Smoking withdrawal symptoms and how to combat them

We’ve compiled a list of common symptoms and some strategies you can employ to mitigate them.

Published: Wednesday 09 October 2019



The withdrawal symptoms are inevitable when quitting, and can be very hard to resist. Here at Pharmica we’ve compiled a list of common symptoms and some strategies you can employ to mitigate them.

Symptom Expected Duration Cause Relief
Fatigue 2-4 weeks Nicotine in the brain acts as a stimulant, without it malaise can set in Sleep (15-40 mins), Try NRT to reduce severity of symptoms
Irritability, Headaches 2-4 weeks Nicotine cravings Meditation, Hot baths, Walk
Insomnia 1 week Brain wave function is impacted by nicotine, influencing sleep Avoid tea, caffeine and soft drinks after 6pm; Meditate, Exercise (if able)
Cough, Dry/ Sore Throat, Nasal Drip 2-3 days Mucus covering blocked airways make their way out of the body Drink Fluids; try cough sweets; chew gum
Dizziness 1-2 days Oxygen content in the blood increase with decreasing Carbon monoxide levels Avoid rapidly movement e.g. standing up/ sitting down quickly
Lack of Concentration A few weeks Lack of nicotine stimulant causes neurological changes Plan your workload, ensure stress avoidance
Constipation, Gas, Irregularity, Stomach Pain 1-2 weeks Intestinal movement decreases briefly Drink fluids; consume roughage: fruits, vegetables and cereals
Hunger Up to several weeks Cigarette cravings can manifest as hunger Drink water; low calorie snacks (air popped popcorn)
Craving for a Cigarette Cravings occur within 2-3 days; reducing in frequency over months and years Nicotine Withdrawal Distract yourself; meditate; exercise; remember cravings only last a few minutes
Tightness in Chest A few days Can be due to coughing, or nicotine withdrawal causing tension in the body Relax and Meditate

Withdrawal symptoms usually peak 1-3 days after quitting and then rapidly decrease in severity over 3-4 weeks. At this point most nicotine in the body has been removed and the remaining withdrawal effects are psychological. The severity and duration of symptoms will be different from person to person, however heavier users tend to feel the effects more severely.

Cravings can come in two forms, constant background urges or sudden intense desire to smoke. Background cravings tend to decrease in intensity over several weeks. Sudden intense cravings are onset by cues such as alcohol, anxiety, low mood, good mood, arguments, stress or even coffee! It is always good to remember that intense cravings will subside within minutes, not only that but they can worsen symptoms of stress and anxiety in the long term.

Reminding yourself about the reasons you chose to quit smoking can help reinforce your resolve.

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