As most people realize, nicotine is highly addictive. In fact, it is the most common addiction in America with approximately 50 million people in the U.S. struggling with an addiction to some sort of tobacco product. 

Since nicotine creates a pleasure sensation in the brain, it can make it extremely difficult to stop smoking once the first cigarette is lit (or other nicotine containing tobacco product is used). Furthermore, because nicotine alters the biochemistry of the brain, even the earnest attempts to quit can be met with extreme resistance and intense withdrawal symptoms. These uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms are often powerful enough to keep the user in a vicious cycle of using nicotine to avoid withdrawal, even when the user is aware of the health risks associated with using nicotine. 

Fortunately, however, there is hope for someone struggling with an addiction to nicotine. By learning what withdrawal symptoms can be experienced with detoxing off nicotine along with the timeline associated with detoxification and how to safely withdrawal from nicotine, one can most appropriately prepare for withdrawal and walk on the path to recovery long-term.

Why You Need to Detox: Side Effects of Nicotine Abuse 

Nicotine is so powerfully addictive that some people become addicted to nicotine even after their first use. This can lead to a user feeling dependent and tolerant to nicotine, needing more and more of it in order to feel “functional”. This could largely be a result of the addiction to the large amount of dopamine that gets released when nicotine is consumed. Dopamine is associated with the pleasure and motivation centers in the brain.

Furthermore, because nicotine impacts areas of the brain associated with breathing, heart rate, appetite, and memory, people who abuse nicotine for an extended period of time can have issues with brain chemical imbalances, which also affect numerous bodily functions. As such, someone addicted to nicotine may find that the detox process is too overwhelming and may continue to stay in the bondage of addiction to the point of causing more serious, life-threatening health conditions. Some common side effects of nicotine on the body and mind include:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased intestine activity
  • Increased saliva
  • Heightened mood
  • Heartburn 
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Mouth/tooth/throat pain 
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Common side effects of extended nicotine use include

  • Hypertension 
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Neurobehavioral defects
  • Infertility
  • Respiratory failure
  • An increased risk of clotting, which can result in life-threatening blood clots
  • Atherosclerosis (plaque formed on the artery wall)

Furthermore, nicotine use during pregnancy increases the risk of stillbirths and preterm pregnancies. 

Withdrawal Symptoms from a Nicotine Detox

As previously mentioned, detoxing off nicotine can be uncomfortable and, as such, may keep users in a vicious cycle of addiction in order to ward off withdrawal symptoms. It is important to note that when deciding to detox off nicotine that you closely monitor your withdrawal symptoms and alert a medical professional if any symptoms are alarming to you. Some common withdrawal symptoms that one could experience when detoxing off nicotine include: 

  • Headaches
  • Tremors
  • Restlessness
  • Sweating
  • Insomnia or difficult sleeping
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Digestive problems
  • Intense cravings for nicotine
  • Abdominal pain/cramps
  • Increased appetite
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Low mood/depression

Nicotine Detox Timeline

Nicotine gets absorbed directly into the bloodstream whenever one smokes. Then, as nicotine enters the bloodstream, enzymes in the liver break down nicotine so that it becomes cotinine. The amount of cotinine in the bloodstream is directly proportional to the amount of nicotine that was ingested. As such, it only takes around 72 hours after the last time someone smokes for the nicotine to be out of the body, however, it can take at least 3 months before the brain chemistry returns to normal. Additionally, cotinine may be detectable in the body for up to four days if smoking is infrequent and up to 3 weeks if smoking was common and frequent. 

Because everyone has unique genetics and addiction patterns, each unique person may experience nicotine withdrawal a little differently. However, it is most likely that withdrawal symptoms will be experienced between 4 and 24 hours after a person smokes their last cigarette. Around two hours after the last cigarette, the body will have removed about half of the nicotine. Then the levels of nicotine will increasingly decrease over the course of the next few days until nicotine no longer affects the body. 

While it is most typical for people to start feeling better after a week of detoxing off nicotine, it may take some people 3 months or more to start feeling better, especially if nicotine was highly abused for a long duration of time. As such, most doctors will suggest that one weans off nicotine slowly with nicotine replacement therapy in order to increase chances of long-term sobriety from nicotine use. 

Some employers may opt that prospective employees be screened for nicotine use before choosing to hire someone or not. Testing for nicotine use can be measured through multiple methods, like through urine, saliva, hair, or blood tests. Nicotine and cotinine can be detoxed out of the saliva within four days. Hair follicle testing, on the other hand, can detect nicotine for three months to an entire year after the last dose of nicotine was ingested. 

How to Safely Detox from Nicotine

In order to guarantee long-term success sobriety from nicotine addiction, it is important to surround yourself with people who can support you through your recovery. One of the best ways to do this is through a medical-guided detox or through inpatient drug rehab, as they both can safely and effectively detox nicotine out of one’s system. They also can teach healthier coping skills so that one does not return to drug use in the future. 

In order to kick your nicotine addiction to the curb, reach out to one of the premier detox/inpatient drug rehab facilities today. Your body will thank you for taking proactive measures to ensure its health and well-being for the future.