How Long Does Smoking Withdrawal Last? Symptoms & Treatment

Medically Reviewed on 2/22/2022
How Long Does Smoking Withdrawal Last
After quitting smoking, many people find that withdrawal symptoms last for about 2-4 weeks, although they may last longer for some people

After quitting smoking, many people find that withdrawal symptoms last for about 2-4 weeks, although they may last longer for some people.

During withdrawal, symptoms may come and go and may even occur months after quitting smoking, especially when you are under stress or undergoing major changes in life.

What is smoking withdrawal?

Smoking withdrawal or nicotine withdrawal are symptoms you feel as nicotine leaves your body. 

Nicotine is highly addictive, and when you quit using the drug, the lack of nicotine in your system can cause uncomfortable symptoms

Smoking withdrawal symptoms usually begin a few hours after the last dose of nicotine and often intensify on days 2-3.

What causes smoking withdrawal?

Nicotine binds to certain receptors in the brain and causes the release of a neurotransmitter known as dopamine. Dopamine is a feel good chemical that makes you feel happy, helps you concentration, and gives you energy. However, these effects do not last long.

Nicotine also alters the balance of other chemical messengers in the brain. When you stop using the drug, it causes less dopamine to be released, affecting mood and behavior and leading to physical symptoms as well.

What are common symptoms of smoking withdrawal?

Smoking withdrawal symptoms vary from person to person and the severity depends on how long you have smoked, how often you used to smoke, and amount of nicotine in the products you used.

What can help you quit smoking and reduce withdrawal symptoms?

Nicotine replacement therapy can help relieve withdrawal symptoms by giving you a small amount of nicotine without the other harmful chemicals found in tobacco products. 

Nicotine replacement therapy is available in various forms:

  • Skin patches
  • Chewing gum
  • Lozenges
  • Nasal sprays
  • Inhalers

Other medications include antidepressants, bupropion, and varenicline, which block the effects of nicotine in the brain.

Alternative therapies such as acupuncture and homeopathy may be tried, but more scientific studies are needed to assess how effective they are in treating nicotine withdrawal.


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Can withdrawal symptoms be prevented?

Unfortunately, you will likely experience some degree of withdrawal after quitting smoking or nicotine products. You can, however, reduce or relieve symptoms by:

  • Drinking plenty of fluids
  • Consuming fiber-rich foods
  • Chewing gum
  • Performing deep breathing exercises
  • Drinking herbal teas
  • Getting plenty of sleep
  • Avoiding caffeinated beverages before bedtime
  • Listening to calming music
  • Practicing relaxation techniques

What are the dangers of smoking?

Smoking harms nearly every organ in the body and increases your risk of developing a range of potentially lethal diseases. 

Along with nicotine, smokers inhale about 7,000 other chemicals in cigarette smoke. Many of these harmful chemicals are produced from the burning tobacco leaf and can lead to profound and damaging changes in the body.

There are over 70 known cancer-causing chemicals in tobacco smoke. Smoking even just one cigarette per day over a lifetime can increase the risk of smoking-related cancers and premature death.

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Medically Reviewed on 2/22/2022
Image Source: iStock Images

McLaughlin I, Dani JA, De Biasi M. Nicotine withdrawal. Curr Top Behav Neurosci. 2015;24:99-123.

National Institutes of Health. Understanding Withdrawal.