When you stop smoking, your body needs to get used to not having nicotine. This is called nicotine withdrawal and it can be uncomfortable. Learn how you can manage symptoms of nicotine withdrawal.
What Is Nicotine Withdrawal?
Nicotine is the main addictive substance in cigarettes and other tobacco products. As you use tobacco over time‚ your body gets used to having nicotine. When you quit‚ your body needs to get used to not having nicotine anymore, which can be uncomfortable, but is not harmful.
Nicotine is a drug that affects many parts of your body, including your brain, so quitting smoking can cause a variety of uncomfortable nicotine withdrawal symptoms. Craving a cigarette, feeling restless or jumpy, or having trouble sleeping are common withdrawal symptoms. Your mood can change too. Some people say that after they quit smoking, they felt irritable, anxious, or depressed.
Withdrawal is different for everyone, but for most people, symptoms are strongest in the first few days or weeks, and then symptoms get weaker and happen less often over time. Many people don’t like how withdrawal feels, and some people start smoking again to feel better. The first week after quitting is when you are at most risk to slip up and smoke a cigarette or return to smoking. Learn how to handle your withdrawal symptoms to beat these temporary feelings and succeed in quitting long term.
Managing Your Nicotine Withdrawal Symptoms
Some days may be a breeze, while others are harder to handle after you quit smoking. Over time, the cravings and other symptoms will fade as long as you stay smokefree. Quit smoking medications can help reduce symptoms of nicotine withdrawal and make quitting easier. Noticing your symptoms, finding strategies to address them that work for you, or trying a quit smoking medication can ease these uncomfortable feelings.
Common Nicotine Withdrawal Symptoms and What You Can Do About Them
Having cravings for cigarettes. Most people experience cravings after they quit. These thoughts and feelings can range from mild to intense or even overwhelming. When cravings are tough to handle, it is important to remember that quitting smoking is the best action you can take for your health. Plan ahead for how you will get through cravings to help you manage them more successfully. The good news is that every craving will pass if you give it time.
- Make a quit plan – Think ahead about ways you will manage your cravings to help you get through them when they happen.
- Distract yourself – Do things to distract yourself, practice mindfulness, and remember your reasons for why you want to quit to keep you focused on your goal.
- Know your triggers – Cravings and thoughts about smoking can be triggered by the people you spend time with, the places you go, and the situations you encounter. Avoid your triggers, at least temporarily, after you quit to help lessen your cravings and give you time to build confidence and skills for remaining smokefree, even when you do encounter triggers.
- Get text message support – Text the keyword CRAVE to 47848 to get 24/7 immediate support whenever you have a craving, or text QUIT to 47848 to sign up for SmokefreeTXT, a 6 to 8 week program of daily text message support, tips, and encouragement.
- Try a quit smoking medication – If nicotine withdrawal symptoms are difficult for you, nicotine replacement therapy or prescription quit smoking medications can make these symptoms easier to handle. Talk to a health care provider about what medications might work best for you.
- Use a free Smokefree.gov app – Track your cravings and understand your smoking patterns with one of the Smokefree.gov apps.
Feeling irritable or grouchy. Change is often hard and can make people feel out of sorts. Remember that you are doing a very good thing for yourself by quitting smoking. Stick with your commitment to quit now and it will help your withdrawal symptoms get easier more quickly.
Having trouble sleeping. Getting good quality sleep is important, especially when you quit smoking. When you’re tired, you are less resilient and may be more likely to slip and return to smoking. Try these steps to help:
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day
- Keep your phone, television, and other screens out of your bedroom
- Limit caffeine, alcohol, and big meals close to bedtime
- Ask your heath care provider for advice if you use quit smoking medications and they are affecting your sleep
Having trouble thinking clearly or concentrating. Some people notice that it is harder to concentrate or that their brain feels foggy in the days after they quit. If you feel this way, know that this too shall pass. If you're not currently using a quit smoking medication, consider trying one to help ease your symptoms.
Feeling restless or jumpy. If you have restless energy or feel on edge, try getting some physical activity to release the tension. You don’t have to be an athlete or even get to a gym. Just going for a walk or doing yardwork or chores can be helpful. If you drink coffee, tea, or other caffeinated drinks, try to cut back for a while to lessen the symptoms.
Feeling sad, anxious, or depressed. People who smoke are more likely to have anxiety or depression than people who don’t smoke. And some people feel increased anxiety, sadness, or depression after they quit smoking. Watch out for this, especially if you’ve ever had these symptoms before. Take a quick quiz to find out if you have signs of depression. There are resources available to help you:
- If you feel down or sad, do something positive like participating in hobbies or activities that make you feel good, exercising, or reaching out to supportive people in your life. You can also:
- Call a trained tobacco counselor at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).
- Reach out to other people trying to quit smoking on our Smokefree.gov social media channels.
- Chat with a trained quit smoking counselor. LiveHelp is available Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Eastern time. This service is also available in Spanish.
- If your feelings worsen or don’t go away, tell a friend or family member, and talk to a health care professional. If you or someone you know is in distress or having suicidal thoughts, get help now. Call or text 988 or chat online to receive 24-hour, free, confidential support from trained counselors.
Feeling hungrier. As your body adjusts to a new and healthier normal after quitting, you may find that you feel hungrier. Keep a stash of healthy snacks handy. Crunchy snacks like carrots or raw nuts can also help combat cravings by keeping your hands and mouth busy. You may also be worried about weight gain after quitting. For those who do gain weight, it can be disappointing, but it’s important to remember that quitting smoking adds years to your life and reduces your risk for serious diseases and poor health outcomes. If you notice appetite changes or gain weight, we have information to help you manage weight gain after quitting smoking.