Understanding Nicotine Withdrawal -- the Basics

Medically Reviewed by Sabrina Felson, MD on April 22, 2021

What Is Nicotine Withdrawal?

Withdrawal from nicotine, an addictive drug found in tobacco, is characterized by symptoms that include irritability, insomnia, anxiety, and increased appetite. Nicotine creates a chemical dependency so that the body develops a need for a certain level of nicotine at all times. Unless that level is maintained -- by smoking or chewing tobacco -- your body will begin to go through withdrawal. This is why nicotine replacement (with gum, lozenges, patches) is helpful for people trying to quit cigarettes -- it reduces these unpleasant feelings.

For tobacco users trying to quit, symptoms of withdrawal from nicotine are unpleasant and stressful -- but they are temporary. Most withdrawal symptoms peak 48 hours after you quit and subside over the next 3 to 4 weeks. But after that, you may still have to deal with the fact that many people trying to quit smoking find themselves eating more and gaining weight in the process.

What Causes Nicotine Withdrawal?

The symptoms of nicotine withdrawal are physiological responses to the removal of a substance the body has become dependent on: nicotine.

WebMD Medical Reference



National Library of Medicine. 

University of Maryland Medical Center. 

WebMD Medical reference provided in collaboration with Healthwise: "Nicotine Withdrawal."

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