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Swedish Snus – Is It Easier To Quit Than Smokeless?

Swedish SnusEven though the site is called Kill the CAN, we realize that our nemesis is nicotine. As such, we’ve got folks on our forums that are battling not only the can (dip), but the pouch, cigarettes, nicotine gum, cigars, etc. In recent years a new foe in our fight for freedom has popped up: Swedish Snus. If you’re not familiar with the product, here’s the description per Wikipedia:

Snus (/ˈsns/Swedish pronunciation: [snʉːs]) is a moist powder tobacco product originating from a variant of dry snuff in early 18th century Sweden. It is placed under the lip for extended periods of time. Snus is not fermented and contains no added sugar. Although used similarly to American dipping tobacco, snus does not typically result in the need for spitting and, unlike naswar, snus is steam-pasteurized.

The other day, forum member Snot joined the forums and posted an introduction. Here’s an excerpt:

“I was a dipper for over 25 years then actually stopped for about 4 months in 2010. I started again using Swedish snus and have been using that until I quit 8 days ago. Days 1 – 3 of my quit were pure hell. Insomnia, headaches, depression, constipation, craves. Suffered from some mild depression on day 2.” 

I was never a “snuser” so I was intrigued.  We often hear from a variety of folks how much “safer” Swedish Snus is.  I asked Snot if he would talk to differences between his stoppage / withdrawal from dip in 2010 vs. this time when he’s quitting Swedish Snus.  Here is his response:

 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – 

I stopped back in 2010 and it was very hard to do in the beginning. Took me a couple of tries but once I got a month in it was much easier. I stopped primarily for health reasons. So, when I heard about snus and the supposed safety of it I was intrigued. The research does seem to imply that snus is safer than cigarettes or American smokeless tobacco.

But there are two big caveats to consider (and that I chose to ignore at the time):

1. The research is minimal – very minimal – and, although all showed no increase in mouth or throat cancer, one study did show an increase in pancreatic cancer among snus users.

2. Most of the research was funded by the Swedish snus companies. 

Well, that didn’t stop me. So I started snussing. I immediately discovered a few things that made me realize how snus can be way more addictive and “dangerous” than American dip.

  1. No need to spit. No spit cups, no spills, no gross smells. You can snus anywhere, anytime.
  2. If you use the pouches (and most snus users do) then there is no mess at all. The tins come with a convenient lid for storing used pouches. I could pop out an old pouch and pop in a new one in seconds with no mess and no one around me really knowing what I was doing. Which leads to…
  3. No one knows when you are snussing. The pouches are small and go in the upper lip so unless you smile real big no one will see it. There is no smell, no juice. I snussed at work and no one knew. I snussed at home and no one knew. I could snus and eat with no problem. This is what I mean by “dangerous.” I was snussing way more often than I was dipping because I could get away with it.

So the addiction is stronger than when I was dipping. I’d dip maybe 6 or 7 pinches a day. I had a snus in my cheek almost all the time. So, quitting this time seems harder. The physical withdrawal symptoms seem about the same but the craves are way more intense now IMO. Thankfully, the Smokey Mountain pouches are very close to snus in size and taste and serve as good substitutes.

Bottom line is that snus is scary stuff but it lacks many of the “nastiness” of American dip. Maybe it is “healthier” than American dip. Doesn’t matter because it still is nicotine and can still fuck you up. I had high blood pressure for years. In the past week my blood pressure is normal. Gee, I wonder why that is!

I fucking hate nicotine – all forms of it. It is evil, pure evil.

 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – 

So there you go… directly from the mouth of someone who’s quit both products. I’m not entering into the discussion of harm reduction here.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  Being addicted to something sucks. It takes time away from life, family, etc. Swedish Snus may be “safer” (though that’s debatable) but it seems pretty clear to me that it’s not any easier to break free from.

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  1. Snus did help me quit smoking. I started with standard pouches and then worked down to mini’s for a few weeks. I used mint flavor and moved on to mini mint 4mg nicotine lozenge and than 2mg. I would put them in my upper lip like a snus. After that I went cold turkey. As mention the high level of nicotine in a white pouch is what helped me quit smoking. With in a day I was craving the snus more than a cig. As was mentioned the high nicotine pouch can really get to you if you always have one in.

  2. People trying to quit snus should try ONICO, QVITT, Zeroberg, XOS and Kickup. All made by snus companies but all tobacco-free and nicotine-free. Great traditional snus mouthfeel and good traditional snus flavors.

  3. @Matt yes, less harmful certainly does not mean less nicotine. Snus is loaded with it, that’s why people can get off cigs by using it. Health consequences it’s less harmful, but addiction wise it certainly is not. I am glad you chose to give it up…bravo to you.

  4. Wow! That is some serious withdrawl my friend. I am sorry you are going through that. Despite the lack of health consequences of Swedish Snus(not sure if there have been studies on the Camel brand), your story is a good reason never to start, whether it hurts you or not.

    When I quit, I felt fine after about 2 weeks, so I can’t really say how to help. Certainly, getting off the medication should help, because pretty much all meds will effect your health; however, medication is the ultimate form of harm reduction, as whatever it is treating is likely worse. You might try some of the herbal snuff they have on this page, as that will help with the oral fixation. Avoiding alcohol and caffeine are good choices, as both will likely make you crave more.

  5. I posted the following two posts from another blog I’m posting in to show that quitting Snus is absolute hell. I was suckered in by all the hype about it being less harmful which I thought meant less nicotine. Made a huge mistake and am now paying for it big time.

  6. Week 10 has definitely been an improvement but I am still longing to feel normal again. The afternoon rush (increased heart rate, tingles in legs, blurred vision, agitation) has become more tolerable and the dizzyness has noticeably gotten better. Not much dizzyness at all typically. Still get pretty dizzy when I go on my walks though. Not going to start drinking alcohol till I feel really comfortable with the dizzyness being gone which can cause depression because it has been 10 weeks and I really just want to go out with my friends and be my normal self. Dropped the Ativan again and had some bad anxiety the 2nd and 3rd night after dropping. That seems to be fairly consistent so I’m getting used to dealing with that. Had a stressful situation pop up last night which lead to pretty bad anxiety last night and this morning which sucked cause I was feeling pretty good about things yesterday. Anxiety hasn’t been horrible but any slightly anxious situations are definitely amplified and last much longer than normal. Hopefully as I start to feel better and better the withdrawal will start to get better faster. Preparing for another month or two though until I’m back to myself. I’m sure it will be a fairly long time before I can do intense physical activity without getting dizzy, but that is fine. I really just want my everyday life back. I daydream about how good I will feel once I’m better. This daydreaming is happening more and more too which must be a good sign. Good luck to everyone else. It can be tough but life will be much better once your through.

  7. A few years ago a friend of mine gave me a Camel Snus to try. I had tried dip before (once or twice) which gave me such a buzz I puked so I was nervous but he told me that they weren’t nearly as strong. I tried one and it gave me a slight buzz that wasn’t over the top.
    A few months later I was working on a construction site and all of the workers were dipping and I was just standing around as an inspector so I decided to try the Snus again just for something to do. I did the Snus for about 3 months and quit without any problems whatsoever.
    A couple years later (about a year ago) I decided to use it again because I was getting busy at work and, again, just something to do while I worked (I am a design engineer (desk job)). I did the Snus for about 8 months and got to the point where I was practically chaining them back to back, all day long (especially at work) (about 15-20 pouches a day or a little over a can a day).
    Over the past July 4th weekend (9 weeks ago) I drank fairly heavily and wasn’t feeling great so I decided to stop using the Snus. I had quit no problem before and all I knew about nicotine withdrawal was that you could get a bad headache for a few days or whatever. Plus the Snus gave me such a little buzz I figured there wasn’t much nicotine in them. Boy was I wrong.
    After a couple days of not being able to sleep at all, a tingly feeling over my entire body, anxiety (including a panic attack that laster all night one night), and very bad lightheaded feeling, I went to the ER. At this point I thought I had a major hangover or something. They gave me some fluids and I felt a little better but I knew that wasn’t the problem because I had been hydrating a lot. After another sleepless night and symptoms increasing I looked up symptoms of nicotine withdrawal after thinking that it was possibly from quitting the Snus. I had every symptom there was. I had already missed three days or work so I decided to try some gum and a patch, although, I was reluctant because I didn’t want to backtrack from any withdrawal I had already gone through (really wish I knew what I know now). I started using 8 mg of gum per day (4 2 mg pieces) and a 7 mg patch. I was able to go to work one day that week and slept a total of 5 hours for the entire week. The first week was absolutely insane.
    I actually felt fairly good for a couple days after a couple days of using the gum (I quit the patch after two days because I felt it was giving me anxiety at night). But the relief was short and week 2 consisted of very bad lightheadedness/vertigo with some anxiety here and there. Week 2 I was on vacation so at least I wasn’t having to deal with work. During week 2 I took motion sickness medicine so I could eat while being so dizzy. Sleeping wasn’t as bad this week but I would wake up after about 4 hours needing gum.
    Week 3 I had to return to work and this is when the anxiety really started to kick in. The dizzyness was also still really bad and I faked work all week. I would hide in a conference room twice a day for about an hour and call my mom just for some distraction. Mid-week I got an appointment with a doctor and he gave me some Klonopin (.5 mg) for the anxiety. I tried it a few times but was reluctant due to the horror stories I had researched regarding withdrawing from it. Still sleeping only 4 or 5 hours a night.
    Week 4 had similar symptoms to week 3. Finally during week 4 I got in touch with a nicotine withdrawal councilor. That’s when I found out the amount of nicotine I was getting from the Snus was comparable to 4 packs of cigarettes per day. I had no idea. He told me that the Snus has a very delayed absorption into your body because it is a dry oral tobacco which is why it doesn’t give you a strong buzz but more of a drawn out, constant one. He told me that if I would have come to him before quitting, he would have had me starting with two 21 mg patches plus gum. At this point I am terrified because I had no idea that I was doing that much and that nicotine withdrawal could be this bad. I was traumatized.
    During Week 4 I started to notice symptoms significantly increasing in the afternoon which the councilor said was understandable since when I was on the Snus, the afternoon was when my body had the most nicotine. In the afternoons my whole body seems to speed up which increases all of the symptoms (it’s my body craving the nicotine). It’s like an extreme version of the shakes. Dizzyness increases, anxiety increases, vision gets blurry, and concentration goes to crap. Still sleeping only 4 or 5 hours a night during week 4.
    At the start of Week 5 I was having such bad anxiety that I went to the ER again. They gave me some Vistaril and Ativan to try which I did I decided I was going to take a Vistaril (25 mg) in the morning, 1mg of Ativan in the afternoon, and 1 mg of Ativan at night before bed. Although still dizzy, I felt pretty good that week (obviously with the meds). I could actually handle work and was starting to eat normal (I hadn’t been eating much cause anxiety makes me feel sick). I also started to sleep my normal 8 hours. Sometimes I am up and down for the last couple. The doctor also gave me wellbutrin to try but I took it for two days over that next weekend and the amphetamine boost it gave me increased the anxiety so I stopped taking it.
    Week 6 my body started to get used to the Ativan because I started to not feel great in the mornings when I had no Ativan in me. So, I cut out the Vistaril and started taking 0.5 mg of Ativan at night and in the morning and 1 mg in the afternoon. That week the afternoon rush and dizzyness was minimal most days. The whole process has had a lot of ups and downs. I have really good days sometimes and really bad days sometimes.
    Week 7 I’m getting worried about getting hooked to the Ativan so I decide to start tapering off. I took all three doses to 0.5 mg. Had full blown anxiety attacks on the 2nd and 3rd day ( in the morning after waking up) after dropping the Ativan. The dizziness also increased.
    Week 8 I dropped the Ativan another 0.5 mg. 0.5 mg in the morning and 0.5 mg in the early afternoon. I had one bad afternoon rush the day after dropping the Ativan. I went three days like this but was extremely dizzy every morning and decided that it was probably because I was doing a whole mg by noon every day and then having nothing till I woke up. Needed something to keep a little in me more consistently, so I added back in 0.25 mg at night. This did the trick. At this point, I also decided to slow down the taper to 0.25 mg per week.
    Week 9 (currently) I have maintained the same Ativan schedule because I feel like I’ve been messing with it too much. I will drop 0.25 mg this coming weekend. Although it’s slow as heck, my symptoms due seem to be getting better. Dizzyness definitely seems to be getting better. I get fairly dizzy if I go for a long walk and when I first wake up, but, during the day it is minimal and sometimes I don’t even notice it. The afternoon rush has seemed to weaken since I can withstand it more. Although, sometimes I have a bad day. Currently, the afternoon rush consists of a tense, agitated feeling and some blurred vision.
    The whole process has been absolute heck. I had no idea how much nicotine I was doing and I had no idea nicotine withdrawal can be this crazy. These blogs are helpful to know that others have had these issues because most people I talk to just don’t understand. I’ve never had an issue with anxiety at all. In fact, I slept the entire night before defending my Master’s Thesis. But nicotine withdrawal sucks. Anxiety just pops out of nowhere, makes your heart pound, and freaks you out which adds to it. Dizzyness is terrifying cause it’s your brain. The ups and downs with the whole process never gives you a feeling of any consistency. The only consistent thing is that I always feel better at night. I want so bad to be back to my normal self. I haven’t had a drink with caffeine or alcohol since this all started. I haven’t been able to go out normally with my friends, although, the last few weeks I’ve at least been able to go see movies and do more relaxing things. Looks like I am in it for the long haul though and it could be a couple more months before I am feeling normal. I’m sure it will be many months before I can do any physical activity without getting dizzy.
    Just thought I would share my story. Sorry it was so long. Any words of wisdom or advice to help get me through the next couple months, especially as I drop the Ativan would be much appreciated. I now have a much better understanding/respect for the nicotine addiction and I now sympathize with people going through withdrawal or who have anxiety issues.
    For those starting the withdrawal process (who have it really bad like me) you’re going to feel hopeless at points but it will get better. It’s biology, it has to.

  8. Note: I was a snus user, and quit.

    Good atricle, save for 1 part. There has been over 350 studies in 40 years that show snus(Swedish at least) is far less harmful than any other tobacco product-so snot was incorrect(even the study with cancer of the pancreas is flawed). It should also be noted that Swedish health officials conducted plenty of the studies to discredit snus, and failed. Snus is not made to get people off nicotine, its made to use with far less danger.

    However; he is correct. Nictonine is never 100% safe and it is 100% evil and should be avoided. Quit if you can at any cost. There is still a chance you might be one of those people who will have a heart condition aggrevated by nictotine use etc. Even if you never have any health effects of snus, it would be nice not to be an addict, or save yourself a lot of money.

    I am not advocating nicotine use, I am just don’t like misinformation, especially because someone who smokes and is unable to quit, might see there life saved by snus.

  9. I started to use swedish snuss for fun some years back. I quit smokin 10-15 years ago. It was hard but nothing major. Now i desided to drops snus. For 4 days nothing. Yes i feel i could do one but then again, why would i ? I completely disagree with all the hype on how hard it is to quit. the nicotine releases muchs slower and hence causes far less urgent addiction. i was using odens snuss. 22mg pouches. So yes the nicotineofmy daily use was around 140mg.

    1. For your daily nicotine use to be around 140mg, you’d have to suck on roughly 35 to 70 pouches of oden’s extreme strong per day. Only roughly 10-20% of the nicotine in snus gets absorbed.

  10. After ~10 years of somewhat sporadic dip usage, I switched to snus when it became more readily available here. Just to reiterate what others have said, the problem with snus is that it’s so damn convenient and easy to hide. I didn’t have to lug around a nasty spit cup, I very rarely got sores in my mouth, and I didn’t get the heartburn I got with regular dip. The fact that it is so stealth meant I had a snus in practically all the time unless I was eating. I constantly fell asleep at night with a snus in.

    I have been going through a can of the large camel snus every two days for several years now. I had my last snus 6 days ago (stopped on a whim/moment of clarity) and things are going well. The first couple of days were filled with rushes of anxiety when I “needed” a fix, a bit of insomnia, and a bit of fog and irritability, but nothing too intense. I fought those initial urges with pure stubbornness and condescension…telling myself, “why are you being a little b!#@ch” or “what in the hell are you doing?” when I started getting anxious. Starting about day 3 or 4, I have been getting some sores on my tongue and lips.

    One thing I did a day or two after my last snus, was to pick up some tea tree oil toothpicks just to have something for the oral fixation, and I suppose that has helped a bit. At this point, I’m down to minor cravings when bored. I hesitate to prematurely declare “mission accomplished” like a certain POTUS, but, I really do feel like I’m done with tobacco. I’ve made sure to let several people know that I’m quitting, so I really don’t have the option to fail. My stubbornness and pride are much stronger than even nicotine addiction lol.

  11. Thanks for sharing this, I agree with everything you had to say. Snus is crazy hard to quit and I’ve given up smoking (I didn’t swap smoking for snus I flat out stopped all nicotine for like 6 months before trying ecigs then snus). Quitting smoking was easier in terms of withdrawal, for me anyways.

    I think it’s been a month since I decided to quit snus. I couldn’t stand “needing” snus when I didn’t have it in my mouth. I was turning into this crazy junkie. When at work there were times when I only had the loose snus and I would sneak into a corner pull out the can and stick in a pinch which for anyone familiar with loose tobacco knows is crazy hard and messy. When I started talking to people the spit buildup would get disgusting and I would have to sneak spit into a garbage can or a tissue or something. It was degrading that I HAD to do this or I felt deprived. When I had the pouches I could have one in at all times. And I did… pretty much all day. I could reach into my pocket and sneak one out of the can, palm it, slide my hand over my mouth and sneak it in. Too easy.

    Quitting was debilitating starting about 5 hours after my last snus. This just shows how dependent I was. I was at work and someone I hadn’t seen in a long time wanted to catch up. Holding a conversation was literally impossible and I kept forgetting where I was. The person I was talking to probably thought I was stoned. People would ask me questions and I would agonize over the pain of having to organize thoughts. I literally felt like thinking was way too difficult.

    Eventually this led into depression. Which lasted for weeks. Thankfully I’m finally starting to feel a lot better.

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