Understanding Withdrawal

Nicotine is the main addictive substance in cigarettes and other forms of tobacco. Nicotine is a drug that affects many parts of your body‚ including your brain. 

Over time‚ your body and brain get used to having nicotine in them. About 80−90% of people who smoke regularly are addicted to nicotine. When you stop smoking‚ your body has to get used to not having nicotine. That’s withdrawal. Withdrawal can be uncomfortable.

Craving cigarettes, feeling sad or irritable, or trouble sleeping are some common symptoms. Some people say it feels like a mild case of the flu. For most people, the worst symptoms last a few days to a few weeks. Managing withdrawal symptoms will help you feel better and to be prepared for those tougher moments.

The worst withdrawal symptoms only last a few days to a couple of weeks. Stay strong!

You Can Prepare for Withdrawal 

Withdrawal feelings usually are the strongest in the first week after quitting. Many people don’t like how withdrawal feels. So some people start smoking again to feel better. The first week after quitting is when you are most at risk for a slip. It helps your quit attempt to be prepared and know what to expect so you can stay smokefree.

One way to be prepared is to use nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). NRT can be helpful for dealing with withdrawal and managing cravings. Almost all smokers can use NRT safely.

You can use NRT plus other helpful ways to be prepared for withdrawal. For example, you can sign up for SmokefreeTXT. SmokefreeTXT is a mobile text messaging service that offers 24/7 encouragement, advice, and tips to help smokers quit smoking and stay quit. It is a 6−8 week program, depending on when you set your quit date. You can receive 1 to 5 messages each day and additional quit support by texting one of the SmokefreeTXT keywords. You can start receiving messages a week before your quit date to help you prepare for withdrawal feelings. 

"The nicotine was making me dead, inside and out. Now I feel free, vibrant, energetic, focused, and so alive!"
-Smokefree Arwen

Check out these other ways to be prepared for withdrawal:

  • Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) for information and tips on quitting smoking.
  • Chat with a quit smoking counselor at LiveHelp (livehelp.cancer.gov). Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Eastern time. Also in Spanish.
  • Use the QuitGuide app for tips and inspiration to help you be smokefree. 

More For You

Take this quiz to understand and measure your withdrawal symptoms while you quit.
No single quit smoking method is right for everyone. Learn more to decide which ones might be right for you.
When you have a craving, it's important to have a plan to beat that urge to smoke.
Nicotine withdrawal is different for every smoker, but knowing common symptoms can help you prepare to quit.