Nicotine Withdrawal Duration

N-I-C-O-T-I-N-E. However  I spell it, this is the same thing my mother has been obsessed with all these years. She has been in a continual struggle to beat the addiction and I wonder when she will be able to finally conquer it. Each time I see her smoking, there is only one thing that comes across my mind—she is digging her own grave.

I have tried putting myself in her shoes and looking for answers to my questions as to how long it will take for her to overcome the plight and how she can completely unhook herself from the deadly bondage. Here is what I have come up with:

Duration of Nicotine Withdrawal

Nicotine withdrawal duration depends on the individual; some endure a gradual and slow process while some only take a short period of time. The primary reason nicotine withdrawal is important is not the severity but rather the continuance. Numerous studies have shown that the average duration of nicotine withdrawal is about three weeks and that a significant percentage of smokers (40%), have withdrawal symptoms that last longer than the withdrawal span itself. It is the chronic and painstaking discomfort that impedes smoking cessation. Furthermore, many smokers who are still in irritable and anxious phase after three weeks believe this is how they will determine themselves without cigarettes. Faced with such tendency, it is apparent why many smokers would relapse. Studies earlier conducted that focused on the severity of withdrawal symptoms did not find that withdrawal could preempt cessation. The evidence thus supports the presumption that the duration of withdrawal is important.

Nicotine Withdrawal Stages

  • Pre-contemplation– This is considered to be the initial stage when someone is not yet serious in his decision to quit smoking.
  • Immediate Stage- The effects of nicotine withdrawal impact the smoker immediately. There have been reports that the signs of nicotine withdrawal appear as quickly as 30 minutes after the last cigarette was finished. The body’s physical reaction, for smokers who never fail to smoke a pack of cigarettes each day, includes feelings of anxiety after three hours without nicotine.
  • Three to Five Days-The exact nature of withdrawal symptoms vary on a person and the number of cigarette sticks smoked per day. Smoking and nicotine withdrawal symptoms reach a pinnacle at three to five days for most smokers. Physical symptoms at this stage may include cramps, nausea and headaches during the day, trouble sleeping at night and tension. Most people also feel being irritable and impatient. In extreme cases, the former smokers may go through panic attacks and temperamental episodes.
  • Two Weeks– The National Institute of Health showed some reports that after a week of avoiding smoking, addiction symptoms dwindle. Harvard’s Simon estimates that the major effects of nicotine withdrawal dissipate approximately two weeks after halting the smoking habit. Minor problems with depression are the most prevalent remaining withdrawal symptoms, along with anxiety and nicotine cravings.
  • Long Term– Depressive feelings, for instance, are magnified when people stop smoking.  This withdrawal risk will last for about six months from the time the person stops. The condition may be so severe that family members and friends may even encourage the smoker to start again to relieve the withdrawal condition.

I can only imagine how tedious it is for my mother to kick the deadly habit. However, if she does not do something to change her life, then only the worse has to be expected. Smoking in my opinion is the only vice that does not give any person any health benefits.


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2. American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, fourth edition. Washington: American Psychiatric Association, 1994.

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4. Shoaib M. Is dopamine important in nicotine dependence? J Physiol 1998;92:229-233.