What is Nicotine withdrawal?

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Nicotine, which is associated with tobacco, is the substance that makes smoking cigarettes addictive.

Tobacco causes approximately 70 different types of cancer. When someone uses nicotine on a regular basis, they are at an increased risk for respiratory illnesses, heart disease and stroke.

When a person goes through nicotine withdrawal, they experience the absence of the substance they’ve depended on for so long, which can be a very uncomfortable process.

People who use nicotine often use it for the following perceived neurological effects:

  • Improved mood
  • Reduction in depression / general unhappiness
  • Enhances concentration and short term memory
  • Reduces appetite
  • Addictive properties 

People who smoke anything with nicotine in it, however, are well aware of the harmful side effects it entails.

Because of its perceived poor health benefits, several people attempt to stop smoking.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], in 2015 approximately 68 percent of smokers stated that they wished to quit smoking for a variety of reasons.

Nicotine withdrawal makes stopping smoking increasingly difficult. In this article, we will take a closer look at what it looks like to go through the nicotine withdrawal process.

We will examine some of the psychological effects of nicotine withdrawal, what quitting might look like and what other treatment options are available for someone who wishes to stop smoking.

How Nicotine Withdrawal Works 

Nicotine is a highly addictive substance. If you’ve been smoking for around two weeks constantly and try to quit, then you will likely go into withdrawal.

Even though this is a short amount of time, it’s a testament to how powerful of a substance nicotine is in your body.

Depending on what type of cigarettes you’ve smoked and how often you’ve smoked them, the period of withdrawal can last anywhere from a few days to months at a time.

Nicotine withdrawal comes with symptoms that are extremely difficult to fight off and can make the recovery process quite painful. ground-breaking to the point that regardless of whether you’ve smoked for just half a month, 

Nicotine withdrawal includes physical, mental, and emotional changes and side effects.

During the first week of withdrawal, namely within the first 3-5 days, is said to be the most difficult period of time during withdrawal.

At this point in time, any nicotine in your system has left your body and the physical withdrawal symptoms will start to settle in. These may include, but are not limited to, headaches, cravings for nicotine and trouble sleeping.

If you can get through this rough patch in the recovery process, the physical side effects that you’re feeling will eventually begin to disappear.

However, you’ll also notice the mental strain of withdrawal that includes anxiety, depression and irritability.

These symptoms generally improve over time, but it doesn’t make them any easier to manage while you’re experiencing them. 

What are the side effects of nicotine withdrawal? 

Nicotine withdrawal side effects can start to show within approximately 30 minutes after your last usage of tobacco.

Factors that are related to how extensively you’ve been smoking on that day play an important role in how strong your physical side effects from withdrawal are to you.

Additional side effects of nicotine withdrawal that were not mentioned above include tingling in the hands and feet (also known as neuropathy), increased perspiration, nausea, stomach pain, constipation and gas.

Others may experience coughing, a sore throat, difficulty concentrating, and weight gain. 

A lot of these side effects of nicotine withdrawal are almost identical to those who use chewing tobacco.

People who are experiencing withdrawal from chewing tobacco may also experience a slower pulse rate and have trouble staying still for an extended period of time. 

Several individuals wonder what exactly causes these cravings.  The craving is often brought about by nicotine receptors in the brain.

These receptors expand if you’ve used nicotine containing products in the past.

These receptors drive you to continue smoking. If you ignore those receptors, then you’re likely to experience certain withdrawal side effects.

Nicotine withdrawal isn’t a dangerous condition, but you may notice some changes in your body and mind as you stop using nicotine products. 

Increased appetite and weight gain 

At the point when you quit smoking, your taste buds and sense of smell may increase and feel more heightened.

While this is a healthy sign, you might be concerned about your nutrition intake compared to when you were smoking.

Additionally, people may start to crave foods that are higher in fat and sugar in order to make up for the nourishment that was lost during the period of time when they were smoking.

Psychological well-being changes 

A few people may likewise encounter emotional challenges. People who’ve had issues with dependency and addiction may find the withdrawal process to be too painful.

Even if this sinking feeling appears to be all consuming, it almost certainly decreases in intensity over time.

Be sure to speak to your primary care physician if you have any concerns regarding the withdrawal process and what that looks like for you. 

Coping with physical symptoms

In order to combat some of the physical symptoms of nicotine withdrawal, it’s important to stay hydrated by drinking lots of water.

Another strategy you can try is to chew sugarless gum and try drinks with low amounts of sugar or artificial sweeteners.

For headaches, common over the counter medications such as ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) are known to help most people deal with intense headaches.

Other people experience lots of trouble sleeping. Establishing a routine around your bedtime can help relax you enough to go to sleep.

This could range from anything such as having a cup of tea, taking a hot shower or reading for thirty minutes before falling asleep.

No matter what symptoms you’re experiencing, there are plenty of options to help guide you through the most difficult times. 

Are there treatments for nicotine withdrawal? 

If you choose to stop smoking, talk to your doctor to determine what the best approach is toward starting the recovery process.

Some options for nicotine withdrawal may include over the counter or prescription nicotine substitutions.

These may come in the form of gum, patches, inhalers or nasal sprays. These measures can help gradually diminish the levels of nicotine in your body.

One common treatment option that several people choose to pursue is nicotine replacement therapy.

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT)

Nicotine replacement therapy can be extremely helpful for some people, but it won’t fix all aspects of withdrawal.

It can be difficult for nicotine replacement therapy to break the emotional connection you might have with smoking. There are plenty of advantages and disadvantages to pursuing NRT. 

Some side effects that you may feel when undergoing NRT may include dizziness, trouble breathing, nausea and headaches.

However, several studies have shown that NRT provides long-term benefits to individuals who have tried to quit smoking. 

Quitting “Cold Turkey”

NRT is intended for individuals who smoke more than 10 cigarettes every day. If you smoke 10 or less cigarettes every day, you might need to stop “immediately.”

This is often referred to as quitting cold turkey, or without using nicotine substitutions.

This might make your symptoms more magnified, but there are several things you can do to help get yourself through quitting, such as:  

  • Choose a particular date to quit smoking, preferably one where you have a lot of free time in your schedule.
  • Write down why you’d like to quit smoking. 
  • Remind yourself that withdrawal symptoms are temporary.
  • Ask for help.
  • Join a support group.

If you’re attempting to stop smoking, you may benefit from the help of other people who are also trying to quit.

Joining a smoking cessation group, which often comes with a built in community, may increase your odds of stopping smoking for good. 

Is there really a chance for recovery from nicotine withdrawal?

Defeating nicotine withdrawal is the most difficult part of stopping smoking. Numerous individuals need to attempt more than once to stop smoking.

The more you attempt to stop, the more likely you’ll succeed in quitting. Numerous circumstances in your everyday life may trigger your craving to smoke.

These circumstances can increase the side effects of nicotine withdrawal. Triggers include: 

  • being around different smokers 
  • being in a car
  • feeling hyper focused
  • drinking espresso or tea 
  • drinking alcohol
  • feeling exhausted 
  • talking on the telephone 

Recognize your triggers, and attempt to keep away from them if you can. By and large, the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal will pass rapidly, usually within seven days.

When the side effects of withdrawal stop, you may still have cravings for tobacco. Not succumbing to these cravings will be an important step in making sure you stop smoking permanently.

Some people have found that the following activities help them get through intense nicotine cravings: 

  • Listening to music. 
  • Writing in a journal
  • Taking a walk. 
  • Talking to loved ones. 

Another suggestion is to substitute carrots, gum, or hard candy in place of cigarettes. These can be an adequate substitute for the mental need to smoke. Can nicotine withdrawal be prevented?

Regardless of whether you quit without any weaning period or use NRT, you’ll experience some nicotine withdrawal.

It is highly unlikely to avoid this process, however, you can get through it with several resources. 

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Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about nicotine withdrawal:

How long does nicotine withdrawal last? 

Withdrawal side effects left for the most part1–3 days and afterward decline over a time period of 3 months.

After this time period, the body has gotten rid of most of the nicotine, and the impact from then going forward are mostly mental and emotional.

How hard is it to suddenly stop smoking?

Smoking can have negative consequences for your wellbeing, for example, a higher risk of developing lung cancer or heart disease, and in some cases death.

While these dangers are powerful motivating forces to stop smoking, it can still be difficult to stop smoking entirely. 

Is nicotine withdrawal dangerous?

 No, it is not dangerous. Withdrawal can be uncomfortable and a few people may feel elevated levels of physical and emotional side effects.

However, there is no danger to your safety or wellbeing from going through nicotine withdrawal.

Stopping smoking is one of the best things that you can do for your health. 

Interested in learning more? Check out these books on Nicotine Withdrawal:


  1. https://www.healthline.com/
  2. https://www.webmd.com
  3. https://www.verywellmind.com

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