//Quit Smoking Cold Turkey: Long Term Success Or Short Lived Satisfaction?
Quit Smoking Cold Turkey: Long Term Success Or Short Lived Satisfaction? 2018-10-11T07:57:10+00:00

Quit Smoking Cold Turkey: Long Term Success Or Short Lived Satisfaction?

Quitting cold turkey has the lowest rates of success among those who are looking to quit smoking for good. However, is it a viable method to quit smoking or should people avoid trying it at all?

cold turkey road sign with arrow

There are many smoking cessation methods, but “cold turkey” takes the cake for the worst reputation. Many smokers hesitate to use this method at all since it is known for causing withdrawal symptoms, severe mood swings and intense cravings.

Despite this, most smokers who try to quit go cold turkey at some point. Success rates vary.

What is the Cold Turkey Method?

The cold turkey method, or “quitting cold turkey” as it is more commonly referred, simply means that someone tries to quit smoking using no cessation aids. Cessation aids are medications, devices, or methods to make quitting easier. Those who go cold turkey forgo these methods and try to stop smoking without using any replacement products.

What are the benefits of the cold turkey method:

Overall, healthcare professionals tend to like the cold turkey method. It promotes smokers to quit without replacing the habit with something else, not even with the best vapes. Going cold turkey can also save quitters money, as they will not have to worry about buying nicotine replacement items or cigarettes.

What are the downsides of the cold turkey method:

Despite the apparent benefits regarding health, there are several reasons why quitting cold turkey is not the right option for many smokers.

  • One of the main issues with quitting cold turkey is that cutting off all access to nicotine at once can lead to intense withdrawal symptoms. Nicotine is the substance found in tobacco products, like vape juices and e-liquids that makes them addictive, and smokers can experience a withdrawal period similar to that experienced by users of any other drug.

Quit Smoking Cold Turkey: Withdrawal Symptoms

According to WebMD, cigarette withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Lowered heart rate and blood pressure
  • Nausea
  • Constipation and/or diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Increase in hunger
  • Increased sugar cravings
  • Foggy brain/trouble concentrating
  • Intense tobacco or nicotine cravings
  • Headache
  • Irritability/short temper
  • Anxiety and/or depression
  • Insomnia

These symptoms will affect some more than others. The degree of which someone may experience symptoms will depend largely on how heavy they smoke before quitting. Those who do not smoke many cigarettes or who have not smoked very long may have a shorter or less intense withdrawal period than long-time and heavy smokers.

Most of these symptoms are not dangerous to one’s health, although if blood pressure or heart rate drops too low, issues might arise. Those who already have blood pressure or heart issues should consult with a physician before trying to quit.

Going Cold Turkey: Make a Plan

Withdrawal is going to happen. There is no getting around that. Symptoms of withdrawal can be managed, in both the short and the long term. Week one is usually the hardest for many smokers since this is when the physical dependence on nicotine is at the forefront. Initial withdrawal can begin in less than an hour after having a cigarette. In order to keep nicotine levels in the blood at what has become a ‘normal’ volume, the first withdrawal symptoms will be cravings for a cigarette. These cravings may seem constant, particularly over the first three days, but after that cravings slowly begin to decline.

Tips for working through cravings:

  • Drink water when cravings begin.
  • Use distraction methods.
  • Remember that cravings are short lived.
  • Breathe deeply and slowly.
  • Use logic to dismiss the demands of the craving.

Other common physical withdrawal symptoms include a headache, dizziness, fatigue, cough, excessive mucus production, and stomach upset. Again, the first week should see the end of these symptoms, and many people find them to be a mild discomfort at worse. Most are symptoms of the body returning to normal and working to reverse the damage done by nicotine.

Most smokers who have tried to quit but failed tend to note that the psychological withdrawal symptoms to be far worse than the physical. Extreme mood swings, anxiety, anger, even depression, are all commonly reported. These emotional roller coasters work alongside the cravings and reinforce the idea that nicotine use is necessary to be ‘normal,’ ‘calm,’ or ‘happy.’ Relapse becomes an easy option when rationalizing that just one cigarette is the only thing necessary to feel good again.

How Effective is Quitting Cold Turkey?

Overall, most people who attempt to quit smoking cold turkey will eventually begin smoking again, although some may at least cut down on their previous tobacco usage. This is in large part due to the withdrawal symptoms previously mentioned; many also start smoking again due to social pressures and triggers. For instance, someone who smokes socially may be more likely to return to smoking after having “just one” while out with friends.

According to the American Cancer Society, it is hard to determine success rates for any given method. On average, those who try to quit smoking are only successful between four and seven percent of the time.

Other Smoking Cessation Aids

Due to the high failure rate for those who try to quit cold turkey, smoking cessation aids have been developed to help smokers quit. These have varying levels of success. Some of the most common types of cessation aids include:

Nicotine Replacement Therapy

This method includes patches, gums, and inhalers which contain nicotine. The theory is that users can eventually wean down from higher levels to lower levels until they no longer feel the need to smoke. Many smokers find these methods unsatisfying.

Prescription Medications

Several prescription medications have been developed to help smokers quit. Wellbutrin is one of the most common, but there are others. Success rates with prescription drugs vary, and not all smokers have access to them. Those who do not have health insurance, for instance, may find that prescription aids are out of reach financially.

The “Weaning” Method

This method goes on the premise that smokers can slowly wean themselves off cigarettes. While this method is similar to nicotine replacement methods, it is much harder to control for those who are addicted to cigarettes. The lure of having “just one more” is often too much to resist.


Choosing the best way to quit smoking is a tough decision for anyone looking to quit. However, moving in the direction of quitting is a good first step. Don’t just jump into going cold turkey, do some research and see if it is the best method for you. Also, finding support is key to success as they can motivate you to keep going. It is a tough road, but if you keep at it, it is possible to beat.

Posted by
Jeffrey Buckley

I was a smoker for over 25 years. In this time I also earned my medical degree with a specialization in addiction treatment and counseling. That period has led me to vaping, my interest started around 2011. I’m fighting the tide of hysteria and dis-information around vaping that emanates from various fronts legislative, cultural and scientific. Having scientific councils support, I’m happy to contribute my thoughts, articles, and expertise.

  1. comment-avatar


    July 9, 2017 at 1:34 pm Reply

    A fast and simple way to stop smoking, I quit smoking in a day, if you want to stop as well than read this: https://www.allencarr.online/

    • comment-avatar

      James Duguid

      October 16, 2017 at 3:41 pm Reply

      Allen Carr’s “The Easy Way to Stop Smoking” is the most logical, effective, realistic thesis on quitting smoking, period. I didn’t find it to be THAT easy, but the certainly most effective I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been a pack a day plus smoker for 45 years. Only on day 7, but really feel I will never have another cigarette again. Will post back in a month or so.

  2. comment-avatar


    October 20, 2017 at 6:20 pm Reply

    I’ve heard of the Allen Carr method, but it was hard for me to quit cold turkey. Headaches, shaking- you name it. I started by slowly switching to nicotine pouches while I was at the office, and using one of the lower levels with a cigarette on a smoke break. I prefer the on! pouches because I stick to the lower ones, and hubby prefers the 8mg since he’s a dipper.

  3. comment-avatar

    Juanita C Williams

    October 23, 2017 at 11:34 pm Reply

    It have been 24hours for me and I have high bloodpersser I just need some help I want to stop for good how can this happen I need help

  4. comment-avatar

    Cathy Sousa

    November 10, 2017 at 7:45 pm Reply

    I agree. Though it is not a miracle cure, it is the Best thing out there to quit the craziness and psychological brainwashing of nicotine addiction.
    Do yourself a huge favor, but the book. I have been 2 weeks not smoking now, I pick up and read the book 2-3 times a day, really helps!

  5. comment-avatar

    Daryl Carlson

    November 11, 2017 at 12:58 pm Reply

    I think cold turkey is the best way!! Mind over matter

  6. comment-avatar


    November 23, 2017 at 7:26 pm Reply

    Great insight on what to expect and how to deal with the unexpected during the “quit smoking” journey.
    Thanks for the practical and refresher tips.

  7. comment-avatar

    P'd off

    February 20, 2018 at 4:59 pm Reply

    I read Allen Carr’s Easy Way book and it was fantastic. The first week WAS easy. However, 10 days in, I am extremely irritable and have a such bad headaches I am beginning to wonder about my health.

  8. comment-avatar

    Michelle Bailey

    February 20, 2018 at 9:23 pm Reply

    Where’s the data of “most people who attempt to quit smoking cold turkey will eventually begin smoking again,”? There is much data out stating contrary with a basic google search. Sounds like there’s an agenda here.

  9. comment-avatar


    April 30, 2018 at 12:48 am Reply

    April 29, 2018

    I quit cold turkey 2 months ago after a bout with the flu. I have smoked for 57 years 2 packs a day. I have the depression and very irritable and a cough in the middle of the nigh and I also crave sweets. I do crave a smoke but I fight the feeling and go on with something else. It just takes will power and perseverance. I know the side effects will subside. I desperately want to remain smoke free and pray I make it one day at a time. Good luck to all who are trying to quit.

  10. comment-avatar

    Albert Moriis

    May 24, 2018 at 7:28 pm Reply

    Been smoking for 41yrs. I finally quit on 05/23/18. Doing the cold turkey.

    • comment-avatar


      June 5, 2018 at 10:51 am Reply

      How is it going now?

    • comment-avatar

      Linda P Ruiz

      July 18, 2018 at 7:34 am Reply

      I’ve smoked for 30 years..quit cold Turkey saturday… it’s been a rough 5 days…but mind over mattee

    • comment-avatar

      erik delgadillo

      July 31, 2018 at 5:56 pm Reply

      how is it going

  11. comment-avatar

    New living

    June 1, 2018 at 11:25 pm Reply

    24 hours cold turkey. Not feeling like myself,. Body feeling kind of strange slight headaches but thanks to this website I understand now that my body is just going to do crazy things I will hang in there and Conquer this nicotine addiction cold turkey

  12. comment-avatar


    June 3, 2018 at 12:12 pm Reply

    Week two almost done. Still having the dizziness like I am in a Elevator. Is that normal? I am doing good So far.

    • comment-avatar


      July 23, 2018 at 11:11 pm Reply

      Did your dizziness go away?

  13. comment-avatar


    June 4, 2018 at 10:22 am Reply

    Help need to stop smoking but how

  14. comment-avatar


    June 4, 2018 at 12:31 pm Reply

    Just completed my 1st week! I am doing so well. I used to smoke 15-20 sticks a day. My cravings were not as bad as I expected.

    Cold turkey works for me and I think it is the best way for someone who is really willing to quit.

  15. comment-avatar


    June 9, 2018 at 2:43 pm Reply

    Ii am in day 6 of cold turkry. I have no physical hurts but my jaws are very watery. I think that is my body trying to get the nictione out of my mouth. This is not easy but as long as I have no physical pain I should be able to do it. I promise if I fail I will let you Know.

  16. comment-avatar

    Donna H

    July 8, 2018 at 6:57 pm Reply

    Took Chantal was down to 2 cig day but after maybe 2 months I. Didn’t want to leave my house, got like paranoid. So I stopped taking it. Then started 21mg patches worked better if I took it at night. Found out I have lung cancer. Now trying myself down from pack a day to 5-6 day have to have surgery so will totally stop before surgery for sure!

  17. comment-avatar

    Esther Thompson

    July 21, 2018 at 11:58 am Reply

    I quit cold turkey back in 2007 after 2 years at a pack a day. Picked the habit back up about 3 years ago. Cold turkey isn’t working This time. So, I put my smoke in my garage. I live in an apartment so it’s an effort to get to them. I set a limit of a minimum of 3 hours between smokes, but pushed it as far as I could. Today is my last day. I’m leaving for a 4 day camping trip tomorrow and won’t be taking any with me.

  18. comment-avatar


    September 1, 2018 at 3:56 pm Reply

    Coming up 6 months now since quitting cold turkey. It becomes a lot easier not to smoke if you dig in and get through the initial cravings and get a couple of weeks under your belt.

  19. comment-avatar


    September 16, 2018 at 4:35 pm Reply

    i quit 3 weeks ago i broke the amount i smoked down to 1 cigarette every other day the month prior to Cold Turkey and im doing great cant stand the smell of cigarettes now and my taste and smell have improved. I think its harder when inside you dont really want to quit because then its like a job. Some people just enjoy smoking. as for me quitting was the best i feel better! Good Luck out there with your Journey to a smoke free life-!!

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