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Smoking cessation health centre

Nicotine withdrawal symptoms

What is nicotine withdrawal?

Alongside the health benefits of quitting smoking, people may experience nicotine withdrawal symptoms, such as headaches, anxiety, nausea and cravings for tobacco.

Nicotine creates a chemical dependency so your body develops a need for a certain level of nicotine at all times. Unless that level is maintained - by smoking or by using nicotine replacement treatments - your body will begin to go through withdrawal.

For tobacco users trying to stop smoking, nicotine withdrawal symptoms are unpleasant and stressful - but they are temporary. Most withdrawal symptoms peak 48 hours after you stop smoking and are completely gone in 6 months.

After that, you may find yourself eating more. The long-term weight gain for an ex-smoker is around 3-4kg (6-8lb).

What causes nicotine withdrawal?

The symptoms of nicotine withdrawal are physiological responses to the removal of a substance your body has become dependent on: nicotine.

What are the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal?

In active smokers, a lack of nicotine produces a wide range of withdrawal symptoms, including: 

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Constipation or diarrhoea
  • Falling heart rate and blood pressure
  • Fatigue, drowsiness and insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Increased hunger and calorific intake
  • Increased desire for the taste of sweets
  • Tobacco cravings

Managing nicotine withdrawal symptoms

Your local NHS Stop Smoking Service, GP or pharmacist can help with advice, support and treatment to help quit smoking.

Part of the plan may involve cutting down smoking gradually, or using nicotine replacement products or NRT, to help avoid withdrawal symptoms.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on November 28, 2013

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