Healthy living

Withdrawal symptoms and quitting smoking

If you’ve decided to give up smoking, and have some strategies in place to help you quit, now is the time to put all your work into practice and quit.

 You are ready

  • You’ve made your decision to quit.
  • You have any extra information or support you feel you need.
  • You’ve done your planning.
  • You’ve set your quit date.

Stick to your decision. You’re doing the right thing.

Choose an approach that will work for you

If you are quitting by yourself, the best approach is to stop completely and suddenly on your quit date.

Consider getting support from a quitting coach, such as the Quitline, and using quitting products, such as nicotine gum.

Understand withdrawal symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms are the way your body reacts when it stops getting nicotine and all the other chemicals in tobacco smoke. Think of them as recovery symptoms.

Common symptoms

Common symptoms of withdrawal (or recovery) can include:

  • cravings - each one lasts a short time, but may be strong and will happen less often over time
  • feelings of irritability, frustration, depression or anxiety
  • feelings of restlessness and/or difficulty concentrating
  • changed sleeping patterns
  • increase in appetite and weight gain.

Some people also report:

  • coughing, sneezing or sore throat
  • mouth ulcers
  • upset digestion and disturbed bowel
  • headache, ear ache, deafness or feeling off-colour.

Three people gathered around a table, having a coffee

“Mates at work thought I couldn’t do it, but I used patches and that made it easier than last time”. David, 31

Usually, you won’t have all of these symptoms, and those that do affect you will rarely last more than a few weeks.

Some recovery symptoms will come and go during the first week. Most are gone within 2 to 4 weeks; heavy smokers may have symptoms for longer.

The emotional symptoms – such as irritability or frustration – fade as your body adjusts to being nicotine free.

You may get occasional cravings (the urge or desire to smoke) long after other recovery symptoms have gone. These cravings are triggered by being in situations where you used to smoke. 

If you have trouble with certain withdrawal symptoms, plan how you could cope or work around them. For example, warn your family you might be cranky for a few weeks and ask for their patience. The more withdrawal symptoms you have, the more you will benefit from using quitting products.

Quitting and stress

Some people feel more stressed in the first month or so after they quit. This may be partly due to coping with recovery symptoms.

It also takes time to settle into new routines and become comfortable with new ways of managing without cigarettes. However, other people have a more positive experience of stopping smoking, and feel more satisfied.

A few months after quitting, most people tend to feel as good as, or better than, when they were smoking.

Where to get help

Quitline

Quitline is a confidential telephone support service staffed by professional advisors who are trained to provide encouragement and support to help you quit.

Phone: 13 7848 (13 QUIT) (local call rates from land line only). Advisors are available from:

  • Monday to Friday 7am – 8pm
  • Saturday 12.30pm – 3.30pm
  • Sunday closed.

Remember

  • Withdrawal symptoms are common when you quit smoking, but this just means your body is recovering.
  • You may experience cravings, changed sleeping patterns and weight gain when you quit.
  • Quitting smoking can be stressful and it does take time to settle into a new routine without smoking.

Acknowledgements

Chronic Disease Prevention Directorate


This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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