What are withdrawal symptoms?
Stopping smoking is different for everyone. Some smokers find it easy to quit, others don’t. However, there are some signs and symptoms that many people have in common when they quit.
Withdrawal symptoms are a collection of changes in your mood, behavior, and body. They usually appear when you stop smoking and are relieved or reversed by starting smoking again.
Most symptoms occur because you are no longer getting nicotine, the addictive drug in tobacco. Nicotine in other forms, such as nicotine patches, gum, lozenges, mouth spray and inhalator, reduce the strength of withdrawal symptoms.
Major symptoms of withdrawal are:
- Urges to smoke
- Depressed mood
- Difficulty sleeping or sleep disturbances
- Irritability, frustration or anger
- Difficulty concentrating
- Decreased heart rate
- Increased appetite (hunger) or weight gain
- Decreased adrenaline and cortisol (brain chemicals)
It’s common for people to develop a few of these symptoms when they quit. Most people only have mild symptoms, but a minority of smokers have more severe symptoms.
Withdrawal symptoms usually appear within the first 24 hours and peak in the first week. On average, most symptoms fade and are gone after one month. However, some people have rises and falls in symptoms over several weeks. Six months after quitting, people usually feel the same as or better than when they were smoking.
An increase in appetite may last for six months or more. Most people do gain some weight when they stop smoking, which mostly occurs in the first one or two years after they quit. However, research with women shows that in the long term, the average weight of ex-smokers is similar to people who have never smoked.
Other signs or symptoms when stopping smoking
Some people have reported other symptoms, which may also be due to stopping smoking.
- Other cold symptoms such as sneezing, headache, earache, sore throat, deafness or feeling off-colour
- Mouth ulcers
- Bowel disturbance, constipation
- Drowsiness or fatigue
Reports of coughing after stopping smoking are common. However, other cold symptoms, mouth ulcers and bowel symptoms appear to affect small numbers of people only.