Nicotine Withdrawal

Nicotine Withdrawal

Nicotine creates a chemical dependency so that the body develops a need for certain level of nicotine at all times. When this level is not maintained, the body begins producing a host of symptoms referred to as ‘nicotine withdrawal.’

Causes and risk factors

Nicotine is found in tobacco. Any person habituated to chewing or smoking tobacco will experience nicotine withdrawal if he quits suddenly or greatly reduces his intake.

Clinical presentation

Symptoms may begin 2-3 hours after the last dose of nicotine with a peak at 48 hours and may persist for 3-4 weeks. They include intense craving for nicotine, headaches, feeling tense, restless, or frustrated. Increase in appetite leading to weight gain. There is anxiety, depression, sadness. Anger and irritability is seen. Difficulty in concentrating is experienced.  There is inability to cope. Patient complains of sleep disturbances and nightmares. There is tingling in the hands and feet. There may be profuse sweating.


Medical history by the patient and clinical examination by the doctor helps in diagnosis.


Nicotine replacement therapy includes low doses of nicotine in the form of chewing gum, lozenges, skin patches, inhalers, etc.  These are prescribed to ease the withdrawal symptoms. Smoking cessation programs are offered by several institutions and hospitals to provide the necessary support and methodology to quit nicotine. Certain medications will also help in managing the condition.


Depression may be experienced by some people, but it is usually reversible.

When to Contact a Doctor  

One must consult a doctor if one wishes to quit smoking tobacco.


Using nicotine replacement therapy and other medications recommended by the doctor will help to minimize the withdrawal symptoms.

Systems involved

CNS, GIT, respiratory system, circulatory system

Organs involved

Brain, lungs, stomach

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