The 4 D's: Steps for Coping With Withdrawal

Details withdrawal symptoms from tobacco cessation and how to manage them.

Coping with Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms are no fun, yet most people feel them when they quit smoking. Most people feel withdrawal symptoms when they quit smoking. There are 2 types of addiction: the physical and the psychological.

One major withdrawal symptom that you should expect to feel is the strong craving to smoke. You know what it's like to have a cigarette craving that you aren't allowed to satisfy. Think of the last time you were in a place where smoking isn't permitted (in an airplane, restaurant, office, shopping mall, meeting room, etc.). The source of the craving may be physical (your body is telling you it needs nicotine) or psychological (you need stress relief) or a combination of both. The 4 D's listed below can help you deal with cigarette cravings. And keep in mind that both the frequency and intensity of your cravings will decrease as the duration since your last cigarette increases.

Deep Breaths

Breathe in and breathe out slowly, as if you were smoking a cigarette. When you do deep breathing, inhale deeply, hold it for a couple seconds, and then release it slowly. Deep breathing will help you relax and make the craving dissipate.

Drink Water

Drink lots of water all day long, especially during a craving. Drinking water helps flush the toxins out of your system, and it will help keep your hands and mouth busy if that's something you miss from smoking. Some ex-smokers prefer to drink through a straw, which also helps with the oral fixation.


Distract yourself by getting up and making yourself active. Go for a brisk walk. Go out and meet with a friend. If you choose to stay indoors, go into a different room. Grab a carrot stick and munch on it elsewhere. Put on some music. Open a book or browse through a magazine. Call up a friend. Many smokers have said that when they get an urge to smoke and then make the effort to change their surrounding environment, they do get distracted and actually forget that they wanted to smoke.


Most smokers falsely assume that each craving lasts a long time -- maybe 45 minutes or so. Time yourself to learn the truth. Cravings come and go quickly. The average craving really only lasts about 5 to 10 minutes. No matter how strong the craving is, convince yourself that you can wait 10 minutes. To help those 10 minutes go by, practice the other D's.

(Sources: ACS 2003; ALA 2003)