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Nicotine Withdrawal: Tests, Treatment, Help, Timeline

Nicotine Withdrawal

Nicotine withdrawal is one of the most common withdrawals in the world, one that many hundreds of millions have gone through. Most of those have happened in the last couple decades as many rush to stop this drug in order to benefit their health. It’s cutting short an epidemic that destroyed generations, but there is still some way to go.

Nicotine Withdrawal

It has been said that it is harder to withdraw from heroin than it is to withdraw from nicotine. This is just not true. Anyone who has withdrawn from heroin and from nicotine will tell you that’s they’d prefer to do the latter 100 times over than to repeat the former just once.

Nicotine withdrawal is not pleasant, but no withdrawal is. The good news is that there are no serious physical or mental issues. It is not life threatening and in most cases it will be over in a couple of days. The biggest issue that anyone suffering from nicotine addiction has to contend with are the cravings.

In nicotine addiction, the cravings revolve around the drug itself, as well as the act of smoking and any rituals that go along with it. This is why they find it hard to substitute with patches, because they might be used to the act of smoking itself, or to enjoying a cigarette at a certain time of day.

The availability of cigarettes also makes it harder to avoid those cravings, but a little will power is all that is needed in this case. During nicotine withdrawal you can expect to feel restless, frustration and prone to anger. you may find that you are eating a lot just to stay active (chewing gum help to stop this); you may struggle to sleep; and you may lash out at loved ones.

There is a list of nicotine withdrawal symptoms further down this page to give you a better idea of what you can expect.

Do Nicotine Patches Work?

Nicotine patches do work. They deliver a steady supply of nicotine to the blood, keeping those cravings at bay. The reason many smokers struggle to give-up smoking using nicotine patches is because they miss the act of smoking itself. A patch is just not the same and it doesn’t give them the same feel or the same psychological high.

It’s mostly a psychosomatic thing based on the act of smoking and the ritual of it, but there may also be a role played by the chemicals in cigarettes.

Does Nicotine Gum Work?

Nicotine gum works in a similar way to patches in that it delivers a steady supply of nicotine. The ritualistic aspect is also lacking, but the fact that they are chewing on something and have that partial tobacco taste may help. Some smokers like to chew gum or wear patches while also smoking nicotine-free herbal cigarettes, thus following through with the ritual and also getting the nicotine they need to steadily withdraw.

How Much Nicotine is in a Cigarette?

Nicotine Withdrawal Symptoms

Different cigarettes have different levels of nicotine in them. In a traditional cigarette, it’s about 12mg of nicotine. This can increase to as much as 24mg in an extra strong cigarette and decrease to 6mg in a light cigarette.

Nicotine Withdrawal Symptoms

The main nicotine withdrawal symptom is an intense craving for a cigarette or a cigar. This craving is constant, but it may increase during the morning, after meals and at night-time, when cigarettes were the go-to way of relaxing and dealing with the day.

The following nicotine withdrawal symptoms may also present

  • tingling in extremes
  • sweating
  • nausea
  • intestinal cramps
  • sore throat
  • headache
  • insomnia
  • overeating
  • weight gain
  • irritability
  • anxiety
  • depression

Is There a Test for Nicotine?

There are tests for nicotine. These won’t focus on nicotine addiction because there is no real way to determine how much has been smoked and whether the person being tested is addicted. Instead, they will test whether there is a trace of nicotine in the body or not. To learn more about this, take a look at our section on How Long Does Nicotine Stay in Your System below.

How Long Does Nicotine Stay in Your System?

Nicotine can stay in your system for up to a week, but it can stay in your hair for much longer. There are several different tests for nicotine, each with their own pros and cons. These are discussed in more detail below.

If you want to clear your system of this drug, then there is no shortage of nicotine detox kits out there that promise to help. However, in most cases the benefits they offer are negligible. Your best bet is just to drink a lot of water and avoid smoking. Trying to delay the time between your last smoke and the nicotine drug test is also important, because in some cases it could be out of your system within 24 hours, so you don’t need to stall for long.

How Long Does Nicotine Stay in Your Urine?

Nicotine can be detected in the urine for several days after it has been ingested. This is not the most common way to do a drug test for nicotine—that would be blood (discussed below)—but with an average length of 3-4 days, it can be effective and relatively cheap.

How Long Does Nicotine Stay in Your Blood?

The length of time that nicotine stays in your blood will depend on a number of factors, including the amount smoked, your health, your age and how much you typically smoke. However, the average time that nicotine stays in the blood is 1 to 3 days.

This is a good test because it’s quick and easier, and because nicotine reaches the blood a mater of seconds after it is smoked, before staying there for a good length of time.

How Long Does Nicotine Stay in Your Hair?

It’s actually very rare for any tests for nicotine to be done on the hair. It is the most reliable, but it is also the most expensive and the slowest. However, it may be performed if other tests fail or a long detection period is required, because nicotine can be detected in the hair for many months after it was last ingested.

Nicotine Withdrawal Timeline

Nicotine Withdrawal Timeline
To give you an idea of how long you can expect nicotine withdrawal to last, here is a quick nicotine withdrawal timeline. Just bear in mind that this will be different for each person, with times changing depending on how long you have been using, how old you are, what sort of condition you are in, and a number of other factors.

  1. 4 to 6 hours: The first cravings appear.
  2. 10 to 12 hours: You are restless and may struggle to sleep.
  3. 24 hours: You feel rough and irritable.
  4. 2 days: You struggle with headaches
  5. 3 days: You feel anxious and stressed.
  6. 3 to 4 days: The worst is over, but the cravings remain.

How Long Does Nicotine Withdrawal Last?

As mentioned above, nicotine withdrawal usually last for a few days, with the worst of it being over before the fourth day. However, the cravings can feel intense and the irritability can remain for up to a week.

Help With Nicotine Withdrawal

If you are struggling to kick the habit, then there’s nothing to be ashamed of. There is a general consensus that nicotine withdrawal is short, simple and very easy. For people who have gone through other withdrawal, including heroin withdrawal, that may be the case. But that’s not the case for the majority.

Many will struggle with nicotine withdrawal and they will need help. Luckily, that is available. There are clinics in most countries that have been setup to deal with nicotine withdrawal and the end the cycle of addiction. They can advise, they can guide, and they can even prescribe medications that can help you through,

Just be careful to avoid swapping one addiction for another. You don’t want to begin with nicotine addiction and then end up with an addiction to a prescription medication. It’s not a fair exchange.