Withdrawal symptoms

Find out how to deal with withdrawal symptoms after stopping smoking. We have information on ways to cope and what to do if you start smoking again.

Common withdrawal symptoms

After quitting smoking, you may still have the urge to smoke. You may have withdrawal symptoms such as feeling restless, irritable, frustrated, or tired. Some people find it difficult to sleep or concentrate.

It’s important to remember that these symptoms will pass. There are ways to manage your symptoms too.

If you decide to use nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) to stop smoking, your GP or stop smoking advisor should help you to get the right balance of nicotine.


When you stop smoking, you are likely to crave nicotine. There are two types of cravings:

  • A steady, background need for a cigarette – this normally gets better several weeks after quitting.
  • A sudden need for a cigarette – this is normally triggered by something, for example, at a time of day when you’d usually have a cigarette, or if you’re feeling stressed. This typically lasts 10 or 15 minutes. 

These urges will improve over time. It’s a good idea to try and be prepared for these cravings, by having a plan in place to help you deal with them.

How can I cope with withdrawal symptoms?

Try to distract yourself from withdrawal symptoms. You could:

  • talk to someone on the phone or in person for support
  • do some exercise, like going for a walk - exercise may help reduce nicotine cravings and relieve withdrawal symptoms 
  • drink a glass of water 
  • keep your hands busy by playing on your phone or downloading the Smokefree app
  • move to another room or go outside for some fresh air.

If you’re struggling to cope, remind yourself why you’re stopping. Remember, there is lots of support available. 

What if I start smoking again?

If you start smoking again, don’t worry. You haven’t failed. It’s a small setback and it’s always worth continuing with trying to quit. The best time to try to quit again is straight away.

If you feel the need to smoke, you could:

  • throw away the rest of the pack
  • go for a walk, drink some water, and take a deep breath
  • ask yourself if you really want to be a smoker again
  • remember why you wanted to stop
  • try a different way of quitting 
  • remind yourself you are a non-smoker.

Remember, the next time could be the last time you ever have to try quitting. Talk to your doctor or local stop smoking service to get more help to cope with cravings.

For support from other people living with a lung condition, you may find it helpful to join one of our support groups, or join our Health Unlocked web community.

You can do it!

Get support

Call our Helpline for support with your condition. Get advice on your medicines, symptoms or travelling with a lung condition, or just call us to say hello.

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