Nicotine is a substance closely associated with tobacco products. Because of its highly addictive properties, quitting can be difficult. People often experience a variety of ailments when they give up nicotine after extended use. These withdrawal symptoms are part of a process wherein the body returns to a nicotine-free state.
A primary reason addiction occurs is that nicotine produces pleasant feelings in the body. Nicotine activates the neurotransmitter dopamine, the feel-good chemical that signals pleasure and contentment. Repeated use can lead to changes in the balance of chemical messengers in the brain, which contributes to higher tolerance.
When a person stops using nicotine, it disrupts the nicotine-induced chemical balance along with the satisfying effects, resulting in physical and mental withdrawal symptoms.
What Are Nicotine Withdrawal Symptoms?
People undergo a variety of physical and psychological complaints when nicotine leaves the body.
The following physical signs are common nicotine withdrawal symptoms:
- Restlessness and trouble sleeping
- Digestive issues, including constipation, nausea and abdominal pain
- Increased appetite and weight gain
- Sweating more than usual
- Tremors or tingling in the hands and feet
The psychological symptoms of withdrawal often last longer than the physical effects and include:
- Intense cravings
- Irritability and frustration
- Low mood or depression
- Difficulty concentrating or mental fog
Nicotine Withdrawal Timeline
As soon as you stop consuming nicotine, your body will begin to revert back to its normal “factory setting.” The desire for more nicotine will quickly develop, and withdrawal symptoms usually start within a few hours. The stages of nicotine withdrawal are different for everyone.
Here is a general nicotine withdrawal effects timeline that represents what a person might experience:
- 4 to 24 hours: Some withdrawal symptoms will appear quickly within the first 24 hours, potentially including restlessness, irritability, and increased appetite.
- 2 to 3 days: Withdrawal symptoms typically peak within two to three days of quitting nicotine. However, by this point many people experience headaches and higher levels of anxiety.
- 3 to 4 weeks: While the duration of withdrawal varies for each person, the majority of effects should fade after four weeks. Some mental fog or depression may linger, but the primary focus should be on avoiding triggers.
How To Manage Withdrawal Symptoms
Fortunately, there are things you can do to help mitigate the effects of nicotine withdrawal. One way is to gradually decrease the amount of nicotine you ingest. That way, you can curb your dependence on nicotine while simultaneously easing some of the symptoms.