Nicotine withdrawal versus other drug withdrawal syndromes: similarities and dissimilarities

Addiction. 1994 Nov;89(11):1461-70. doi: 10.1111/j.1360-0443.1994.tb03744.x.


Many of the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal are similar to those of other drug withdrawal syndromes: anxiety, awakening during sleep, depression, difficulty concentrating, impatience, irritability/anger and restlessness. Slowing of the heart rate and weight gain are distinguishing features of tobacco withdrawal. Although nicotine withdrawal may not produce medical consequences, it lasts for several weeks and can be severe in some smokers. Like most other drug withdrawals, nicotine withdrawal is time-limited, occurs in non-humans, is influenced by instructions/expectancy and abates with replacement therapy and gradual reduction. Unlike some other drug withdrawal syndromes, protracted, neonatal or precipitated withdrawal does not occur. Whether nicotine withdrawal is associated with tolerance, acute physical dependence, greater duration and intensity of use, rapid reinstatement, symptom stages, cross-dependence with other nicotine ligands, reduction by non-pharmacological interventions and genetic influences is unclear. Whether nicotine withdrawal plays a major role in relapse to smoking has not been established but this is also true for other drug withdrawal syndromes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arousal / drug effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome / etiology
  • Neurologic Examination / drug effects
  • Nicotine / adverse effects*
  • Pregnancy
  • Recurrence
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking Cessation* / psychology
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / etiology*
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / psychology


  • Nicotine