Friday March 27th 2015

Nicotine withdrawal symptoms

Nicotine withdrawal symptoms

Smokers can and do quit smoking. So do people who chew tobacco.  So when you want to quit using products with nicotine…what can you expect?  Are there any side effects of nicotine withdrawal?

We review the most common symptoms of nicotine withdrawal here, and refer you to a nicotine withdrawal timeline, side effects of nicotine withdrawal and nicotine withdrawal remedies. We invite your questions, comments and feedback at the end.

What is nicotine withdrawal?

Nicotine is the main psychoactive, addictive substance in cigarettes and other forms of tobacco. Nicotine is a drug that affects many parts of your body, including your brain.  How is nicotine an addictive drug?  By delivering consistent doses of the chemical nicotine to your bloodstream and brain.  Over time, your body and brain get used to having nicotine in it. And when you stop smoking or chewing tobacco, your body has to adjust to the absence of nicotine. So, nicotine withdrawal is a state characterized by symptoms that appear as your body gets back into homeostasis and adjusts to not having nicotine anymore.

The more nicotine, the harder the withdrawal

In general, symptoms of nicotine withdrawal are related to frequency and intensity of use. In other words, you are more likely to experience more nicotine withdrawal symptoms more intensely the more exposed to nicotine you are.  And, yes.  Nicotine added to tobacco will increase your exposure and addiction liability.

However, not everyone experiences feelings of symptoms related to nicotine withdrawal. You may have one or many symptoms of withdrawal present. And they may last different amounts of time. Every person is different and your case may not conform to typical withdrawal.

Is nicotine withdrawal safe?

Yes. Sometimes nicotine withdrawal can be extremely uncomfortable. But rest assured that there is no health danger from nicotine withdrawal. In fact, quitting nicotine products is one of the best things you can do for your health. Even the most extreme withdrawal symptoms generally fade after a week.

Common nicotine withdrawal symptoms

Common withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting products that contain nicotine include:

  • anger
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • difficulty concentrating
  • difficulty sleeping
  • dizziness
  • feeling jumpy
  • feeling more hungry more often (increased appetite)
  • feeling sad, blue or depressed
  • frustration
  • headache
  • increased dreaming
  • irritability
  • nicotine cravings (strong need or urge to smoke/chew)
  • restlessness
  • slower heart rate
  • weight gain

Some people do experience increased sadness after quitting smoking. This is especially important to watch for if you have ever had depression. If you do become depressed and are having extreme sadness, you should get help

How long does nicotine withdrawal last?

Nicotine withdrawal symptoms are usually most intense and uncomfortable during the first week after quitting. After that, the intensity of the symptoms drops slowly over the first month and symptoms are usually non-existent within a few months after nicotine cessation.

Why do I still crave nicotine?

Frequently, craving nicotine lasts longer than the other symptoms of withdrawal. This is because our brains associate nicotine consumption with pleasant feelings, or “euphoric recall”. Therefore, many places and things can trigger a craving because it reminds you of the nicotine high. The persistence of mental nicotine cravings makes it crucial that you have a relapse prevention plan to that you know how to handle cravings. Over time, as nicotine is no longer a part of your life, triggers will no longer remind you of smoking and the mental obsession for nicotine will subside.

Questions about nicotine withdrawal symptoms

Are you going through nicotine withdrawal right now? Want to share about what’s going on? Please leave your questions and comments below. We respond to all legitimate queries with a personal and prompt reply.

Reference sources: Smoke Free [dot] gov info on Withdrawal
National Cancer Institute: How To Handle Withdrawal Symptoms and Triggers When You Decide To Quit Smoking
CDC report on Tobacco Use and Symptoms of Nicotine Withdrawal Among Adolescent and Young Adult Tobacco Users
CDC Smoking Cessation Tips





Photo credit: Josh Liba

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19 Responses to “Nicotine withdrawal symptoms
1:33 am July 19th, 2012

I am 1 wk and 12 hrs smoke free. This has been an extremely difficult week for me. I quit smoking because I felt like I couldn’t breathe. Turns out I was on my way to bronchitis and wound up in the ER. so good news, I quit, bad news I have had to deal with both withdrawal AND sickness. Right now i have sinus infection I have dizziness, irritability, extreme headaches! What im dealing with right now is the inability to decider whether or not this is withdrawal or sickness. Its driving me crazy. Everything I read says the dizziness and headaches should all be done by now. It’s been a week. I’m just pushing through because I just really don’t want to smoke any more :)

10:52 am July 19th, 2012

Hi Jenn. Congratulations on being smoke free. What a wonderful change for you, your body, and the people around you!

It can be difficult to differentiate between withdrawal symptoms and other medical conditions. In your case, they seem to be really related. When my husband stopped smoking, he developed bronchitis-like symptoms, which were helped by a nutritional supplement called Gaia Herbs Bronchial Wellness Herbal Syrup and Tea. However, you may need to check in with a doctor. Also, for the headache…headaches can occur during many different medical conditions. Often, I find personally, my headaches are related to stress. But check into possible medical reasons, as well.

10:38 pm December 12th, 2012

I am on day 9 of no Copenhagen after dipping for 35 years. I’m assuming that because I chewed about a can a day (or more) that my withdrawal symptoms are going to last longer. I’ve got the eat everything blues, don’t sleep real well, and have my heart beating in my head and face. I have yet to read about anyone else having this malady but assume it has something to do with blood pressure. This is probably my 100th attempt at quitting, but for some reason this time it just seems right. I think posting stuff about it helps, but what the hell do I know. Anyway, for those considering it, do it before it does you in.

Vienna Sun
12:49 am January 15th, 2013

I’m on hour 12 of no cigarettes.I’ve smoked 35 years. Just found out I have Copd. I put them down this morning after not being able to breathe all night.

People need to stop saying how hard it is. Thats a lie. It’s only hard because you really don’t want to stop.

Take a big fluffy pillow. hold it tightly to your face, as long as you dare, as hard as u can. KNOW THIS UNRELENTING SUFFOCATION IS WHAT CIGARETTES WILL GET YOU. THATS HARD! Quiting is so much easier than I thought, too bad i will suffocate to death over a period of years.

10:10 am January 28th, 2013

Hello Vienna. We wish you good health in treating COPD. Thanks for sharing more about stopping smoking. Hopefully, your experience can help others!

8:10 pm March 26th, 2013

I am 11 days into my quit after 35 years chewing a can of skoal per day. I went 7 days with nicotine logenzes then the last 4 with nothing. Can’t shake the headache, cravings and fog…but will keep on keeping on.

12:54 pm April 10th, 2013

Don’t weaken Kel. I’m at just over 4 months after a can+ of Copenhagen a day. I quit December 4th of 2012 and had some horrible headaches too. You are about a week away from no more headaches and the fog will lift in time. Best of luck!

4:25 pm October 15th, 2013

I smoke from my 13 th im now 25. First in occasion and sometimes more and sometimes less. The last year I only smoke in the weekends and strangely enough the symptoms dissappear, but always return on the end of monday or begin of Tuesday. My problem with this is that I am not sure if it is because smoking or alcohol?? If i look to friends they drink and smoke more but they dont have the brainfog and low energy, ever… Drinking alcohol I do only in the weekends and sometimes one or two during the week. Is it possible that my kind of smoking or drinking already activates paws??? I will try to quit smoking totally, but drinking is kind of normal in this society. I want to get rid of this feeling!

3:55 pm October 22nd, 2013

Hello Ari. I’d suggest that you speak with a psychologist about this issue. It seems that there are social and cultural expectations that compel alcohol and cigarette use, but that you could benefit from exploring more about what’s right for you. Sometimes it just helps to talk it out in therapy with a guide.

ab fernandez
3:22 am February 8th, 2014

Jumpy uncontrolable, anxiety, depression very very bad feeling in my head, can work with this symptons, dizziness I guess the works. Doctor give me some pills for deppression and anxiety. Been to hospital twice bevause I cant control and feel my heart pounding. This is the worst feeling ever no energy to do anything at all. I ask God to help me soon and stop thos horrible feeling.

Sandra Mueller
3:32 pm April 10th, 2014

This is my 31st day of being nicotine free. I smoked for 52 years. I get very dizzy at times and wondered if that’s normal after this amount of time. Thanks.

3:08 pm June 11th, 2014

This is my 3rd day of quitting, cold turkey. I had headache all of the first two days, and today the “itch” started ~ a kind of buzzing, itching, uncomfortable feeling, like a mild muscle cramp all over my body that I just want to get rid of. Got through it though, and I think this quit is going to stick. To be honest, once I made up my mind that I was getting NOTHING from smoking, it’s been really easy. Not difficult at all ~ I don’t know why I kept putting off my quit date for almost the last year! It’s all in the head, REALLY. What helped me a lot was watching the documentary of Allen Carr’s book, The Easyway to Quit Smoking. It’s really good, I recommend it to those thinking to quit or those struggling to stay quit. And DON’T USE NICOTINE REPLACEMENT — it just prolongs the nicotine withdrawal. Good luck everyone!

1:05 am June 29th, 2014

my brother quit dipping tobacco a couple days ago and is shaking terribly…is this normal?

11:15 am June 30th, 2014

Hi Vicki. What your brother is experiencing isn’t on the list of usual withdrawal symptoms from quitting dipping. He should see a doctor for assessment of his medical state or help on what to do next.

9:14 am July 1st, 2014

When i stopped the feelings dissapeared after 1 full week!!!!! YESSS

7:24 pm July 27th, 2014

Hi my name is andrea and ill just get straight to it my whole quit smoking journey has been HORRIABLE. 1st i started these patches which i believe i would have been bett off going could turkey because now i feel like if i don’t have a patch im going to die, i developed anxiety and ocd thanking my anxiety is so damn bad im frightened half of the day i take hydroxozine for my anxiety but who the heck want to take pills in order to get threw the day , im not sure if its because or the path or just over all quitting period i constantly feel like ill either have a heart a tack or my breathing isnt normal and ill die i have very bad muscle spams at night and anxiety that make me afraid to sleep,,,,, this stuff has really messed me up i have moved to the lowest patch 7mg with hope that doing this for a week then getting completely off will help my symptoms im seriously going crazy im n and out the doctor EVERYDAY I HAVE BEENGoing threw pure hell someone please help me WITH CALMING MYSELF AND LETTING ME KNO IF THESE SYMPTOMS ARE NORMAL OR WHAT N HOW LONG WILL THEY LAST

7:21 pm August 7th, 2014

I have quit smoking after 30 years. During the first half of those years I smoked between 4 to 20 cigarettes per week as I didn’t have money of my own. During the later half, I got a job and smoked up to 50 cigarettes a day. Today is my fourth day without smoking and I haven’t experienced strong cravings (the thought of smoking actually makes me sick now), but have been having other symptoms: occasional dizziness; burning, tingling and numbing sensations or hot and cold flashes (didn’t have them before quitting); anxiety, feelings of dread, restlessness (on the second day of quitting I had my first ever panic attack); a lump in the throat feeling; some shortness of breath; sore throat; nasal congestion; bitter taste in the mouth (lessened after two days); slight nausea; loss of appetite; and mild insomnia. I’m feeling extremely sad, just as I used to feel when I was younger and didn’t smoke or smoked very little. Only now I realize how utterly miserable I felt then, and although I don’t want to feel like that again, I also don’t want to smoke again. It seems smoking masks depression. I’ve been drinking more water and freshly squeezed orange juice, and eating fresh fruits and vegetables (I don’t feel like eating anything else). Plus, I’ve cut down my caffeine intake from 10 cups a day to just one. When the feelings of dread and sadness become too overwhelming, I go out for a walk or numb myself with TV. I’m thinking of starting an exercise routine.

3:18 pm August 25th, 2014

I have smoked tobacco with cannabis everyday since I was 15 years old. I always hated cigarettes but nicotine addiction became an unfortunate by-product of getting stoned everyday. I recently came down with tonsillitis which rendered me unable to smoke ciggarettes

6:48 am November 21st, 2014

Day 6 cigarette free, I am not sad necessarily but I start crying out of no where. Is that from nicotine withdrawal? If so how long does that usually last? I have been smoking for about 20 years.

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