Most but not all benefits listed below are related to smoking. Why? Here in the U.S. there are ten times as many smokers as oral tobacco users. Smoking, by far, reflects the greatest health risks of any form of nicotine delivery. And until the e-cigarette's arrival, the vast majority of research focused upon on it.
Remember, absence of evidence isn't evidence of absence. Just because science can't yet tell us when most oral tobacco, NRT or e-cig recovery benefits occur, it doesn't mean they're not happening.
Let's review a few health benefits of life on the free side of dependency's bars.
When ending all tobacco and nicotine use, within ...
- 20 minutes - Our blood pressure, heart rate and the temperature of our hands and feet return to normal.
- 8 hours - Remaining nicotine in our bloodstream will have fallen to 6% of normal peak daily levels, a 94% reduction.
- 12 hours - The ex-smoker's blood oxygen level will have increased to normal while carbon monoxide levels have dropped to normal too.
- 24 hours - Anxieties peak and within two weeks should return to near pre-cessation levels.
- 48 hours - Damaged nerve endings have started to re-grow and our sense of smell and taste are beginning to return to normal. Cessation anger and irritability peaks.
- 72 hours - Our body is 100% nicotine-free and over 90% of all nicotine metabolites (the chemicals it breaks down into) have been ionized or excreted via urine. Symptoms of withdrawal have peaked in intensity, including restlessness. The number of cue induced crave episodes will peak for the "average" ex-user. Lung bronchial tubes leading to air sacs (alveoli) are beginning to relax in recovering smokers. Breathing is becoming easier and the lungs functional abilities are starting to increase.
- 5 to 8 days - The "average" ex-smoker will encounter an "average" of three cue induced crave episodes per day. Although we may not be "average" and although serious cessation time distortion can make minutes feel like hours, it is unlikely that any single episode will last longer than 3 minutes. Keep a clock handy and time them.
- 10 days - The "average ex-user is down to encountering less than two crave episodes per day, each less than 3 minutes.
- 10 days to 2 weeks - Recovery has likely progressed to the point where our addiction is no longer doing the talking. We are beginning to catch glimpses of where freedom and healing are transporting us.
- 2 weeks - Blood circulation in our gums and teeth is now similar to that of a non-user.
- 2 to 4 weeks - Cessation related anger, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, impatience, insomnia, restlessness and depression have ended. If still experiencing any of these symptoms get seen and evaluated by your physician.
- 3-4 weeks - Brain acetylcholine receptor counts up-regulated in response to nicotine's presence have now down-regulated, and receptor binding has returned to levels seen in the brains of non-smokers.
- 2 weeks to 3 months - If an ex-smoker, heart attack risk has started to drop and lung function continues to improve.
- 3 weeks to 3 months - If an ex-smoker, circulation has substantially improved. Walking has become easier. Any chronic cough has likely disappeared. If not, contact your physician.
- 1 to 9 months - Any smoking related sinus congestion, fatigue or shortness of breath have decreased. Cilia have re-grown in our lungs, thereby increasing their ability to handle mucus, keep our lungs clean and reduce infections. The body's overall energy level has increased.
- 1 year - If an ex-smoker, excess risk of coronary heart disease has dropped to less than half that of a smoker.
- 5 to 15 years - If an ex-smoker, risk of stroke has declined to that of a non-smoker.
- 10 years - If an "average" ex-smoker (one pack per day), our risk of death from lung cancer has declined by almost half. Risk of cancer of the mouth, throat and esophagus has also decreased.
- 15 years - Our risk of coronary heart disease is now that of a person who has never smoked.
What was it like to go entire days without once thinking about wanting to smoke, dip, chew, suck or vape nicotine? What was it like being "you"?
Don't feel alone if you can no longer recall. That's what drug addiction is all about, quickly burying nearly all remaining memory of the beauty of life without using.
Trust in your common sense and dreams. It's my hope that you're curious about what it's like to go days, weeks and then months without once wanting to introduce nicotine back into your bloodstream. Don't be afraid as there's nothing to fear, except the delay fear causes in taking that first courageous step.
We leave absolutely nothing of value behind. In fact, every neuro-chemical that nicotine controlled already belonged to us. As recovering addicts, we can do everything we did while enslaved, and do it as well as or better once free.
Why fight and rebel against freedom and healing when within just two weeks it will be savored, embraced, protected, hugged and loved? Why see challenges, freedom's stepping stones, as frightening when they provides indisputable evidence of just how infected our life had become?
My prior attempts failed because I fought recovery, and did so in ignorance and darkness. Yes, every now and then I'd get lucky and land a punch, but freedom was short lived. But this time was different.
This time Joel and his insights effectively turned on the lights. Now my opponent couldn't be clearer. My eyes and mind were opened to exactly what it takes to both fail and succeed.
Joel burned an extremely bright line into my mind, one I'll do my very best to keep clean and clear every remaining day of my life. He taught me that I get to stay and live here on the free side of that line so long as it's never crossed, so long as all the world's nicotine remains on the other, so long as complacency isn't allowed to obscure it.
Centers for Disease Control, Tobacco Use Among Adults - United States 2005, MMWR, Weekly, October 27, 2006, Volume 55(42), Pages 1145-1148.
Primary sources for this recovery benefits timetable are: (1) U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, The Health Consequences of Smoking: A Report of the Surgeon General, 2004; (2) Hughes, JR, Effects of abstinence from tobacco: valid symptoms and time course, Nicotine and Tobacco Research, March 2007, Volume 9(3), Pages 315-327; (3) O'Connell KA, et al, Coping in real time: using Ecological Momentary Assessment techniques to assess coping with the urge to smoke, Research in Nursing and Health, December 1998, Volume 21(6), Pages 487-497.
Mamede M, et al, Temporal change in human nicotinic acetylcholine receptor after smoking cessation: 5IA SPECT study, Journal of Nuclear Medicine, November 2007, Volume 48(11), Pages 1829-1835.
Content Copyright 2016 John R. Polito
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Page created April 26, 2016 and last updated April 8, 2016 by John R. Polito