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Updated on June 14, 2022

Nicotine Withdrawal Symptoms

Nicotine Withdrawal Symptoms

Nicotine is a highly addictive chemical compound found in tobacco plants. All cigarettes have nicotine in them. Other tobacco products that contain nicotine include:10

  • Cigars
  • Chewing tobacco
  • Hookah tobacco
  • E-cigarettes or vapes
  • Other smokeless tobacco products like dip, snuff, and snus

Some products, like cigarettes, send nicotine straight to the brain in seconds. Certain products also contain additives that make the body absorb more nicotine quicker.

Nicotine can cause the following physical and psychological symptoms:7

  • Decreased appetite
  • Boosted mood
  • Stimulated alertness
  • Improved memory

It can also cause some unpleasant physical symptoms:7

  • Sore throat
  • Restlessness
  • Increased saliva
  • Increased phlegm
  • More intestinal activity
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea 
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure

Some side effects are not ideal. Nicotine changes the way the brain works and causes cravings. This is why, when someone uses nicotine, they can easily become addicted.

Nicotine Withdrawal Symptoms Timeline

If you develop an addiction to nicotine, cutting back on or quitting smoking can be difficult.

Withdrawal can occur as a result of quitting. Symptoms of nicotine withdrawal range from barely noticeable to very uncomfortable.4

Nicotine withdrawal symptoms include:2, 6

  • Nicotine cravings
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Nausea
  • Trouble falling or staying asleep
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Feeling hungrier than usual
  • Weight gain

You may experience withdrawal symptoms within the first 4 to 24 hours of quitting nicotine. Symptoms are likely to peak around the third day. From there, they should start to improve over the next few weeks.4, 5

The severity of nicotine withdrawal symptoms will depend largely on how much you consume and how frequently you consume it.4, 5

People who consume high amounts of nicotine frequently tend to have more severe withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit.5

Environmental and physiological factors can also affect withdrawal symptoms.8

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Additional Complications from Nicotine Withdrawal

Other complications caused by nicotine addiction and withdrawal include:9

  • Lung cancer
  • Lung disease
  • Heart problems
  • Diabetes
  • Eye problems
  • Infertility
  • Pregnancy complications
  • Tooth decay
  • Gum disease

Other cancers may also develop from smoking. Smoking is at the root of 30 percent of all cancer deaths.9

Can You Prevent Nicotine Withdrawal?

The only foolproof way to prevent nicotine withdrawal is to avoid nicotine products altogether. You can’t get addicted if you don’t smoke or use other tobacco products in the first place.11

If you are addicted to nicotine, weaning off it will be difficult. You will likely experience some of the above symptoms.

While you cannot prevent withdrawal altogether, you can help ease symptoms.

How to Cope with Nicotine Withdrawal

Nicotine withdrawal can be brutal for some people. For others, it may not be so bad.

Either way, there are some steps you can take to better cope with nicotine withdrawal. These steps can also help you be more successful in quitting nicotine products for good. Coping strategies include:

Support Groups

Find a support group. Talk to people who have already successfully quit nicotine products or people who haven’t but want to.

Some of these people likely also struggled at first. But research suggests that, the more times you try to quit, the more likely you are to be successful in actually doing it.

If you’re feeling discouraged, don’t give up. Surround yourself with people who will continue to support you along your journey. 

Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)

You can also try FDA-approved nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) to quit cigarettes. NRTs are a type of medication that contains nicotine without the other harmful chemicals found in cigarettes. They’re designed to help you quit smoking.10

These products may include:

  • Nicotine gum
  • Inhalers
  • Nasal spray
  • Skin patches
  • Throat lozenges

NRTs can double the chance of you successfully quitting smoking cigarettes.

There is a common misconception that vapes are better than cigarettes. But the FDA does not approve of e-cigarettes as a type of NRT. They will not help you quit smoking.

You should also consider the following tips for coping with withdrawal:1, 12

  • Avoid watching TV or using your phone before bedtime, even if you feel restless. Try alternative calming activities, like meditation.
  • Practice mindful eating, especially if you’re feeling hungrier or notice unhealthy weight gain.
  • Exercise to help release endorphins if you are feeling anxious or depressed.
  • Talk to a therapist to navigate difficult emotions and experiences.
  • If you’re feeling defeated, remind yourself of why you’re quitting. Write down the health benefits and reasons you want to quit and refer to the list whenever you feel tempted to start smoking again.
  • Avoid smoking altogether, even if you think you can limit yourself.

Tips for Quitting Cigarettes

Here are some tips for quitting smoking:1,3

  • Surround yourself with a support group
  • Remove access to cigarettes (don’t buy them or keep them around)
  • Ask the people who are around you not to smoke cigarettes around you either
  • Try NRTs if your doctor approves or recommends them
  • Avoid or reduce triggers that drive you to smoke
  • Sign up for text alerts that remind you why you want to quit smoking
  • Download the CDC’s quitSTART app for helpful tips
  • Check out SmokeFree.gov to build a quitting plan and find other texting programs

If you or someone you know is struggling with nicotine addiction, know that help is available. The sooner you quit, the better it is for your health.

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Resources

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  1. 10 Ways to Resist Tobacco Cravings.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 20 May 2022.
  2. 7 Common Withdrawal Symptoms.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 18 June 2021.
  3. How to Quit Smoking.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 28 Feb. 2022.
  4. Is Nicotine Addictive?National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 12 Apr. 2021.
  5. McLaughlin, Ian, et al. “Nicotine Withdrawal.” Current Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2015.
  6. Nicotine & Addiction.” Smokefree Teen.
  7. Nicotine and Tobacco.” Mount Sinai Health System.
  8. Nicotine Dependence Symptoms.” Ucsfhealth.org.
  9. Nicotine Dependence.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 19 Apr. 2022.
  10. Products, Center for Tobacco. “Nicotine Is Why Tobacco Products Are Addictive.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA.
  11. Quiz: How Strong Is Your Nicotine Addiction?Smokefree Gov.
  12. Tips for Coping with Nicotine Withdrawal and Triggers.” National Cancer Institute.

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