Ten Risks That May Lead to a Smoking Relapse.

Depressed smokerQuitting smoking is as much about preventing relapse as it is about healing from the addiction. Throughout the quitter’s journey, there are a number of circumstances that will increase an individual’s risk of relapse. Take control and become familiar with the following risks of smoking relapse.

A Lack of Preparedness.

If the user has stopped smoking and not effectively planned their quit campaign; failure will often result. It is a good idea to have a plan in place that covers all aspects of the quit process.

Consider how and when you will stop smoking, how you will manage the cravings, the withdrawals and side effects such as the “quitters aggro.” Having a plan minimizes the risk, simply because it will remove a lot of the unknown and unexpected aspects of quitting.

Having a plan minimizes the risk, simply because it will remove a lot of the unknown and unexpected aspects of quitting.

A Lack of Understanding.

It is critical to understand how nicotine addiction works and what happens to both the brain and body during the healing process.

Knowledge allows the quitter to make the distinction between a crave and a want, while ignorance strengthens the “Junkie” mindset, which feeds off a lack of awareness and understanding. The more you know, the less you risk a relapse.

A Lack of Support When Needed.

Not having the support and understanding of friends and family can be very influential in causing a smoking relapse. This is especially true during the early days when an ex smoker can quickly become overwhelmed and anxious in the company of others.

Having online support available will dramatically assist in times of need. Especially if it comes from fellow quitters and ex smokers.

Events of Emotional Conflict and Stress.

Triggers associated with emotion and stress are quite possibly the most severe an ex smoker will face outside of the early chemical withdrawal period. Such times are difficult to plan for as they are highly unpredictable by nature.

It is possible to reduce the risk by having immediate access to trusted support during periods of stress and intense emotion. Having a kind of “bail out” strategy in place, such as being able to escape to a time out area, a relaxing park for example, can also help.

Over time, the ex smoker’s ability to manage such situations will improve.

The Effects of Depression and Anxiety.

Many nicotine addicts suffer depression and anxiety. Both of these conditions can weaken an ex smoker’s resolve and confidence during the quit process. These conditions may also increase the likelihood of emotional stress and conflict.

Regular consultation with a doctor and having access to a therapist can dramatically assist ex smokers suffering such conditions and reduce the risk of relapse.

Daily exercise such as walking for twenty minutes is also beneficial. Studies have shown that exercise may have a significant impact on the successful treatment of such conditions.

A Convenient Access to Cigarettes.

Everyone has a limit of resistance when it comes to craving. The more readily available cigarettes are to the quitter, the more pressure is placed on that limitation.

On a more difficult day, the only saving grace might be the inconvenience caused by having to travel for a nicotine hit. The more time and effort it takes to get the hit, the more likely the craving will pass and the quitters reasoning part of the brain will win.

Having easy access to cigarettes can dramatically increase the risk of a relapse, so be sure to throw them away.

The Workplace.

There are a lot of risks at the workplace, especially during the glory days. Factors such as stress, emotional conflict, the presence of smokers and intense physical cravings, all serve to create an extremely high risk period for relapse.

Addiction is a disease, so if possible, visit your doctor and take some time off work so you can focus on getting through the most challenging stages of withdrawal. This can dramatically increase your chances of successfully avoiding an early relapse.

Social Settings.

During the early stages, consider avoiding any social environments that will trigger cravings, especially those associated with alcohol. Such environments may increase the convenience of cigarettes and weaken your ability to resist.

Reduce the risk by re introducing yourself to the social scene when you feel more in control. Attack your social triggers one at a time.

Coming off Medication or Nicotine Replacement Therapy.

There is a potential risk when coming off quit smoking aids such as Chantix/Champix or nicotine replacement therapy, as the brain still requires a lot of healing and the chemical dependency to nicotine is not entirely beaten.

If the user is not prepared or does not expect cravings to occur, the shock of withdrawal may weaken the ex smoker’s resolve. This is especially risky if the user is abandoning the use of medicinal aids before completing the scheduled course.

Ex smokers using medication should adhere to their plan for the duration of their quit. If complications occur, the ex smoker should consult their doctor.

Experiencing Quitter’s Fatigue.

Nicotine addiction aggressively attacks an area of the brain called the Striatum. The corruption of this area leads to the creation of a very complex web of neural networks that link memory and emotion to smoking. In turn, forming excessively strong behavioral habits.

The break down of these neural networks occur in an ebb and flow fashion, as the many conscious and unconscious triggers are gradually confronted and overcome by the ex smoker. Over time, this process can lead to a sense of mental fatigue or weakening of resolve for the ex smoker.

Quitting smoking and healing from nicotine addiction is a long term process. Beating the chemical dependency is only the first step. It is critical to maintain as much perspective as possible; bad days are generally relative to the good days experienced around them.



  1. I quit smoking on my birthday in December of 2012. I decided to try the patches. Sucessful, but after the ten weeks or so , my symptoms have become somewhat unbearable, but I press on. Dry eye with itching( have seen an eye doctor), sore throats constantly, fatigued continuously, headaches, depression to some extent, and other symptoms. Is this normal after being clean for at least 100 plus days.? I am going to see my family doctor and consult a therapist .If you have any advice , I would greatly appreciate it. I am sixty and just want to feel better. I will never smoke again but just need to know the experiences I am going through are normal and that things will get better.

    • Hi Bob. Congrats on quitting! My advice, first and foremost, would be to see the doctor as planned. Fatigue, headaches and sore throats are all pretty normal. (Not 100% on the dry eyes.)I would expect the timeframe of such side effects to also last longer if quitting using nicotine replacement therapy (patches), as you still have nicotine in the blood. It’s the trade off for less intensive cravings.

      Things will definitely get better. As I am sure you know, it isn’t a quick and easy heal, but one that is most definitely worth it!

      Hang in there!

    • Cameron C says:

      I quit exactly a week ago. This is not my first time quitting. I first quit cold turkey in 2004 after smoking about a pack for about 7 years. At that time I didn’t use any aids. I was lucky to not be working at the time, and the only thing I did is I nursed a beer all day long to take the edge off. I know people say to stay away from smokers and habits that would trigger smoking, but I did the exact opposite. I didn’t change anything except I stopped smoking. I would even go outside with my husband who smoked, and not light up. It was very hard, and the whole process I recall took me a month. I didn’t experience a lot of fatigue when I quit the first time.
      Approximately five years later a lot of stressful circumstances way beyond normal, especially death in the family, and then a lawsuit triggered me to smoke again.
      I smoked for about 8 years again. This time, a week ago I stopped cold turkey, but I also started with nicorette gum. The first day I chewed about ten of them. The second day about five or six. I also had a really bad anxiety/panic attack after watching a movie that involved animal cruelty. I simply couldn’t calm down. And everything felt hopeless. The next day I had even fewer gums, while things were looking pretty bleak. The thing is I didn’t really feel craving, just depression. Then by day four I stopped the gum completely. I really didn’t like chewing it. The cravings didn’t really return, but I began to feel extremely tired. The depression began to improve and the fatigue would appear out of nowhere during the day, especially in the afternoon or evening. I find that when I focus on something else, the fatigue also tends to go away. I think it may also be mental.
      I have also been working out for the past three months, cardio and weight lifting. I keep that up now as well. Today is day 8th. Yesterday I felt very tired in the evening, but slept well. This morning I felt tired. but by the afternoon I feel mostly normal for the first time. No weird aches, pains, not even really coughing, (although I did smoke all organic additive free tobacco only), no headaches either so far. I hope this fatigue will disappear shortly. Cravings are not really there anymore. Good luck to all.

  2. Dbx0000@gmail.com says:

    I just stopped smoking for day number 6. This time, I am using 2mg nicotine gum to get away from craving. I would like to know when can I be off from the nicotine gum? Thanks

    • Everyone is different. I would stick to the product instructions and maybe consult your chemist and doctor. Both will have a better idea about your situation etc. Again, in general, I would stick to instructions.

      • Dbx0000@gmail.com says:

        Thanks for my reply. I am on week 4 without a single cigarette and exercise everyday for about an hour and feeling very good. However, I still need the nicotine gums two or three times a day especially after meals and coffee. When do you think the cravings will go away?

        • The chemical based craves will go away once the process of down – regulation is complete. (Anywhere between 6-12 weeks after completely abstaining from nicotine.) After that, there will still be behavioural, emotional and environmental craves to wrestle with. These break down over time. Each time you defeat a crave, it weakens the neural connections behind it. In time they metabolise. For example, I used to smoke in the car and it took me a while to break that connection. Now, I don’t even think about it because the neural connections are just not there. 🙂

          • I have stopped smoking for nine weeks but still need nicotine gums occasionally especially after meals. I am having difficulty in falling asleep and i would like to know if this is normal. Thanks

          • Some people do express difficulties sleeping, though I suspect it is not specifically caused by the quit. Having said that, the nicotine gum may well be influencing it. In any case, insomnia is best treated as a separate condition and I would talk to your doctor about it. 🙂

            Stay Strong!

  3. It has been 6 months since I quit ciggs cold turkey.I put abt 14-15 pounds.I still sometimes get discomfort in the chest area and my head feels woozy as if the world suddenly started spinning.I feel weak esp in the mornings. Does anyone who quit for more than six months have the same symptoms as me.Please share i feel abnormal.

  4. Daisysailor says:

    Complacency: My partner quit smoking six months ago – it was a struggle, it has been a struggle every time he quit smoking, not just for him but also for me. Every time I felt emotionally drained trying to keep it together when he tried yet again to pick a fight to have an excuse to start smoking again. But he persisted, and was smoke free for six months…Until he became complacent, went for a holiday and caught up with old mates who are smokers. He thought that he could handle it, just one… or a couple – he thought that he would be fine. He is now back to smoking, back to square one of his long hard journey, and so am I….
    Once you decide to quit smoking, you can never go back, that first one is all it takes.

  5. First of all, this is a great website, lots of really useful information.
    This is my day 5 of no cigarettes after 40 years of smoking. I had hypnotherapy, which has given me the push I needed. First 3 days really very bad, I couldn’t stop crying. Felt really empty and low. Things now getting a lot more bearable, still ruminating about smoking/what I miss; getting little cravings all the time – but I do feel I’m getting somewhere. Last time I tried giving up I would almost have smoked a butt off the street when I had a craving (I never did!), this time I have no such longings because of the hypno, I guess.
    I have people visiting tomorrow for a little party which, on Day 6, is sooner than ideal to be around people smoking and drinking. I’ve got myself a vape ecig, with 0% nicotine fluid, as I never, ever want to experience again the feelings I had this week withdrawing from that. Does anyone have thoughts on this as a transitionary object, not just for tomorrow’s party but more generally too as I get off the gigs, something that approximates smoking to help the separation process along? I guess my worry is that it might take longer to break the association if I keep doing the motions, but anything to ease the sense of loss. Niamh

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