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Withdrawal symptoms: what to expect

Knowing what to expect can take some of the anxiety out of quitting.

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 Quit Specialist if you find that nicotine withdrawal is lasting longer. 

How to cope with nicotine withdrawal

What can help?

  • Quitline can offer you a number of calls, especially in the first few weeks, to help you stay on track. 
  • Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products such as gum, mouth spray, patches and lozenges can reduce withdrawal symptoms. 
  • Quitting medications: Champix (varenicline) and Zyban (bupropion) can also reduce withdrawal symptoms. 
  • Doing exercise you enjoy can help reduce cravings and nicotine withdrawal. 

How do patches, gum and other nicotine replacements therapy (NRT) products work?

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

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

If you're thinking of NRT, we recommend combination therapy: using patches plus a fast-acting NRT product like mouth spray or lozenge. 

Also, to get the most from NRT products, try to use them for at least 8 weeks. 

Quitting medications

In Australia, there are two prescription-only medications for quitting smoking: Champix (varenicline) and Zyban (bupropion). These medications are designed to reduce nicotine withdrawal symptoms. Both are subsidised by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). 

To learn more about these products, call Quitline or request a Quitline callback.

Hang in there

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. 

Preparing to quit

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