Nicotine Withdrawal

What is Nicotine Withdrawal?

Nicotine is an alkaloid found in plants like tobacco and produced synthetically. It is an antiherbivore which was used as insecticides for plants. Nicotine is absorbed through the skin and the mucous membranes of the nose and mouth when tobacco is smoked. It circulates in the blood stream and reaches the brain. Further, it binds to cholinergic receptors in the brain and activates them. They cause dysfunction in the brain and increase sensitivity and tolerance of nicotine in the brain. Thus over a period of time with regular consumption a pattern of dependence may develop and quitting its intake can be a lot more difficult. This phase of stopping and quitting nicotine consumption is termed as nicotine withdrawal.

Nicotine Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Weight gain
  • Difficulty ion concentrating
  • Insomnia
  • Intense cravings
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Tingling in the feet and hands
  • Intestinal cramping
  • Coughing and sore throat


  • Patient may reveal causes for the use of nicotine such as depression and stress while speaking to a psychiatrist
  • Medical tests help to decipher the level of nicotine consumption
  • Tests are conducted to know if nicotine is being consumed with other substances
  • Patient’s medical background should be assessed carefully.
  • Valuable information regarding the dosage and frequency of nicotine consumption needs to be provided


  • Replacement: Different nicotine replacement products help to give up on the addiction. Replacement products include lozenges, patches, gums, inhalators, sprays, etc.
  • Medications: Certain medications like Zyban or Chantix are prescribed by the doctor to facilitate getting rid of the addiction.
  • Weight gain: Quitting nicotine might result in weight gain which is why people should start exercising to reduce weight.
  • Stress management: Stress is always an excuse to smoke and hence people may experience stress while trying to give up the addiction. Moreover, people experience mood swings during this time and hence they must keep away from matters that may cause stress.
  • Shifting focus: Individuals must divert their minds to think about other constructive ideas which help to take their mind off the addiction by keeping them engrossed. Joining smoking cessation programs and support groups are also very useful.


  • Nicotine is not needed by the body in any way and is harmful; hence it must not be consumed at all.
  • In case a pattern of dependence is observed, a doctor must consulted.
  • Method of tapering the use of nicotine must be chosen to quit its use to avoid relapse into the addiction.

How long does nicotine take to detox?

Generally it takes about 3 months for complete detoxification while the withdrawal symptoms start appearing within 1 to 2 days of quitting. The timeline for complete withdrawal process can be summarized as below:

Phase 1PeriodSymptoms
Acute PhaseWeek 1
  1. Headache
  2. increased appetite
  3. dizziness
  4. constipation
  5. stomach pain
  6. fatigue
  7. insomnia
Long Haul2-4 Weeks
  1. Insomnia
  2. Fatigue
  3. Mental fatigue
  4. Hunger
  5. Stomach upset
  6. Cough & Mucus production
Coasting For LifeWeek 5 & beyond
  1. smoking nostalgia
  2. temptations & thoughts

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