Nicotine Withdrawal

Nicotine Withdrawal

Nicotine is a drug found naturally in tobacco. It's as addictive as heroin or cocaine. For people who smoke, nicotine can cause both physical and mental dependence, making it that much harder to quit. Nicotine addiction is the most common form of drug addiction in the United States.

When you smoke a cigarette, nicotine is carried deep into the lungs. From there it's absorbed into the bloodstream and carried to almost every part of the body. Nicotine has even been found in breast milk and in the umbilical blood of newborn babies.

Nicotine causes changes in your brain that make you want to smoke more and more. It also causes your arteries to narrow, and produces short-term increases in blood pressure and heart rate. As you smoke, you develop a tolerance to nicotine that makes you need to smoke more over time to get the same effects.

Symptoms of Nicotine Withdrawal

When you quit, the absence of nicotine in your body causes withdrawal symptoms. Most people who quit smoking will experience some form of withdrawal symptoms. How severe the symptoms are usually depends on how heavily and for how long the person smoked. What can make quitting smoking particularly difficult is that these symptoms are both physical and mental—to quit successfully, you have to overcome both physical withdrawal symptoms and the psychological change of giving up a habit.

The following are some common symptoms of nicotine withdrawal:

  • Irritability
  • Dizziness (which usually only lasts the first couple days of quitting)
  • Headaches
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Anxiety
  • Depressed mood
  • Intense craving for cigarettes
  • Hostility
  • Impatience
  • Tiredness
  • Restlessness and trouble sleeping
  • Increased appetite

You Can Do It!

The good news is that these symptoms are short-lived, usually starting a few hours after the last cigarette and peaking 2 to 3 days later. Depending on the individual, symptoms of some form may last from a few days to several weeks. There are a number of nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs) that can help you get through nicotine withdrawal.

See what steps you can take to come up with the best plan for how to quit.

Smoking Fact

Smokers have a lower survival rate after surgery compared to that of nonsmokers, and are at greater risk for complications following surgery.