Understanding withdrawal

Every smoker goes through smoking withdrawal symptoms in a different way when they go smokefree, and may feel and experience different things.

These are the most common symptoms of nicotine withdrawal:

  • Strong cravings for cigarettes
  • Being in a bad or down mood
  • Not being able to sleep properly
  • Feeling tense, snappy, or grumpy
  • Having trouble focusing and thinking straight
  • Feeling jittery and restless
  • Experiencing a slower heart rate
  • Getting hungrier than usual
  • Putting on weight as a result

With these cigarette withdrawal symptoms coming and going, you may have good days and bad days. As long as you don’t smoke again, these symptoms will show up less and less and will go away completely over a couple of weeks.

Understanding nicotine cravings

For many ex-smokers, the urge to smoke lasts a lot longer than other withdrawal symptoms. People are often surprised when they get cravings out of the blue (sometimes months after quitting) and these reminders of smoking can make you want to smoke again.

The good news is that nicotine withdrawal symptoms and cravings will go away if you give it time and keep yourself busy. Most smokers who try nicotine vaping or NRT find that it helps them get through withdrawal and control their urges to smoke.

Click here to learn more about cravings.

Nicotine withdrawal isn’t dangerous

Some people may feel a lot of symptoms during withdrawal, which can be painful. But there is no health risk from stopping smoking. In fact, the best thing you can do for your health is to stop smoking. Over time, even the worst withdrawal symptoms will get better.

After quitting smoking, some people experience increased sadness. Watch out for this, particularly if you’ve ever experienced depression. Let a friend or family member know if you become depressed or experience extreme sadness, and consider speaking with your doctor.

Nicotine and withdrawal

Nicotine is the main addictive substance in cigarettes and other forms of tobacco. Nicotine is a drug that affects many parts of your body, including your brain.

Over time, your body and brain get used to having nicotine in them.

About 80 to 90% of people who smoke regularly are addicted to nicotine. When you stop smoking, your body has to get used to not having nicotine. That’s called withdrawal, and it can be uncomfortable.

Craving cigarettes, feeling sad or irritable, or trouble sleeping are some common symptoms. Some people say it feels like a mild case of the flu. For most people, the worst symptoms last a few days to a few weeks.

Managing withdrawal symptoms will help you feel better and be prepared for those tougher moments.

You can prepare for withdrawal

Withdrawal feelings usually are the strongest in the first week after quitting. Many people don’t like how withdrawal feels, so some people start smoking again to feel better. The first week after quitting is when you are most at risk for a slip.

It helps your quit attempt to be prepared and know what to expect so you can stay smokefree.

One way to be prepared is to use nicotine vaping products (NVPs) or nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). Both NVPs and NRT can be helpful for dealing with withdrawal and managing cravings.