People who stop smoking may experience nicotine withdrawal symptoms, such as headaches, anxiety, drowsiness, depression and nicotine cravings, according to MedlinePlus. Other symptoms include difficulty sleeping or concentrating, nightmares, weight gain and restlessness. Symptoms may start within two to three hours of cessation and reach their peak intensity in two to three days. Withdrawal is most likely to affect people who have a longer history of smoking or who smoke frequently.
Nicotine is present in both smoke-based and smokeless products, and the absorption rate is roughly the same, notes MedlinePlus. Doctors often recommend nicotine replacement products, such as gum or patches, that provide individuals with reduced doses of nicotine to help them relieve withdrawal symptoms while gradually stopping tobacco use.
Approximately 50 percent of smokers develop at least four withdrawal symptoms, but the intensity and duration often varies from person to person, reports the National Cancer Institute. In persistent smokers, the body builds up a need for a specific nicotine level. When the smoker changes the amount of nicotine he inhales or the type of tobacco, withdrawal symptoms occur because the body craves its normal nicotine level.
In the first few days or weeks of withdrawal, individuals are highly susceptible to environmental triggers that heighten the intensity of cravings, states the National Cancer Institute. For example, being surrounded by other smokers, coping with stress or consuming alcoholic beverages can increase cravings.