Managing withdrawal symptoms from tobacco


When you use tobacco products, your body becomes addicted to tobacco’s nicotine. When you stop smoking, your body has to get used to not having the nicotine. This process is called nicotine withdrawal and usually lasts a week or two, but sometimes can last longer. Using medications like nicotine replacement therapy can help reduce nicotine withdrawal symptoms. Below are common symptoms of withdrawal and some things you can do to cope.

Cravings Remember the 5 Ds:
  • Delay and wait a few moments.
  • Drink a glass of water.
  • Distract yourself and do something else.
  • Do deep-breathing exercises.
  • Discuss it with someone.
Feeling sad
  • Do things that make you feel happy or keep you busy.
  • Try spending time with family or friends or doing a hobby.
  • Do some deep-breathing exercises.
  • Take a warm bath.
  • Over-the-counter medication like Tylenol or Advil may be helpful.
Dry mouth or sore throat
  • Try drinking lots of water or sugar-free candy or gum. When you first stop smoking, you may cough more because your lungs are trying to recover, but this coughing will go away in time.
Feeling tired
  • Get up and exercise to boost your energy.
  • Get outside and get some fresh air.
  • Make sure to get plenty of sleep daily.
  • Schedule doing activities when you know you’ll have more energy.
  • It’s okay to take breaks; don’t push yourself.
  • It is also okay to ask for help.
  • Drink multiple glasses of water a day.
  • Eat foods high in fiber, such as raw vegetables, fruits or whole grains.
  • Increase activity or exercise. Walking can help with bowel movements and make you more regular.
  • Talk to you doctor and ask about managing constipation.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Choose healthy snacks, like vegetables, fruits, low-fat yogurt and raw nuts.
Feeling irritable, stressed or anxious
  • Do things to help keep you busy or that make you feel good. Watch a funny movie, talk to a friend, get back into an old hobby if you can.
  • Do some light stretching, yoga or deep breathing. These things will reduce tension in your muscles and make you feel more relaxed.
  • hink about your reasons to quit smoking and remember that you will get through this.
  • Think about exercise and physical activity, like going for a walk. Talk to your doctor before starting any new exercise program.
Trouble sleeping
  • Avoid caffeine in the mid-afternoon and evening.
  • Avoid eating late at night.
  • Try drinking some warm milk or a calming herbal tea before going to bed.
  • Try not to watch TV, use a computer or your cell phone while in bed.
  • If you continue to have trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor or nurse about any medications to help you sleep.
Trouble concentrating, dizziness or feeling “spacey”
  • Adjust your time to projects and/or break larger projects into smaller projects or tasks.
  • Try to make your schedule very simple during the early days of quitting.
  • Try making “to do” lists.


Remember that quitting smoking can be difficult, and the first few days after quitting are the hardest. These withdrawal symptoms are a normal part of nicotine withdrawal and the feelings will go away. If you find that you are having difficulty managing these withdrawal symptoms, please tell your Massey nurse, doctor or other health care provider and they can connect you to tobacco cessation programs.