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What is nicotine withdrawal?

When you stop smoking, your body craves nicotine. In the first few days and weeks after stopping, you will likely feel some nicotine withdrawals. It's easier to deal with nicotine withdrawal when you know what to expect.

What is nicotine withdrawal?

Nicotine is the addictive drug in tobacco. When you quit smoking you may experience nicotine withdrawal symptoms. These are temporary physical and emotional changes. Think of them as signs that your body is recovering from smoking. 

Common nicotine withdrawal symptoms:

  • Urges to smoke or cravings
  • Restlessness or difficulty concentrating
  • Sleeping difficulties and sleep disturbances
  • Irritability, anger, anxiety, crying, sadness or depression
  • Increase in hunger or weight gain

Less common nicotine withdrawal symptoms:

  • Cold symptoms such as coughing, sore throat and sneezing
  • Constipation, diarrhoea, stomach aches or nausea
  • Dizziness or feeling light-headed
  • Mouth ulcers

How long does nicotine withdrawal last?

Nicotine withdrawal symptoms usually begin a few hours after your last cigarette. They are usually strongest in the first week. For most people, nicotine withdrawal fade and are gone after about 2 to 4 weeks. Chat to your doctor or a Quitline counsellor if you find that nicotine withdrawal is lasting longer. 

How to cope with nicotine withdrawal

How to tackle nicotine withdrawal?

  • Quitline can offer you a number of calls, especially in the first few weeks, to help you stay on track. 
  • Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) or prescribed stop smoking medication can reduce feelings of withdrawal.
  • Doing exercise you enjoy can help reduce cravings and nicotine withdrawal. 

How does nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) work?

NRT helps by replacing some of the nicotine you would normally get from a cigarette. You may still get cravings but NRT take the edge off. Using NRT can help to reduce feelings of withdrawal.

If you are using NRT but still have strong withdrawal, take a look at how you use them. With the mouth spray some people spray it into their throat instead of under their tongue or on the inside of their cheek. You don't puff the inhaler like a cigarette, but instead take lots of little 'sips'. To learn how to use NRT, visit their individual page: patches, gum, mouth spray, lozenge, inhalator

Nicotine patches are available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) at a discounted rate. See your doctor for a prescription. 

For most people who smoke, combination therapy: using nicotine patches plus a faster-acting NRT type like mouth spray or lozenge works best.

Also, to get the most from NRT, try to use them for at least 8 weeks. Talk to your health professional about what is best for you.

Prescription stop smoking tablets

These medications are designed to reduce nicotine withdrawal symptoms. Ask your doctor about these medications.

Hang in there, you can beat nicotine withdrawal

Keep reminding yourself of the good things that are happening to your body. Now that you have quit smoking, your body has begun to repair. 

Call Quitline for tips or request a Quitline callback. 


Last updated May 2023.

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