What Happens When You Quit Smoking Cold Turkey?

Quitting cold turkey is statistically the most successful way to stop smoking, according to the American Cancer Society's "Quitting Smoking" brochure 3. However, the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute warn smokers that quitting cold turkey can cause many problems if you have not prepared for a life without cigarettes and have not learned about solutions to future problems 3.

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You may become more anxious, depressed and tired if you quit smoking cold turkey because the nicotine in cigarettes calms you down, brightens your mood and increases your energy level, according to “Dr. Dean Ornish’s Program for Reversing Heart Disease” book 1. Nicotine is an addictive drug that gives people a lot of pleasure, whether it's in cigarettes, gum, lozenges, nasal spray or anything else. You can reduce the impact of quitting smoking on your levels of stress, depression and fatigue by gradually substituting other pleasures for cigarettes.

Time Frame

Ex-smokers usually crave nicotine one to two hours after they quit. Physiologically, your body wants nicotine if you have regularly inhaled cigarettes for a long time, and your blood pressure and heart rate accelerate if you're deprived of it, according to the National Cancer Institute. Nicotine cravings are strongest during the first week after quitting cold turkey. They occur less frequently over time, but could recur up to six months after your last cigarette.


You are more apt to have a different personality temporarily if you quit smoking cold turkey because smokers who quit gradually are more likely to have the psychological support of other smokers who want to quit as well as friends. Studies show that most ex-smokers become angrier, more frustrated and more irritable after they stop smoking, the National Cancer Institute reports. Ex-smokers also are more impatient and intolerant of other people. The personality changes usually disappear within a month.

Expert Advice

Ex-smokers usually gain weight after they quit smoking. Women gain more weight than men on average, but the gain is "usually fewer than 10 pounds," according to the American Cancer Society's "Guide to Quitting Smoking" guide 3. People who quit smoking cold turkey often resume smoking because they are unprepared to gain weight. The American Cancer Society recommends addressing the issue of smoking first and losing weight afterward because "stressing about your weight may make it harder to quit. 3"


Although quitting smoking, whether cold turkey or gradually, is very difficult, the benefits are enormous. Within 10 years, an ex-smoker’s risk of heart attacks, lung cancer and strokes declines dramatically.


Nicotine-replacement products are the best solution to the problems of quitting smoking. Other recommendations include:

  • staying away from social situations where smoking is tempting
  • exercising
  • trying to relax via deep breathing
  • finding stress-relieving hobbies,
  • putting something healthy
  • such as vegetables
  • in your mouth rather than cigarettes