For most people, the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal only last a few weeks. But this may change depending on how much and how often you smoke.
Smoking has effects throughout your body. That’s why you’ll also feel a range of symptoms when you quit smoking. These symptoms aren’t the same for everyone, and the severity can vary depending on factors such as how long and how much you smoked before quitting.
But it’s important to remember that although these symptoms can be unpleasant, they won’t last forever. The symptoms of nicotine withdrawal will go away as your body adjusts. Plus, quitting smoking will improve your overall health.
Keep reading to learn what to expect from nicotine withdrawal.
For most people, nicotine withdrawal symptoms resolve after about a month. Some people might have symptoms that only last around 2 weeks. For others, symptoms might last longer and might come and go for a couple of months.
The first few days after quitting smoking are the most difficult for many people. These days often have the most severe symptoms and can be the most challenging to navigate. As time goes on, symptoms can gradually become milder.
Typically, a timeline for nicotine withdrawal can be broken down into these periods:
- The first 4 hours. After about 4 hours, you’ll likely have a craving for another cigarette. You might feel fidgety or stressed at around the 4-hour mark.
- 10 hours. You might start feeling more physical symptoms by 10 hours after your last cigarette. You might be hungry because, after hours without smoking, your blood sugar level will be lower than you’re used to. You might also notice a tingling sensation in your hands and feet as your circulation adjusts.
- 24 hours. After 24 hours, there won’t be any nicotine left in your system, and you may experience strong cigarette cravings. You might also feel anxious or irritable. Staying hydrated can help.
- 2 days. After 48 hours, you’ll still be experiencing cravings. You might also have a headache. Mood symptoms, such as anxiety and depression, are also common.
- 3 days. Cravings often start to go away after about 72 hours. You might have a sore throat on day 3, especially if you were a heavy smoker, and you might start coughing.
- 1–3 weeks. You’ll still have some cravings in the first couple of weeks, but they’ll be less intense than in the first few days. In these early weeks, you might feel that you have less energy and increased hunger. This is because your metabolism is adjusting to the lack of nicotine and to your new blood sugar level.
Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products can help some people quit smoking. These products can also change the timeline for nicotine withdrawal. NRT products typically provide a small amount of nicotine, allowing your body to adjust gradually. This can make symptoms very mild.
However, using an NRT can also make the total time it takes to quit longer. Typically, people using NRTs lower their dose of nicotine in stages until they’ve quit completely. This can make the process slower but the symptoms less severe.
It’s important to be careful with NRTs. Using them too long can cause your body to become dependent on the NRT as a source of nicotine. But proper use can raise the chance of quitting for good. Talk with your doctor about any NRT you plan to use.
Getting support for nicotine withdrawal
Quitting smoking is a big step. For many people, having the right support is a key part of their success. You can find support for nicotine withdrawal by checking out:
- Smokefree.gov. Smokefree.gov provides free guides that can get you through nicotine withdrawal from start to finish. The site offers general guides and guides for specific groups, including women, teens, veterans, and adults over 60.
- The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) hotline. You can reach out to SAMHSA to get connected to local treatment programs, counseling centers, and support groups that can help you navigate nicotine withdrawal. The hotline is available 24/7 in both English and Spanish. You can call 1-800-622-HELP (4357) or use their online locator to get started.
- The National Texting Portal. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) work together to provide this free texting portal that offers support and advice for people who are quitting smoking. You can reach it any time by texting QUITNOW to 333888.
- The quitSTART app. For free nicotine withdrawal support on your phone, you can try the quitSTART app. It can keep you motivated with tools to track your progress and manage cravings, and it’s available in both the Apple and Google Play stores.
You might experience various physical symptoms when you quit smoking. These can include cravings, weight gain, mood shifts, and energy loss.
For many people, the most intense symptoms occur in the first 2–3 days. Symptoms will go away as your body adjusts and your overall health begins to improve.