Can stopping smoking cause palpitations?

Are Heart Palpitations Symptoms of Nicotine Withdrawal

Smoking leads to addiction and its health effects include a wide range of effects such as heart diseases, cancer, and death. Smoking or Nicotine (Tobacco)dependence is the addiction to tobacco products caused by Nicotine.

If you have been smoking for a long time and decide to quit, then you will experience the “withdrawal symptoms”. The symptoms of nicotine withdrawal are physiological responses to the removal of nicotine which the body had become dependent to.

Nicotine withdrawal symptoms start 2-3 hours after quitting and peak the 3rd and 4th day. Some of the most common symptoms are:

1.   Headache

2.   Nausea

3.   Constipation or diarrhea

4.   Fatigue, insomnia, drowsiness

5.   Irritability, difficulty in concentrating

6.   Anxiety, palpitations, depressed mood

7.   Increased hunger, desire to eat sweets.

8.   Tobacco cravings

So stopping smoking can cause heart palpitations, amongst many other symptoms.


Chronic nicotine use induces neuroadaptations in the brain which causes nicotine dependence. Nicotine binds and activates the nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in the brain neurons.

The activation of these receptors triggers a cascade of chain events within the cells which results in what is called the “nicotine-taking behavior”: a mildly pleasurable rush, mild euphoria, increased arousal, decrease fatigue, and relaxation. Increased level of Dopamine, a brain neurotransmitter, also is responsible for this behavior.

When quitting smoking, all these occurrences will come to a stop and thus the withdrawal symptoms happen. Heart palpitations are a common happening during tobacco quitting. This is due to the increased anxiety that people experience during this period.

Decreased dopamine levels and cessation of the stimulation of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in neurons are responsible for decreased mood, depression, and anxiety. These symptoms cause increased awareness of the heart beating, so palpitations.

How to overcome such problems?

Quitting smoking is not easy. An improper quitting plan of stopping smoking can cause heart palpitations, anxiety, depression, headache and other numerous withdrawal symptoms. 

In order to overcome these symptoms, you need a good quitting plan.

It is very important to know that there is no easy way to quit smoking, but planning it can help to overcome the withdrawal symptoms.

1.   The very first thing to do is to set a stop date. You can make a big notation of your stop day on the calendar, after all, it is an important day so you can treat it like one. Do not set the stop date farther than the next month.

2.   Second: get support- support can come from your family, friends, doctors etc. Talk to your friends and family about your decision. Their support and understanding would much help you. Consult with your doctor before quitting smoking, he might give you useful advices about how to handle best the quitting.

3.   Third- make a list of places where you do not want to go when you start your quitting plan. Consider visiting places where smoking is not allowed such as shopping malls, cinemas, movie theaters, museums etc.

The best way to quit smoking is the “Cold turkey” plan which means an abrupt cessation of tobacco. But, many people do not succeed in quitting smoking at the first attempt.

It is more likely to stop smoking when using medications and counseling which are both proved very effective, especially when used both.

The drugs that are proven safe and effective in treating nicotine dependence are as following:

1. Nicotine replacement therapy-Nicotine patch, Nicotine gum, Nicotine lozenge, Nicotine inhaler and Nicotine nasal spray.

2. Non-nicotine medications- Bupropion, Varenicline, Nortriptyline.

The counseling opportunities are as following:

1.   Telephone counseling

2.   Individual or group counseling

3.   Internet-based program

Quitting smoking is much harder if you experience nicotine cravings. Sometimes they can be very intense. If in the midst of a craving, remember that it will go away within few minutes. To make the cravings more easy to tolerate, find the following suggestions:

1.   Go for a walk- it will help you reduce the craving

2.   Go to the gym- it will  reduce the craving

3.   Pop a hard candy in your mouth- it will help to tolerate the urge to put a cigarette in your mouth

Call your best friend- some distraction will help you

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