Are crave episodes "really" only 3 minutes?

John (Gold)

9:42 PM - May 11, 2003#1

Nicotine Cessation Time Distortions
We've long encouraged members to keep a clock or watch handy because when an urge hits the rising tide of anxiety accompanying it tends to distort time. When first told that crave episodes were less than three (3) minutes in duration I laughed at the assertion because, if true, there were many times during this and a dozen prior humbling experiences where those three minutes felt more like three hours. Now, findings of a new study released yesterday suggest that time distortion may at some point need to be reclassified as an actual "symptom" of nicotine cessation.

In considering timing any anxiety event, be sure and make a distinction between the less than three (3) minute psychological crave episode triggered by encountering one of your un-reconditioned nicotine feeding cues (a time, place, emotion, location, event during which you've trained your subconscious mind to expect the arrival of new nicotine) and consciously allowing yourself to fixate on a "thought" of wanting to smoke (more akin to "gee, I sure wish I had a nice juicy steak!")

This time distortion study also gives added weight to the age-old yet critical step of investing a few moments to document what daily life as an endlessly feeding nicotine addict was really like and all your reasons and dreams - your quit fuel - for wanting to arrest your chemical dependency, stop the roller-coaster, and return your mind to that almost constant sense of quiet calmness that prevailed before introducing and permanently marrying nicotine to your brain reward pathways.

When you are out there in the middle of this temporary period of adjustment called "quitting" and time distortions start leading you to believe that you have been there for far longer than you actually have, a short loving letter from "you" to "you" that reinforces why completing this journey - "just one day at a time" - is so important, can be like reaching for a full canteen while crossing a simmering desert.
As you learn to reach out and

embrace your craves
Last edited by John (Gold) on 2:21 PM - Mar 29, 2009, edited 1 time in total.

John (Gold)

3:55 AM - May 13, 2003#2

Forget all the "may" and "possible" speculation in the below BBC article (the guessing game) and focus on what it actually tells us about 45 seconds becoming longer than 45 seconds for 100% of smokers quitting for 24 hours. The next few minutes are doable!

Time ticks for smokers who quit
BBC NEWS - World Edition - Sat. May 10, 2003
People who try to give up smoking may experience a slower sense of time passing, according to a study.
Researchers in the United States have found evidence to suggest that people who attempt to kick the habit lose their perception of time.

The phenomenon may be linked to the effects of nicotine withdrawal on the brain.

The researchers believe it may also contribute to the loss of concentration and increased levels of stress many people who try to quit experience.

Time tests

Dr Laura Cousino Klein and colleagues at Pennsylvania State University based their findings on a study of 42 men and women - 20 daily smokers and 22 non-smokers.

They asked all of the participants to estimate the duration of a 45 second period of time.

" Nicotine leaves the blood within 48 hours so it should get much easier after just two days "
Spokeswoman, ASH

The smokers were asked to undergo the test twice. Once when they were smoking as normal and again when they had not had a cigarette for 24 hours.

The non-smokers and smokers recorded similar and generally accurate estimates after the first test.

However, the researchers found significant differences in smokers after the second test, when they had stopped smoking.

They all overestimated the duration of the 45-second period, suggesting that it had instead felt like more than one minute.

Dr Klein said this may explain why many smokers who try to quit become stressed and lose concentration.

"The time perception impairment that we observed in the abstaining smokers may be part of the reason they also reported feeling more stressed and unable to focus or be attentive," she said.

'No surprise'

The researchers said further study is needed to explain the phenomenon.

Writing in the journal Psychopharmacology Bulletin, the researchers said: "That 24-hour cigarette smoking abstinence can alter perceptions of time in a healthy, young, non-clinical population of smokers emphasises the need for future research to delineate the attention-altering effects of nicotine and nicotine withdrawal on addiction processes."

A spokeswoman for the UK charity Action for Smoking and Health said the findings were not surprising.

"We know that smokers do get agitated or stressed when they initially start nicotine withdrawal. It is not surprising that this also affects their perception of time."
But she added: "These sort of feelings are over very quickly. Nicotine leaves the blood within 48 hours so it should get much easier after just two days."

copyright BBC MMIII
Last edited by John (Gold) on 10:32 PM - Mar 20, 2009, edited 3 times in total.


6:32 PM - May 13, 2003#3

It is kind of funny, but I realize this is the first time I remember having seen any research being done on this issue. Yet, it is something I remember telling at every clinic I have ever run, starting with the first. It was one of the symptoms I noticed with my first group. I briefly mentioned it here at Freedom in the article blood sugar symptoms, with the comment of "time perception distortions." This is how I always refer to it in the clinic. I would ask the group how many people experience time perception distortions, purposely not implying what direction the distortion may take. The reaction of the group is almost universal though--anyone who experiences the time distortion says it is in the direction of the slowing of time. Many people in my groups say that the first day or two that they quit smoking often seem as if they are among the longest days of their lives.

While the first few days may seem to last longer, in reality they last only 24 hours each. But life does often last longer when a person quits smoking as long as he or she sticks with his or her commitment to never take another puff!

Last edited by Joel on 2:22 PM - Mar 29, 2009, edited 1 time in total.

John (Gold)

9:25 AM - Jul 07, 2003#4

During the first few days our internal clock is broken!

You can handle a three minute crave episode, we all can.
Be sure and look at a clock as the minutes may seem like hours
Last edited by John (Gold) on 10:29 PM - Mar 20, 2009, edited 1 time in total.

John (Gold)

10:43 AM - Jul 22, 2003#5

Kicking cigarettes affects
patience, perception of time
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
People who try to quit smoking often feel edgy and have trouble staying focused. Now psychologists have zeroed in on a likely biological explanation: Nicotine withdrawal affects the smoker's sense of time.

When researchers measured time perception in nonsmokers and smokers, they found that both were fairly accurate in their estimates of a 45-second period. However, when the smokers repeated the test after abstaining from cigarettes for 24 hours, their perception of the same time interval was about twice as long.

Lead author Laura Cousino Klein says that if people's sense of time is off, they may become impatient. Things that usually seem to happen quickly can appear to take a frustratingly long time.

For example, Klein says, "If you feel it's taking the person in the car in front of you too long to step on the gas when the light changes from red to green, you may get very angry."

Klein, an assistant professor of biobehavioral health at Penn State University in University Park, believes that if smokers know to expect this kind of impairment when they quit, they may be better able to cope.
Copyright St. Louis Post-Dispatch 2003
Last edited by John (Gold) on 10:32 PM - Mar 20, 2009, edited 1 time in total.

John (Gold)

11:06 AM - Dec 31, 2003#6

12 May 2003
Time Perception Goes Up In Smoke

Not being able to estimate accurately how long something is taking may contribute to the performance declines and discomfort smokers typically experience while trying to quit, say Penn State researchers.

In a recent study, 20 daily smokers, who went without a cigarette for 24 hours, overestimated the duration of a 45 second interval. To the abstaining smokers, the interval felt approximately 50 percent longer than 45 seconds or more than one minute.

Dr. Laura Cousino Klein, assistant professor of biobehavioral health and co-director of the study, says, "The time perception impairment that we observed in the abstaining smokers may be part of the reason they also reported feeling more stressed and unable to focus or be attentive. Time estimation is used as an index of attention processes"

The Penn State team detailed their results in a paper, "Smoking Abstinence Impairs Time Estimation Accuracy in Cigarette Smokers," published in the current issue of the journal, Psychopharmacology Bulletin. The authors are Klein; Dr. Elizabeth J. Corwin, assistant professor in the Penn State Intercollege Physiology Program and the School of Nursing; and Michell McClellan Stine, doctoral candidate in biobehavioral health.
In the study, 22 nonsmokers (12 male and 10 female), and 20 daily smokers (12 male and 8 female), ages 18 to 41, were asked to estimate the duration of a 45 second period of time in a laboratory setting. The smokers were asked to participate in two sessions, once while smoking as usual and once after having stopped for 24 hours.

During each session, the participants were given these instructions: "In a moment, I'm going to say 'start' and then I will say 'stop.' When I say 'stop,' please tell me how much time you think has gone by in seconds. Please try not to count, but just tell me how much time you feel has gone by. Do you have any questions? Ready? Start. [45 second elapse] Stop."

The time estimates made by the nonsmokers and the smokers before the abstinence period were similar and fairly accurate. However, after 24 hours without a cigarette, the smoker's accuracy declined significantly compared to both the nonsmokers and their own estimates before the abstinence period. There were no gender differences in any of the outcomes.

The researchers conclude, "That 24-hour cigarette smoking abstinence can alter perceptions of time in a healthy, young, non-clinical population of smokers emphasizes the need for future research to delineate the attention -altering effects of nicotine and nicotine withdrawal on addiction processes."
Copyright © 1997 - 2003 Science a Go Go and its licensors. All rights reserved.
Last edited by John (Gold) on 10:35 PM - Mar 20, 2009, edited 1 time in total.


10:55 PM - Jan 18, 2004#7

Those 3 mins seem like for ever but I tried the stop watch thing and it's true. If you can have one handy it helps alot

John (Gold)

10:00 AM - Jan 29, 2004#8

Can you handle a less than 3 minute crave episode?

John (Gold)

10:51 PM - Jul 28, 2004#9

The difference between a subconscious nicotine feeding expectations cue generating a short yet often intense crave episode, and a smoking stimulus cue that causes the conscious mind to fixate on the thought of smoking is often subtle but with a few important distinctions.

First, for the most part, the subconscious episode is beyond the conscious mind's ability to control in intensity or duration, whereas conscious thought fixation can last as long or be as brief as you yourself decide.

Next, most subconscious links are broken with a single encounter when the subconscious does not receive the expected result - a new supply of nicotine. The subconscious does not barter, plot, carry a grudge or engage in rational thought. But not so with the conscious mind. The sight or smell of a cigarette can be the conscious mind's cue to think about smoking regardless of whether or not the desire gets satisfied, and conscious bargaining or romantic fixations can last as long as we desire to entertain them.

It's been five years since I smoked nicotine and my memories of the early days are not what they once were but let's use seeing someone smoke in a movie as an example. Such an event could have been a subconscious trigger for many of us, and the first time encountering it may have generated a short yet intense crave episode. The second time we saw someone smoking in a movie, and lots of subsequent times, may have been a conscious cue that reminded us about smoking, that turned our attention to thoughts of wanting to smoke nicotine. Eventually, we each arrive at that magic point in time where we each still notice actors smoking in movies but no longer find ourselves thinking about wanting to smoke. Many of you will begin to see the event for what it truly is (a mandatory feeding of nicotine's two-hour chemical half-life) or possibly speculate on the conscious or subconscious interactions at work. It's an amazing journey!

Boiled down, staying on this side of the bars and keeping our now arrested dependency on the other involves only one rule ... no nicotine today ... Never Take Another Puff! John (Gold x5)


11:43 AM - Oct 10, 2004#10

Crave < 3 Minutes

The urge will pass wether you smoke it or not. The longer you choose not to smoke the less frequent the urges come. Choose to take even a puff off of a cigarette and the addict and the addict's urges will likely be back in full force. Urge after urge... crave after crave... recurring every 20 minutes or so prompting puff after puff after puff. Remember those days? This is the sad life of a current smoker. The wise choice is to stay free by never taking another puff! ---- Ouija7 / 11+ months

OBob Gold

8:47 AM - Jan 06, 2005#11

It's often helpful to pause and really look at what you're feeling, and for how long. It's possible to turn 30 seconds to 3 minutes of real craving into 3 hours of anxiety.

Related reading:
Last edited by OBob Gold on 2:28 PM - Mar 29, 2009, edited 1 time in total.

John (Gold)

8:46 AM - Feb 05, 2005#12

Can you handle a up to 18 minutes (3 x 6) of crave episodes?
Last edited by John (Gold) on 10:37 PM - Mar 20, 2009, edited 1 time in total.

John (Gold)

1:14 PM - Jan 13, 2006#13

If we can learn to relax as much as possible, this is one cessation symptom that we can actually turn to our benefit. Imagine the amout of work or living we could engage in if the days were only longer

JoeJFree Gold

4:29 AM - Sep 24, 2008#14

Last edited by JoeJFree Gold on 2:32 PM - Mar 29, 2009, edited 1 time in total.


3:40 AM - May 29, 2011#16

Hi my name's Michelle. I haven't formally introduced myself yet (will do that in the appropriate place tomorrow). I'm on day 6 of my quit.

For days one, two and most of day three when I had a crave I'd look at the clock to time the three minutes. As soon as I looked at the clock, the craving would go. It would last about 5 seconds.

On the evening of day three, I had a craving episode that lasted two hours. Looking at the clock didn't help, drinking water didn't help-it felt like nothing was working. I came on here and did some reading and listening and it started to die out.

It felt like a craving but I (mostly) didn't want to smoke. I never felt like I'd go out and buy some cigarettes. However, the physical/psychological sensations were very unpleasant.

I had an episode like this on the morning of day four and I'm having one right now (it's dying down now, actually). It feels like the blood has rushed to and is rushing around my brain. I feel kind of light-headed and tingly. It feels almost like the physical symptoms of anxiety.

I am wondering why my recovery is getting worse. Maybe it's not getting worse; the first two days I was obsessing far more about cigarettes, but the craves were far more manageable. Now, they are less frequent, but really powerful. I don't really know which is worse. I kind of dread these happening as the physical feeling is so weird. I know it won't harm me, but I still don't like them.

Are these even craving episodes? Could they be linked to my brain receiving more oxygen? I know people aren't allowed to post medical advice on here, but I'd just like to know if anyone else is going through/has gone through this.

Thanks, Michelle


12:27 PM - May 30, 2011#18

Those articles were helpful; thanks a lot. The 'Recognising Needs' one in particular resonated.

I actually think it might be something else though: slight caffeine overdose. I have always been very sensitive to caffeine (it produces anxiety in me) so I drink green tea or normal tea throughout the day. However, as I've read on here now that I've quit smoking perhaps my body can't handle the amount I was drinking. I say 'was' because I had two cups today (as opposed to about five) and did not have the craving episode...if that's, in fact, what it was.

Does the lowered tolerance to caffeine only last during the first 72 hours or is that a new permanent thing? Just curious.

Anyway, perhaps I sounded a bit spoiled in that message. I was very on edge and fed up with the craving sensations.

Thanks for your help.



3:25 PM - Jun 18, 2013#19

[font=ARIAL, GEORGIA, 'TIMES NEW ROMAN', TIMES, SERIF]To answer the question: "Does the lowered tolerance to caffeine only last during the first 72 hours or is that a new permanent thing? Just curious."[/font][font=ARIAL, GEORGIA, 'TIMES NEW ROMAN', TIMES, SERIF]