Nicotine Withdrawals

Nicotine is an addictive chemical found in tobacco products. It only takes a few cigarettes to start building a tolerance, followed by dependence on nicotine. When your body gets low on nicotine you may experience withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawal symptoms can start just a couple of hours after your last cigarette and may include restlessness, irritability, anxiety and stress, cravings, trouble concentrating, low mood and trouble sleeping.

Think of the above as recovery symptoms. They are the first signs that your body is beginning to heal itself from the damage caused by smoking.

Symptoms are likely to rise and fall over several weeks, so it's important to plan ways to manage nicotine withdrawal and remember all the reasons why you want to quit for good.

DELAYING
Delay for 1-2 minutes and the urge will pass
DRINKING WATER
Sip it slowly
DEEP BREATHING
Take three slow, deep breaths of fresh air
DOING SOMETHING ELSE
To take your mind off smoking

To distract yourself, you could also:

  • Go for a walk: Exercise can reduce cravings, lower stress and contribute to weight management.
  • Keep your brain and hands busy: Catch up with a friend or family member, play a game on your phone, squeeze a stress ball, chew gum or breathe through a straw.
  • Find a relaxing activity: Listen to music or a podcast, or try yoga, meditation or deep breathing techniques.

Am I Addicted?

Nicotine is the addictive chemical found in cigarettes, it is the substance that makes you want to keep smoking. Taking the quiz below may help you understand how much you depend on nicotine and can suggest strategies you can use to quit for good.

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8 - 10 High to very high dependence   

Your answers indicate you may have a high addiction to nicotine, but don’t worry, you can quit! A great place to start is chatting to your doctor or pharmacist to find out if nicotine replacement therapy is right for you. For free, personalised quitting advice, talk to the Quitline by phone or webchat. You can also read more about quit methods and then figure out what’s right for you.

Craving a hit of nicotine might not be the only reason you find yourself reaching for a cigarette.

Do you have a cigarette when you are stressed, during ‘me time’, with your morning coffee or while watching TV? Your emotions and habits can also trigger cravings.

Take a look at these common triggers to smoke and you will find some simple lifestyle changes that can help you beat your cravings and increase your chances of quitting.

5 - 7  Medium to high dependence 

Your answers indicate that you may have a moderate addiction to nicotine. Get started by chatting to your doctor or pharmacist to find out if nicotine replacement therapy is right for you. For free, personalised quitting advice, talk to the Quitline by phone or webchat or download the MyQuitBuddy app. You can also read more about quit methods and then figure out what’s right for you.

Craving a hit of nicotine might not be the only reason you find yourself reaching for a cigarette.

Do you have a cigarette when you are stressed, during ‘me time’, with your morning coffee or while watching TV? Your emotions and habits can also trigger cravings.

Take a look at these common triggers to smoke and you will find some simple lifestyle changes that can help you beat your cravings and increase your chances of quitting.

3 - 4  Low to medium dependence

Your answers indicate that you may have a low to moderate addiction to nicotine. Get started by reading about the different quit methods and then figure out what’s right for you.  For free, personalised quitting advice, talk to the Quitline by phone or webchat or download the MyQuitBuddy app.

Craving a hit of nicotine might not be the only reason you find yourself reaching for a cigarette.

Do you have a cigarette when you are stressed, during ‘me time’, with your morning coffee or while watching TV? Your emotions and habits can also trigger cravings.

Take a look at these common triggers to smoke and you will find some simple lifestyle changes that can help you beat your cravings and increase your chances of quitting.

1 - 2  Low dependence

Your answers indicate that you may have a low addiction to nicotine. You still have a higher risk of cancer and other smoking-related illnesses, but you are in a great position to quit smoking immediately. Get started here.

Ways to cope with specific withdrawal symptoms

  • Tenseness/irritability: Go for a walk, take deep breaths, relax in a warm bath, meditate or try some stretching exercises.
  • Appetite changes: Maintain a balanced diet with healthy snacks and meals. Get inspiration from the LiveLighter website.
  • Constipation/gas: Drink plenty of fluids, eat lots of fruits, vegetables and high fibre cereal.
  • Difficulty sleeping: Try these sleep hacks.
  • Difficulty concentrating: Break large projects into smaller tasks and take regular breaks.
  • Cough, dry throat and mouth, nasal drip: Stay hydrated and drink plenty of fluids.
  • Depression: Reach out to a loved one, Beyond Blue or your doctor.

If you have a strong dependency on nicotine, you might find your withdrawal symptoms more difficult to manage. If you need additional support or ideas, contact the Quitline or chat to your doctor or pharmacist to find out if stop smoking medications are right for you.

WATCH: How to get through withdrawal
Dr Peter Wynn Owen

Common triggers to smoke

Your habits and emotions can play a big role in triggering that urge for another cigarette, but with some simple lifestyle changes, you can resist the cravings and kick the habit for good.

Habitual triggers

Do you have a cigarette with your first cup of coffee in the morning, with a loved one after dinner or in the car during your drive to work?

Smoking can become linked to certain activities, people or places, causing cravings. You might even find yourself lighting up without even realising it! To break this cycle, try changing your daily routine. Within 3-4 weeks, these changes will become a part of your new routine.

Smoking habit
How to break it
First thing in the morning
Jump straight into the shower to start your day.
During a work break
Go for a walk around the block, read a magazine or sit in a different environment.
Straight after work
Exercise or take the dog for a walk.
With alcohol
Change to a different drink and place it in your smoking hand.
As a reward
Listen to music, watch your favourite TV show or have a snack.
Just before bed
Listen to a podcast or make yourself a warm drink.
With friends
Share your quitting plans with them to arrange smoke-free catch-ups.

Emotional triggers

Boredom, anxiety, sadness, excitement and stress can cause you to reach for a cigarette. Pinpointing trigger emotions and having plans in place to cope with these triggers can help you to avoid smoking. This may include:

  • Writing a list of the things that make you feel stressed and thinking of strategies to combat these moments.
  • Exercising to unwind, such as walking with a friend or joining an exercise group.
  • Treating yourself with the money you have saved from not smoking.
  • Taking up deep breathing or muscle relaxation exercises.
  • Keeping your hands busy by playing a game, a puzzle or completing a crossword.
  • Asking one of your non-smoking friends to be your quit buddy, to provide support, keep you distracted and remind you of your reasons for quitting.

For more ways to deal with nicotine withdrawals and triggers check out our blog or read real quitting stories for inspiration to stay smoke-free.

Watch: How Charlie handled his cravings and managed his triggers to kick the habit.

Family and Friends

If your family, friends, partner or housemate smoke, it's important to share your plan with them. The people you surround yourself with might not be ready to quit at the same time as you, but their support can help you to stay on track!

Here are a few things that you may need to consider when starting your quitting journey:

  • What type of support do you want from your partner or housemate?
  • Is it possible to make your home smoke-free or create a designated smoking area?
  • How will you socialise without being tempted to smoke?
  • How can they keep cigarettes out of your sight?

TIP: Practice saying “No, I don’t smoke” and don’t make the mistake of having 'just one', it's never a good idea!

Looking for other information?

Quit Methods

There are so many different ways to quit, find the one that will work for you.

Learn more about quit methods

Quit Apps

Free apps such as My QuitBuddy can be a fun and practical way to quit and stay smoke-free.

Learn more about quit apps

Real Quitting Experiences

There are more ex-smokers today than there are smokers. Find out how they did it by reading their stories.

Read more quitting experiences

Latest News

We publish blogs on many different tobacco-related topics, you're sure to learn something new.

Read more latest news

Free Quit Support

Talk to the Quitline

Quitline is a confidential advice and information service for people who want to quit smoking. For the cost of a local call (except mobile phones), a trained advisor can help you to plan and develop strategies to quit smoking and stay stopped. You can also use webchat during opening hours.

My QuitBuddy App

The My QuitBuddy App tracks your quitting progress, such as days smoke-free, cigarettes avoided, health gained and dollars saved.

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Quit for You - Quit for Two App

The Quit for You - Quit for Two App provides support and encouragement to help you give up smoking if you are currently or are planning to become pregnant.