicotine craving.

Maintenance: An individual may feel the urge to smoke for the rest of his or her life after quitting. It is important to remember the reason behind giving up smoking so that one can stand by his or her decision of not smoking again.

Quit Smoking Cold Turkey Tips

Here are some tips to quit smoking cold turkey:

  • One should first fix a date on which he or she will quit smoking and then, during the intervening period, pay attention to the factors that triggers the desire to smoke. This will help in avoiding those triggers once the individual gives up smoking cold turkey.
  • Family support is very important for the smoker to succeed in his or her objective. Quitting smoking suddenly makes the individual very short-tempered and irritable. So, it is important that his or her family and friends should know the reason for such behavior
  • One should get rid of all the smoking equipments and supplies, including lighters, matches, ashtrays and tobacco on the quitting day.

Is It Safe to Quit Smoking Cold Turkey?

Cold turkey is the safest method of quitting smoking as it does not involve any medicines and nicotine replacements. However, one may experience some severe symptoms within the first month after quitting tobacco. These symptoms go away by themselves a within the next few months.

Quit Smoking Cold Turkey during Pregnancy


Cold turkey is one of the best ways to stop smoking during pregnancy. One should not smoke tobacco while pregnant as it causes various complications and may damage the health of the baby. Extreme smoking may even cause miscarriage. But according to some people, giving up smoking gradually is a better way of giving up smoking during pregnancy compared to the cold turkey method.

However, it might be extremely difficult for the mother to resist the urge of smoking after giving it up. She may also suffer from various nicotine withdrawal symptoms. But the fact that smoking can be harmful for the baby will be a great motivation that will help her succeed.

Withdrawal Symptoms of Quitting Smoking Cold Turkey

An individual may suffer from several nicotine withdrawal symptoms when trying to give up smoking cold turkey. The principal nicotine withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Itchiness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Restlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Heart palpitations
  • Dry or sore throat
  • Drowsiness
  • Poor concentration
  • Tremors
  • Digestive Problems
  • Constipation
  • Hunger
  • Dizziness
  • Irritability
  • Thirst
  • Sensitivity

These side effects of quitting smoking cold turkey may vary from one person to another.

Quitting Smoking Cold Turkey Timeline

There are numerous benefits of giving up smoking following the cold turkey method. An individual will start feeling these good effects shortly after quitting. Following is the step by step timeline of Quitting Smoking Cold Turkey:

The First Day: The pulse rate and blood pressure decreases significantly within 20 to 30 minutes of smoking the last cigarette. After 8 hours, the levels of carbon monoxide in the blood streams drop to normal. The red blood cells can carry oxygen to different parts of the body more efficiently due to the lowered levels of carbon monoxide. Within the next 24 hours after the last smoke, the individual will start having various nicotine withdrawal symptoms including nausea, headache, anxiety and irritability as by this time the nicotine will start leaving the body.

The First Week: The individual may feel severe irritability, anxiety and difficulty in concentrating within 24 to 36 hours after the last cigarette. The nicotine takes between 48 to 72 hours to wash out completely from the body. The person will experience the worst withdrawal symptoms during this time. This is the most crucial period in the cold turkey method as most people tend to give in to the urge of smoking due to the severe symptoms. The lung bronchial tubes of an individual will start relaxing after 72 hours, improving the functioning of the lungs and making breathing easier.

The First Month: Over the next week, the individual will experience cravings for tobacco 3 to 4 times a day. These craving will last for a very short time (3 to 4 minutes), but they will feel like several hours. All the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal will start to go away after two weeks. The binding process of the acetylcholine receptor will become normal after 3 to 4 weeks. The individual will notice some positive changes in his or her body. The functioning of different organs will become normal.

One Year: The risks of having a stroke or heart attack will be cut down to half after one year.

Quit Smoking Cold Turkey Statistics

Many studies have been carried out to find out the success rate of quitting smoking cold turkey. In 3 different studies this method was cited by 76 per cent, 85 per cent and 88 per cent of successful quitters. One British study done during the 1980s stated that it was very easy to give up smoking cold turkey for 53 per cent ex-smoker while 27 per cent said it was quite difficult. Around 20 per cent of the ex-smoker found the cold turkey a very difficult method.

Quit Smoking Cold Turkey and Weight Gain

Giving up smoking generally causes weight gain as smoking helps to keep the body weight in check by burning the extra calorie and suppressing hunger. The cold turkey method may cause considerable weight gain as in this method an individual gives up smoking on a specific date and never smokes again. However, one can quit smoking cold turkey and not gain weight by doing regular exercise.

Cold turkey is often considered to be the best method of quitting smoking as it does not require an individual to take regular medicines and go to the therapist. However, many ex-smokers consider it to be the most difficult process. The success rates of the cold turkey method depend entirely on the will-power and motivation of the individual trying to give up tobacco.

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