Cigarette Withdrawal and Recovery


Smoking Withdrawal Symptoms

One of the reasons that nicotine is believed to be an addictive drug is the variety of physical symptoms and certain feels are experienced when the drug is stopped. These are called physical and psychological withdrawal or symptoms of recovery. They are signs that the body is healing and adjusting itself back to when it was nicotine-free.

Because each person’s smoking habit is unique, her recovery experience in quitting will be as well. The variation of feelings, symptoms, and degrees of discomfort will be unique to each smoker. Most symptoms are temporary and decrease sharply during the first few days of cessation, followed by a continued, but slower rate in decline in the following weeks. For some smokers, dealing with withdrawal symptoms may be like “riding a roller coaster” with sharp turns, and ups and downs. The good news is that most symptoms will pass within two to four weeks after quitting.

Remember: having even one cigarette after you have tried to quit will only cause symptoms of recovery to return and last longer.


CravingPhysical addiction to nicotine, habits, and psychological dependence; the body misses nicotine and sends signals by giving you cravings to smokeMost frequent during first 2-3 days, may continue for months or years
  • Wait out the urge
  • Distract yourself
  • Exercise
  • Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)
Emotional Symptoms: Irritability, Impatience, Anger, SadnessBody's physical and emotional craving for nicotine2 to 4 weeks
  • Express your emotions
  • Ask others to be patient
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Walks, hot baths
  • NRT
FatigueNo longer have nicotine as an artificial stimulant in the body2 to 4 weeks
  • Take naps
  • Increase physical activity
  • Do not push yourself
Sleep Disturbances: Difficulty Falling Asleep, Waking Up to Early, Frequent AwakeningsNicotine affects brain wave functions, influences sleep patterns; dreams about smoking are commonA few days
  • Increase awake activity
  • Avoid caffeine after 6pm
  • Deep breathing to relax
  • Regular sleep patterns
  • Drink milk before bed
Dizziness or Light-HeadednessCarbon Monoxide is no longer robbing blood cells of oxygen, you are now functioning on a normal supply and need to adjustto 2 days
  • Take extra caution
  • Change position slowly
  • This feeling will pass
Lack of ConcentrationBody needs time to adjust to not having a constant stimulation from nicotineA few days
  • Plan work accordingly
  • Avoid additional stresses
  • Avoid caffeine


Benefits to Quitting Smoking

How the body repairs itself -

After 20 minutes:

  • Blood pressure drops to normal
  • Pulse rate drops to normal
  • Body temperature of hands and feet increase to normal


After 8 hours:

  • Oxygen level in blood increases to normal


After 24 hours:

  • Chance of heart attack decreases
  • Less short of breath


After 36 hours:

  • Carbon monoxide returns to non-smoking levels


After 48 hours:

  • Nerve endings start re-growings
  • Ability to smell and taste is enhanced


After 2-3 weeks:

  • Circulation improves
  • Walking becomes easier
  • Lung function increases up to 30%


After 1-9 months:

  • Coughing, sinus congestion, fatigue, shortness of breath decreases
  • Cilia re-grow in lungs, increasing the ability to handle mucus, clean the lungs, and reduce infection
  • Body's overall energy increases


After 1 year:

  • Excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a smoker


After 5 years:

  • Lung cancer death rate for average former smoker decreases by almost half
  • Stroke risk is reduced to that of a non-smoker 5-15 years


After 10 years:

  • Lung cancer death rate similar to that of non-smokers
  • Pre-cancerous cells are replaced
  • Risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, kidney, and pancreas decreases


After 15 years:

  • Risk of coronary heart disease is that of a non-smoker