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Nicotine addiction and withdrawal

  • Alternative Names

    Withdrawal from nicotine; Smoking - nicotine addiction and withdrawal; Smokeless tobacco - nicotine addiction; Cigar smoking; Pipe smoking; Smokeless snuff; Tobacco use; Chewing tobacco


    There are several strategies for treating nicotine withdrawal.

    Nicotine supplements can help. All of them work well, if used properly. See: Nicotine replacement therapy

    Nicotine supplements come in several forms:

    • Gum
    • Inhalers
    • Nasal spray
    • Skin patch

    Nonhabit forming prescription medications may help you quit smoking and keep you from starting again. See: Smoking cessation medications

    Such medicines include:

    • Bupropion (Wellbutrin, Zyban)
    • Varenicline (Chantix)
    • Other medications, including clonidine, antidepressants such as nortriptyline or fluoxetine (Prozac), and buspirone (Buspar) have shown some benefits, but are not FDA-approved for smoking cessation

    Like any addiction, quitting tobacco is difficult, especially if you are acting alone. If you join a smoking cessation program, you have a much better chance of success. See: Stop smoking support programs

    • Smoking cessation programs are offered by hospitals, health departments, community centers, and work sites.
    • The best quit-smoking programs combine many strategies to help keep you from starting smoking again. Counseling by telephone can be as helpful and as effective as face-to-face counseling.

    Untreated depression can prevent you from quitting tobacco. A screening test for depression may help ensure proper treatment and increase the odds that you will stay off tobacco products.

    People who are trying to quit smoking often become discouraged when they don't succeed at first. Research shows that the more times you try, the more likely you are to succeed -- so don't give up! If you aren't successful the first time you try to quit, look at what worked or didn't work, think of new ways to quit smoking, and try again. Many attempts are often necessary to finally "beat the habit." See: Smoking - tips on how to quit

    Support Groups

    Expectations (prognosis)

    Nicotine withdrawal is short-lived and symptoms pass in time, usually in less than a week. Withdrawal is the most uncomfortable part of quitting, but the real challenge is beating long-term cravings and staying away from tobacco.


    Long-term use of nicotine products, whether smoking or using smokeless tobacco products, carries many risks, including:

    • Cancer
    • Heart disease
    • Pregnancy problems
    • Stroke

    See: Making the decision to quit tobacco

    Weight gain due to increased eating also may occur. This is much less unhealthy than continuing to smoke. People who have concerns about their weight should address them while quitting, so these concerns do not affect their attempts to stay away from cigarettes.

    Nicotine withdrawal may also bring on a relapse of major depression, bipolar disorder, or other substance abuse problems.

    Calling your health care provider

    See your health care provider if you wish to stop smoking, or have already done so and are experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Your provider can help provide treatments, some of which are only available by prescription.