What is nicotine withdrawal?

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Managing nicotine cravings and withdrawal: Overview

Nicotine is addicting. Your body craves it. So when you stop smoking or using other nicotine products, you go through nicotine withdrawal.

During withdrawal, you may feel cranky, anxious, or restless. You may be hungrier than usual. And you may have trouble concentrating, sleeping, or managing stress.

Symptoms of withdrawal are at their worst during the first couple of days or so after you quit. Some symptoms may last a few weeks or longer.

Making a plan ahead of time can help you manage withdrawal and cravings for nicotine. Medicines and nicotine replacement products like gum or patches can help ease symptoms and cravings. This can help you feel better and make it more likely that you won't start using nicotine again. Quit-tobacco programs, support groups, and regular exercise may also help.

Nicotine withdrawal

When people use tobacco products on a regular basis, their bodies develop a need for nicotine. If they don't get nicotine, they start having nicotine withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawal symptoms for nicotine vary from person to person. They often depend on how much nicotine a person is used to getting. The more nicotine the body is used to, the more severe symptoms are likely to be.

Symptoms of withdrawal include feeling:

  • Irritated.
  • Angry.
  • Anxious.
  • Restless.
  • Hungrier than usual.

People going through withdrawal may find it hard to:

  • Concentrate.
  • Sleep.
  • Cope with cravings.
  • Manage stress.

Nicotine withdrawal symptoms may begin a few hours after a person quits smoking or using tobacco products. Symptoms are the worst in the first week or so after the person quits and may last a couple of weeks. But for some people, withdrawal can last longer. The craving for cigarettes and an increased appetite can last for months.

Nicotine replacement products can reduce withdrawal symptoms when used by people who are quitting. Use of quit-smoking medicines, counseling or support groups, and regular exercise may also help.

How do you manage nicotine cravings and withdrawal?

It's not easy to quit. Nicotine is addicting. When you try to stop smoking or using other nicotine products, you go through nicotine withdrawal. To help yourself through this time, plan how you will manage your cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

  • Get support. Talk with your doctor and with family and friends about your plan to quit. Learn about programs and tools that can help you.
  • Reduce stress. Without the nicotine, you may feel uptight and grouchy. Find healthy ways to lower your stress and cope with these feelings.
  • Be more active. It may help reduce your cravings and relieve some withdrawal symptoms.
  • Get plenty of rest. You'll feel better and be better able to cope with the stress of quitting.
  • Use stop-smoking medicine or nicotine replacement. They can help you manage nicotine withdrawal and cravings.
  • Distract yourself from cravings. You might chew gum or change the activity you're doing.

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