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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 have nicotine withdrawal symptoms. These are changes in your mood and body that mostly last a few weeks. Think of them as signs that your body is recovering from smoking. 

Common nicotine withdrawal symptoms:

  • Urges to smoke or cravings

  • Finding it harder to focus or feeling restless

  • Finding it harder to sleep

  • Being easily upset: feeling irritable, frustrated, angry, anxious or depressed

  • Increase in hunger or weight gain

Some people may also have:

  • Mood swings or fewer positive moods

  • Less interest in doing things they normally enjoy

  • Coughing, sneezing or dizziness

  • Upset bowel, such as finding it harder to pass poo

  • Mouth ulcers

  • More dreams.

Usually you won’t have all these symptoms.  Many people have only a few or mild symptoms.  For some people, they are more severe and longer lasting but this can be helped by using stop smoking medications. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about what would suit you.

Work out your level of nicotine addiction with the Build a plan tool

How long does nicotine withdrawal last?

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

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 tablets can reduce feelings of withdrawal.

  • Doing exercise, you enjoy may help to briefly 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 other feelings of withdrawal as well.

If you are using NRT but still have strong feelings of withdrawal, take a look at how you use them.  Make sure you:

·         Spray the mouth spray under their tongue or on the inside of their cheek – don’t spray it into your throat.

·         Don't puff the inhaler like a cigarette, but instead take lots of little 'sips'.

To learn how to use NRT, visit their page: patchesgummouth spraylozengeinhalator

You can buy nicotine patches at a discounted price on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). See your doctor for a prescription. 

For most people who smoke, combination therapy - using nicotine patches plus a faster-acting type of NRT 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 doctor or pharmacist about what is best for you.

Prescription stop smoking tablets

These medications reduce feelings of nicotine withdrawal and may make smoking seem less rewarding. Ask your doctor about these medications.

Hang in there, you can beat nicotine withdrawal

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

Call Quitline 13 7848 for tips or request a Quitline callback. 

Last updated January 2024.

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