Arizona Smokers’ Helpline

Withdrawal Symptoms

When you decide to quit smoking or using tobacco, you may start to experience side effects.

Many of these are due to nicotine—the addictive substance found in most forms of tobacco—including cigarettes. When you quit, you’re no longer getting the nicotine your brain is used to, and that’s when the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal may begin.

Withdrawal symptoms might not happen to everyone, but you may experience some or many of these symptoms. If you have strong withdrawals or they keep happening to you, you might want to talk to your doctor about Nicotine Replacement Therapy, such as patches, gum, lozenges, inhalers or nasal spray which can help reduce your symptoms.

Common Side Effects


You may be experiencing anxiety if you feel tense or nervous. This can happen when you quit. You may have a hard time relaxing because your muscles are tense. You may feel like you have too many thoughts in your head. It may be difficult to sleep or stay focused on a task.

Feeling anxious is normal, and may be caused by stressful events in your life. It can be a signal to take some time for yourself.

Try these ideas to help relieve anxiety:

  • Take a moment for yourself away from others
  • Listen to your body—are you hungry, thirsty or tired?
  • Take a walk or find a way to move your body
  • Give yourself a hand, foot or shoulder massage
  • Listen to soothing music

When you cut down or quit tobacco, you may begin to experience nicotine cravings because your brain is getting used to having less nicotine. You may feel the need to smoke or chew, or feel other cravings in your body. You may feel tired, drowsy, anxious or irritable, or experience headaches or wanting to eat. Starting medication can help reduce these symptoms, and there are also things you can do for yourself.

Here are natural ways to cut cravings:

  • Remind yourself that cravings pass in a few minutes
  • Plan things to keep busy. They can be chores or fun things.
  • Keep healthy snacks and gum close by
  • Write a list of your reasons to quit
  • Make time to relax

See our full guide on how to stop cravings.

Insomnia (Trouble Sleeping)

You may have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep after quitting tobacco. You may have unusual or vivid dreams or wake up during the night. This may make you feel tired during the day.

Here are suggestions to make it easier to sleep:

  • Don’t drink coffee, tea, energy drinks or soda with caffeine in the evening
  • Drink tea and coffee without caffeine, and water
  • Avoid snacks with sugar before bed
  • Do not change your sleeping routine. Get up at the same time every morning.
  • Prepare for sleep. Give yourself quiet time before bed: read a book or listen to relaxing music.
Trouble Concentrating

Some people have trouble focusing when they quit smoking. This symptom will go away. The main cause is that your brain and body are getting used to working without nicotine.

When you used to take a break from what you were doing to smoke, you had a chance to relax. Now that you’re quitting, your body and mind still need a break to relax, but in a way that doesn’t involve tobacco.

Here are ways to help yourself stay focused:

  • Save important tasks for when you feel alert
  • If you are used to sitting down and being inside, get fresh air and move your body
  • Close your eyes and take a few breaths. Give your mind a moment to relax.
  • Do a quick and easy chore
Weight Gain

It is not unusual for people to gain weight when quitting tobacco. But the weight gain is minimal (only about 5-7 pounds) and the benefits of quitting smoking far outweigh the harms of the weight gain. Moreover, you can help yourself not gain weight while you quit by making small changes to what you eat and how active you are.

Try these tips to maintain your weight:

  • Do active things—go for a walk, or wash your car or your windows
  • Try to reward yourself with things that are NOT food. You could treat yourself to music, a new movie or a magazine.
  • Chew sugarless gum, toothpicks or a cinnamon stick
  • Drink more water—especially before meals
  • Plan meals ahead of time and don’t skip meals
  • Weigh yourself once a week
  • Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. Take healthy snacks with you so you aren’t tempted to buy junk food.

Call 1-800-55-66-222 to get started.

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