Nicotine is an addictive substance in tobacco and some e-cigarettes and vapes. Getting support, using nicotine replacement products, and managing withdrawal can help with quitting.

Quitting nicotine can be difficult and may cause withdrawal symptoms and cravings. However, having a plan in place for managing this can help someone stick to their goal.

This article will discuss how to quit nicotine, including medications that might help and where to get support.

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Before trying to quit nicotine, it can help to have a plan. An older 2016 study on smoking cessation found a positive link between participants who made an action plan for quitting and those who were able to stop smoking for up to 5 months.

The plan could include:

  • Finding a reason: Finding a specific, motivating reason to quit nicotine may strengthen a person’s conviction. Possible reasons include preventing health conditions, protecting family members from secondhand smoke, or having more money to spend on other things.
  • Identifying triggers: Triggers are things that make someone want to use nicotine. They may include feeling stressed, drinking alcohol, or being around others who are smoking. A person can try to identify triggers in advance and devise ways to avoid or cope with them if they arise.
  • Choosing an approach: Some people decide to wean themselves off nicotine gradually, while others quit “cold turkey,” which means stopping all at once. There are also specific tools and products that aim to help individuals quit. People can ask a doctor if they are unsure which approaches to use.
  • Setting a quit day: Setting a day to stop having nicotine completely is an important part of quitting. The American Cancer Society suggests picking a day within the next month. This leaves enough time to prepare but not so much that someone loses commitment.
  • Preparing support: A person can tell friends, family, and coworkers about trying to quit and ask for their support. Having support from friends or family, with another form of support, in place from the beginning may make it easier and help someone stay accountable.
  • Disposing of nicotine products: People can make their homes a nicotine-free environment. If others in the household smoke, someone can ask them to do it outside. If any areas smell particularly of tobacco, it may help to launder or deodorize them.

In addition to friends and family, there are dedicated services, support groups, and healthcare professionals who could help with smoking cessation.

People may also wish to add other therapies to their plans. If stress is a trigger for wanting to smoke or vape, then reducing stress through mental health treatment or complementary therapies may reduce this behavior.

According to the National Center for Complimentary and Integrative Health, there is some evidence that certain methods, such as mindfulness meditation, yoga, and relaxation techniques, can help with quitting nicotine. However, no evidence supports the use of other alternative practices, such as hypnotherapy.

For free support and educational materials for quitting smoking anywhere in the United States, a person can call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).

Shortly after quitting nicotine or smoking, withdrawal symptoms can occur. They occur due to the body adjusting to no longer having nicotine.

According to the National Cancer Institute, these symptoms are usually worse in the first week after quitting but go away over time.

The symptoms can include:

  • headaches
  • irritability
  • anxiety
  • insomnia
  • increased appetite
  • depression

A person can have strategies in place to deal with these symptoms. These could include:

  • taking over-the-counter pain medications for headaches
  • making plans with friends
  • trying relaxing activities, such as walks, meditation, or massage
  • engaging in enjoyable exercise
  • seeking support for mental health

Another symptom of nicotine withdrawal is cravings. Avoiding triggers for nicotine use is an important part of managing them. People may need to change how they spend breaks at work or how they socialize.

However, individuals can also have associations between nicotine use and certain times of the day, certain foods or drinks, and activities. For example, some smoke while drinking coffee, while others may smoke after a meal or first thing in the morning.

It may help to:

  • plan an activity to do as soon as a person wakes up
  • keep nicotine substitutions around the home, in the car, or in handbags
  • learn to identify stress and practice deep breathing to calm down
  • practice mindful eating, focusing on the taste of the food
  • talk with a friend or wash the dishes immediately after meals
  • keep the mouth busy by chewing gum, carrots, celery, fruit, or other snacks
  • keep the hands busy by writing, doodling, playing with a toy, or squeezing a stress ball

For those trying to quit smoking or other tobacco products, nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) can make this process easier. It involves using nicotine gum, patches, or lozenges to reduce a person’s nicotine intake gradually.

According to an older review, using NRT increases the rate of quitting smoking by 50–70%. This review also claims that nicotine replacement products have minimal adverse effects.

Nicotine replacement products can also reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

There are two medications available with a prescription in the United States that may help with quitting nicotine. Bupropion, one of these medications, decreases cravings, withdrawal symptoms, and weight gain. Alternatively, there is varenicline, which mimics the effects of nicotine, reducing cravings, withdrawal symptoms, and the enjoyment a person gets from using nicotine products.

A person interested in using medication to help them quit smoking or nicotine can discuss these options with a doctor.

Quitting nicotine can be challenging. In the process, people can experience strong cravings and withdrawal symptoms. However, quitting tobacco products has many health, financial, and personal benefits.

Having a plan for quitting and support in place can make quitting nicotine easier. It may increase the likelihood that a person will successfully stop using tobacco or nicotine products. Medication and complementary health approaches may also help.