Nicotine Withdrawal Symptoms: How Nicotine Replacement Therapy Can Help

Making the move to quit smoking can be hard enough. Keeping it going through the cravings is for many even harder.

These cravings are caused by withdrawal from nicotine that your body had been getting from cigarettes.

Nicotine withdrawal is a key reason why smokers relapse,[1] which in turn means many smokers need more than one attempt to break the habit for good.[2]

But all successful quitters find a way to power through the cravings. If you’ve decided that a little extra support can get you there, nicotine replacement therapy can help you manage the cravings. 

What is nicotine withdrawal?

Nicotine has an effect on your brain, making you feel more relaxed and alert.[3]  As a smoker, your body has become used to having a certain level of nicotine at all times. When this level decreases, your body begins to crave the nicotine it once had, leading to uncomfortable nicotine withdrawal symptoms.

Common nicotine withdrawal symptoms[4] include:

  • Intense cravings
  • Anger, frustration, and irritability
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Weight gain and an increase in appetite
  • Tightness in the chest

How does nicotine replacement therapy help?

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) gives your body small and controlled doses of nicotine. It is used to decrease withdrawal symptoms, which are triggered by quitting smoking.

There are five forms of nicotine replacement therapy currently on the market. These include: the patch, gum, oral spray, inhaler, and lozenge. All NRT options contain approximately one-third to one-half the amount of nicotine found in most cigarettes, and helps reduce nicotine withdrawal and craving symptoms.

Beating nicotine withdrawal with nicotine replacement therapy

There are two ways you can use nicotine replacement therapy to beat cravings; proactive and reactive.

Being proactive means preparing yourself as you get ready to quit. Withdrawal symptoms typically peak two to three days after you quit, and are gone within one to three months.[5] If you have set a quit date and are concerned about managing your cravings, or have struggled with them on previous quit attempts, consider using a form of NRT as you begin, such as nicotine patches.

With certain types of nicotine replacement therapy you can use the treatment when cravings really start to take over. You can try using nicotine gum, or a spray such as NICORETTE QuickMist, which can start to work on your cravings in 60 seconds.

Even if you are already using regular nicotine replacement therapy such as patches, you can consider occasionally supplementing this with additional support when surprise cravings strike.

If used properly, you will see the biggest impact on your quit journey using nicotine replacement therapy products. Read more about getting the most out of smoking cessation aids here.