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The duration of craving for nicotine will vary from person to person, depending on many factors. In general, the physical cravings peak in the first few days and eventually disappear within a month. In addition to the physical dependence on nicotine, however, the habitual or psychological issues involved in quitting are often more troublesome. Even after months of not smoking, people find the cravings difficult to control at distinct times when they commonly smoked in the past. In particular, following meals, stressful situations, and certain social interactions are times that the desire for nicotine may be more problematic. Just as a smell can trigger a memory of a specific event, the sight, smell, or even the thought of a cigarette can spark those cravings that linger longer than the chemical dependence.
Your nicotine cravings will taper down once you quit, and eventually your body will get used to not having nicotine. But it won't happen overnight. If you smoke 20 cigarettes a day, your brain is getting 200 hits of nicotine. So when you stop, the brain still craves it.
You'll start to feel the effects of nicotine withdrawal a couple hours after your last cigarette. The worst of it lasts a few days. By week three, the physical symptoms of nicotine lessen and the intervals between cravings get longer. Many months down the road you may still want to have a cigarette, but it won't be because of nicotine withdrawal. That part will be over.
You won't always have intense cravings for nicotine after you quit smoking. The severity of your withdrawal symptoms depends on how long and often you smoked. Nicotine addiction is said to be as powerful as addictions to alcohol, cocaine and heroin. When you first quit, the craving for nicotine will feel strong for about three months. The longer you stay away from cigarettes, the fewer cravings you'll experience.
Avoid the triggers that make you want to smoke, such as drinking alcohol, while you are adjusting to life as a nonsmoker. Also, talk to your doctor about using medication and, possibly, nicotine replacement therapy in the first several months after you quit to help reduce your cravings.
Nicotine cravings are most intense right after quitting and diminish over weeks. How long the cravings last depend on how much and how often you smoke. Although they lessen, cravings still may occur for about 90 days after quitting. At six months they are completely gone, and you should be free from cigarettes.
This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.