What is nicotine withdrawal?
Nicotine is a drug found in tobacco, which makes smoking addictive. Nicotine can have a wide range of effects on the brain, including:
- Boosting mood
- Reducing depression
- Reducing irritability
- Enhancing concentration and short-term memory
- Producing a sense of well-being
- Reducing appetite
Nicotine can be as addictive as other drugs, including alcohol, cocaine, and morphine.
In addition to nicotine, tobacco is thought to contain about 70 cancer-causing chemicals (carcinogens). These chemicals can result in the development of smoking-related diseases such as lung cancer, heart disease, and stroke. In an effort to prevent these diseases, millions of smokers attempt to quit each year.
Nicotine withdrawal makes it more difficult to quit. Withdrawal is the set of distressing physical symptoms that occur when you stop using an addictive substance.
How common is nicotine withdrawal?
Nicotine withdrawal is extremely common. It commonly affects more males than females. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal?
The symptoms of nicotine withdrawal can begin within 30 minutes of your last use of tobacco. Symptoms will depend on your level of addiction. Factors such as how long you used tobacco and how much tobacco you use on a daily basis will impact the severity of your symptoms.
Symptoms of nicotine withdrawal include:
- Intense cravings for nicotine
- Tingling in the hands and feet
- Nausea and intestinal cramping
- Coughing, sore throat
- Difficulty concentrating
- Weight gain
Symptoms of nicotine withdrawal typically peak within two to three days. The symptoms often go away by two weeks. Some people may experience nicotine withdrawal for several months.
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.
What causes nicotine withdrawal?
Nicotine is a drug found in tobacco, which makes smoking addictive.
What increases my risk for nicotine withdrawal?
Please consult your doctor for further information.
Diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is nicotine withdrawal diagnosed?
Please consult your doctor for further information.
How is nicotine withdrawal treated?
If you decide to quit smoking, contact your doctor to discuss ways to manage your withdrawal symptoms. They may be able to provide you with access to prescription medication or information about support groups in your community.
Several different treatment options are available for nicotine withdrawal. Over-the-counter nicotine replacement medications such as nicotine gum and skin patches, or prescription nicotine replacement methods such as inhalers and nasal sprays, can help reduce symptoms by slowly decreasing the amount of nicotine in your body.
Treatment may also include the use of non-nicotine prescription medications such as Zyban or Chantix.
If you’re trying to quit smoking, you may benefit from the help of others who are trying to quit. Joining a smoking cessation program or a support group may increase your chances of success.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage nicotine withdrawal?
No matter how you do it, you will likely encounter withdrawal symptoms at some point in your quit smoking journey. You do not have to give in to these symptoms and give up your quest to be smoke-free. Here are a few tips for coping with your withdrawal symptoms.
Nicotine can improve mood and may give you a false sense of well-being. Without the drug, you may begin to feel slightly depressed. Thirty minutes of exercise each day can help beat the sagging feeling of fatigue and depression by boosting natural “feel-good” endorphins in your body. Exercise may also help you sleep better. For best results, avoid exercising right before you go to bed. Give yourself three to four hours of downtime before you go to bed.
Sleep and Rest
Your body is going through a lot of change as it works to rid itself of the nicotine dependence. It’s normal to feel extra tired while you are going through nicotine withdrawal. Take naps, or go to bed earlier. Your body still detoxes while you’re asleep.
Sometimes people gain weight when they are trying to quit smoking, because they try to satisfy their cravings for a cigarette with food. This is another reason people put off quitting — fear of gaining weight. Find a distraction other than food when you begin craving a cigarette. You might try playing a game, reading your favorite website, or going for a walk. The goal is to get yourself away from the temptation and busy focusing on a different idea.
Make Your Life Smoke-Free
Ask friends and family members to respect your new lifestyle and refrain from smoking around you. This may mean asking them to smoke only outside, and not in your house or car.
In the past, you turned to cigarettes as a quick pick-me-up when times were stressful — but no more. Now you have to find techniques to deal with everyday stress in a healthier way. Physical activity, such as walking, cleaning the house, or gardening can help you reduce your stress while keeping your mind off of nicotine cravings. Deep breathing techniques or meditation can help you find calm and avoid taking stress out in less constructive ways. Whatever way you find works best for you, remember to turn to that when you need to let off some steam.
Turn to Your Accountability Partner
Be honest, and tell them about your withdrawal. Let them know the rationalizations you’re making: “Just one cigarette won’t set me back too much” or “I’ll smoke a cigarette just this once to get through this craving.”
Your partner can help you identify ways you are sabotaging your quit-smoking plan, and can provide the support and encouragement to get through the craving.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Nicotine withdrawal. https://www.healthline.com/health/smoking/nicotine-withdrawal#treatment3. Accessed November 1, 2017
Nicotine withdrawal. https://www.healthline.com/health/quit-smoking-nicotine-withdrawal. Accessed November 1, 2017
Review Date: November 1, 2017 | Last Modified: November 1, 2017