Nicotine withdrawal side effects

The most common side effects of nicotine withdrawal are weight gain, cravings, and mental-emotional states. Learn how to cope with these side effects here.

minute read

When you withdraw from nicotine, three common side effects can occur:

1. Cravings

2. Mental/Emotional states

3. Weight gain

Learn how to handle these side effects here. We invite you to ask us your questions about nicotine withdrawal or nicotine withdrawal duration symptoms at the end in the comments section. We reply to all legitimate concerns.

Side effect #1: Cravings

Nicotine is the substance in tobacco that causes addiction. Nicotine cravings occur when you no longer have a certain level of nicotine in your body or when triggered by people, places or things that remind you of nicotine’s euphoric effects.

Cravings are perhaps the most difficult side effect of nicotine withdrawal because they persist long after the acute signs of physical withdrawal wear off. Everyone deals with cravings differently. But the best thing that you can do is to have a plan for what you will do when they occur. Check out these quitting nicotine resources for more ideas.

Side effect #2: Mental and emotional states

Anger, frustration, and irritability. Anxiety and depression. All of these are side effects that can occur when you stop bringing nicotine into your body.

In terms of emotional states, studies have found that the most common negative feelings associated with quitting are feelings of anger, frustration, and irritability. These negative feelings peak within 1 week of quitting and may last 2 to 4 weeks after your last dose of nicotine. While temporary, these feelings may be unwanted and can be managed a number of ways. Nicotine replacement therapies can help take the edge off. Physical activities, meditation or reduced caffeine may also help. Know that this time will pass and you will start feeling better soon.

In terms of mental states, anxiety and depression may be either a short term condition caused by absence of nicotine, or may need to be treated by a specialist. If anxiety occurs, it builds over the first 3 days after quitting and may last 2 weeks. If mild depression occurs, it will usually begin within the first day, continue for the first couple of weeks, and go away within a month. If either of these conditions last longer than a month, seek medical help. Prescription medications for treating these mental states or nicotine replacement products may be able to help you manage what’s happening internally.

Side effect #3: Weight gain

When you stop using nicotine, metabolic rate slows down. It can take a few weeks to months to return to normal and burn calories. Additionally, appetite increases when you stop using nicotine and food intake increases. The senses of taste and smell are further heightened, as well as dietary preferences. But the basic concept is this: When less calories are burned and more calories are consumed, weight gain occurs.

The average person who quits using nicotine can gain 6-10 pounds after stopping, usually within the first 6 months. The more nicotine used, the more weight likely to be gained. Although weight gain is not a 100% certain side effect of nicotine withdrawal, is can also not be 100% prevented. Eating right, exercising, and planning meals can go a long way to minimizing weight gain as you adjust to life without nicotine.

Problems withdrawing from nicotine?

Nicotine is a psychoactive drug that produces dependence and can be just as addictive or even more addictive than heroin or cocaine.  Are Black and Milds addictive?  Yes.  Even cigars or cigarellos (Black and Milds) can be addictive.  If you are having a difficult time during nicotine withdrawal, you are not alone. If you need help, there are local, state and federal government agencies set up to provide you with information and personal guidance. Check out this CDC page dedicated to government resources on quitting tobacco and nicotine or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) for immediate help.

Otherwise, please let us know what you’re going through. We invite you to post your experiences, remarks, and even complaints about nicotine withdrawal below. We are happy to respond to comments personally and will try to help you as best we can.

Reference sources: NCI Fact Sheet on How To Handle Withdrawal Symptoms and Triggers When You Decide To Quit Smoking
Forever Free: A guide to remaining smoke free, Smoking and Weight
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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