Smoking Withdrawal Symptoms

Tobacco contains nicotine which causes physical addiction in people who smoke tobacco. It is a mild stimulant that increases brain’s activity like cocaine, caffeine and amphetamine. Nicotine is a powerful toxin and causes various health problems in individuals who smoke tobacco as well as those around the smokers.

The symptoms experienced by a nicotine addicted individual after significantly reducing or giving up smoking tobacco are collectively known as nicotine withdrawal symptoms. Cigarette smoking is the most common form of using nicotine. So, the nicotine withdrawal symptoms are most commonly seen in people who have or are trying to quit smoking cigarettes. The withdrawal symptoms of nicotine include craving tobacco, intense headache and irritability. Nicotine withdrawal symptoms are particularly severe in case of heavy smokers who have been smoking tobacco for very long periods of time. Light smokers also experience these symptoms when they enter the process of giving up the habit of smoking.

What Happens When You Quit Smoking?

An individual undergoes various severe nicotine withdrawal symptoms after quitting smoking. Following are some of the main withdrawal symptoms of nicotine addiction:

Mood Swings and Anger

Feeling angry without any particular reason is a common symptom of quitting smoking tobacco. One should deal with these feelings carefully. It is not advisable to lose one’s temper or suppress the anger as it may create tension and increase the urge for smoking. It is better to express how one is feeling, calmly and without losing temper. The individual should focus on reducing his or her tension which in turn reduces the desire for smoking. It helps to discuss the matter with family members and friends as they can help the person to fight the condition.


Boredom is another withdrawal symptom that one has to cope with. Keeping the hands and mind busy by doing something like writing, reading, cooking, knitting, painting and doing dishes help to fight boredom.

Stomach Pain and Constipation

Constipation and stomach pain are common nicotine withdrawal symptoms. Quitting smoking decreases the intestinal movement for a short period of time, causing constipation. This condition continues for several weeks. Drinking plenty of water and eating lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains help to fight these symptoms.

Feeling Cooped Up

One generally feels confined and wants to smoke a cigarette badly. Taking part in physical activities such as going for a walk, bike riding and swimming helps the individual keep his or her mind off the feelings of being restricted.

Cough and Dry Mouth

As the nicotine starts leaving the body, the mucus blocking the airways and restricting the breathing also subsides. The symptoms of dry mouth, dry throat, runny nose and cough occur due to this reason. An individual should drink plenty of fluids including water, fruit juices and tea to keep this symptom in check. Using cough drops also helps.

Cravings for Tobacco

The individual trying to get rid of the habit of smoking experiences great cravings for tobacco, mainly during the first two to three days. However, this nicotine withdrawal symptom can continue for several months and even years in some rare cases. The cravings generally last for three to five minutes. So, one has to keep himself or herself busy during this period to suppress the urge.

Depression and Despair

Depression is one of the most common symptoms of nicotine withdrawal. Feelings of sadness, confusion and anger are normal during the first few weeks of giving up tobacco. Family’s support is very important for the individual to go through this stage successfully.


Another nicotine withdrawal symptom is dizziness. Stopping smoking allows the body to get high levels of oxygen that it has not received in a very long time, which causes dizziness. The blood pressure may also drop significantly, causing dizziness.

Extreme Fatigue

Nicotine works as a powerful stimulant. So, the body feels fatigue when it does not get nicotine anymore. This symptom lasts for two to four weeks. Doing some moderate exercises and drinking plenty of water helps one to keep the fatigue away.


Another common nicotine withdrawal symptom, it can be fought by doing some deep breathing exercises.


Nicotine withdrawal symptoms include severe headache. One should do some yoga and meditation techniques to keep the mind relaxed. Drinking less cola drinks and coffee helps to keep the headache in check.

Pain in the Body

Body ache and back pain may also be caused by quitting smoking.

Increase in Appetite

It is common to confuse the tobacco cravings for hunger pangs. One can keep this symptom in check by eating low-fat and low-calorie snacks like pretzels, celery, carrots, melba toast and popcorn.


Nicotine affects the functioning of the brain waves. So, quitting tobacco may influence one’s sleep patterns and make him or her have dreams about smoking. Taking a relaxing hot bath helps one to fight insomnia. He or she should avoid taking caffeine after six in the evening. Drinking a glass of warm milk also helps.


Irritability is another common symptom of nicotine withdrawal. One may even cry for no reason during this time. The drug puts the smokers in chronic condition of nervous stimulation. The state of irritation lasts for around 2 weeks. Taking deep breaths, doing exercises, taking long walks and chewing nicotine gums helps the individual cope with the irritability.

 Lack of Concentration

The individual experiences difficulty in concentrating as the body requires some time to get used to the fact that it will not have constant nicotine stimulation. One should get lots of fresh air, do some breathing exercises, watch TV, listen to music and avoid situations that are likely to trigger his or her desire to smoke.

Tightness and Pain in Chest

Tightness in the chest generally occurs due to the tension produced from the body’s need for nicotine. During the recovery process, the lungs try to get rid of the mucus and tar. This may cause coughing during the initial period. Relaxation techniques and deep breathing help to reduce the tightness in chest.

Weight Gain

Weight gain is another common nicotine withdrawal symptom. It is normal to gain a certain amount of weight while attempting to quit smoking. An individual generally gains 5 pounds to 10 pounds over the initial months. However, one should keep in mind that gaining a few pounds is much better compared to continue smoking.

Smoking Withdrawal Symptoms Timeline

The symptoms of nicotine withdrawal start to show themselves within a few hours of smoking the last cigarette.

Nicotine Withdrawal Symptoms during the initial hours

These symptoms vary from one person to another person. Following are the common symptoms that occur immediately after the nicotine starts leaving the body:

  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty in concentrating
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Increase in appetite
  • Intense nicotine cravings
  • Decreased heart rate
  • Insomnia
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Indigestion
  • Heartburn (in some cases)
  • Muscle pain

The first 2 weeks

Certain nicotine withdrawal symptoms remain for the first 2 weeks after one gives up smoking tobacco. These symptoms include sleep disturbances, restlessness and attention disturbance. One may gain some weight due to the increase in appetite. The symptoms of depression and anxiety may also persist during this period.

After 1 Month

The symptoms of depression, irritability and confusion may remain even after 1 month of quitting. The cravings for nicotine and the urge to smoke tobacco generally remain for long periods of time, even after all the acute withdrawal symptoms leave the body.

Smoking Withdrawal Symptoms Duration

The duration of the withdrawal symptoms of nicotine can differ from one person to another. There are different factors that control the physical and psychological symptoms.

How Long Do the Physical Symptoms of Smoking Withdrawal Last?

The physical symptoms of withdrawal last for around a week, peaking on the third day after one smokes the last cigarette. Following are the three main factors that decide how long the nicotine withdrawal symptoms will last:

Detoxification: Detoxification means removing all the toxic nicotine from the body of an individual. The physical symptoms of withdrawal from nicotine depend on the amount of time the body takes for getting rid of all the nicotine in the system. One can speed up this process by drinking plenty of fluids as it help the body to flush out all the toxins.

Years Smoked: An individual who has smoked for years will suffer from the withdrawal symptoms longer compared to one who has smoked for just a few months. This happens because smoking for a longer time makes the body more accustomed to working with nicotine.

Number of Cigarettes Smoked: An individual who smoked only 2 to 3 cigarettes per day is less likely to experience the symptoms for as long as a person who smoked 20 to 30 cigarettes in a day.

How Long Do the Psychological Symptoms of Smoking Withdrawal Last?

The duration of the psychological symptoms are determined by the nature and character of the individual giving up smoking. Here are the factors that influence these symptoms:

Years Smoked: If an individual has smoked for a very long time, tobacco has become an important part of his or her life. It will be difficult for him or her to quit smoking and fight the urge to smoke again.

Triggers: It is important to know the triggers that induce the urge to smoke as it helps one to avoid temptation and stay away from cigarettes.

Coping Mechanism: Having an effective coping mechanism is important as it helps one to go through stressful situation without falling back into the habit of smoking.

Support: One needs the support of friends and family to pass through the initial stage after quitting smoking. Without the support, the individual may not find the will power to stay away from cigarettes.

Keeping Busy: A person should keep his or her body and mind busy to avoid thinking about the cravings. This also helps one to fight the psychological symptoms.

Nicotine Withdrawal Symptoms in Newborns

Smoking during pregnancy can cause many serious side effects in the newborn babies. Nicotine is believed to be able to damage the health of the unborn children as severely as various illegal drugs. Due to this reason, women are strictly advised to give up smoking tobacco before and during pregnancy. Women who continue to smoke when pregnant have great chances of having babies with nicotine withdrawal symptoms. Nicotine may cause the infant to be born prematurely and have underdeveloped brain, immature lungs, breathlessness, asthma and excitability.

The severity and nature of nicotine withdrawal symptoms are dissimilar in different people. However, everyone trying to quit smoking suffer from the symptoms for a certain length of time. Individuals trying to give up smoking should always remember how smoking was affecting their health and the health of those around them. This will work as a constant motivation for fighting the occasional cravings for tobacco.

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