How long does it take for nicotine to leave your system?

When it comes to quitting smoking, people often ask how long it takes for nicotine to leave the system. The answer might surprise you - it will actually all be gone within just one to three days, but it is important to note this differs from one person to the next.

Even cotinine, the side-product created by nicotine, is usually completely gone within 10 days. And neither of them will appear in your urine or saliva after four days if you need to take a drug test that includes nicotine.

So why are you still craving cigarettes after four days, then? That’s likely due to a nicotine dependency and withdrawal, which doesn’t require you to have any of it in your system to occur. 

Why nicotine dependency is so hard to shake

Nicotine creates a dependency in your brain that continues even when the substance is completely absent in your body. So when you’re wondering how long it takes nicotine to leave your body, your reliance on it is more likely to trigger symptoms when you are freeof it.

How long it takes for nicotine to leave your system

That’s because your brain becomes more demanding of it. Smoking causes the release of chemicals in the brain that are called neurotransmitters, of which help regulate your mood and behaviour. One of these is dopamine – the chemical your body releases in the reward centre to make you feel happy and improve your mood.

So when you are trying to quit, receptors in your brain sit there eagerly waiting for their next dose of nicotine so they can release more dopamine. Suddenly, everyone is happy. The longer these receptors have to wait for more nicotine, however, the more anxious they get and this leads to a range of symptom, including:

  • Strong cravings
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Depressed moods
  • Irritability 
  • Frustration and anger
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia and more.

Nicotine dependency also depends on a range of factors that can increase the impact and severity of withdrawal symptoms. The younger you are when you begin smoking, the more likely it is you will become reliant on the substance, which is why cigarette sales have largely been banned to minors around the world.

illustration showing nicotine compound

If your parents were smokers, then there are genetic elements that mean you are more likely to continue smoking if you start the habit. This is exacerbated by the fact that children who are around cigarette-smoking parents are more likely to try the habit.

People with mental health issues - like depression - are also more likely to be smokers and more likely to find it harder to quit. Additionally, substance abuse with drugs and alcohol usually goes hand-in-hand with smoking cigarettes.

How long does it take to beat nicotine dependency and how do I do it?

The actual length of time it takes to kick the habit depends on a number of variables, like how long you have been smoking, how many cigarettes you smoke a day and your age. But on average, it takes around three months to successfully free yourself of nicotine dependency.

You don't have to go cold turkey in the modern-day, although that is the preferred method of some people. But there are support measures available that can help you stage the nicotine withdrawals and increase the chances of you successfully quitting. Here are some methods that you can try to ease the withdrawal symptoms and kick the habit for good:


illustration showing vape liquid

Many smokers are turning to these devices which turn liquids into vapour that you can then breathe in. This is expelled, just like cigarette smoke is. Depending on the country you live in, there are nicotine and non-nicotine liquids available in a range of different flavours.

Prescription medicines

Illustration showing prescription medication for nicotine withdrawals

If you have extreme difficulties quitting smoking, you can develop a quit plan in tandem with your GP. There are different prescription medications available including bupropion (Zyban) and varenicline (Chantix). These each have their own side effects and must be used under the supervision of your GP, though.

Lozenges and gums

Illustration showing nicotine lozenge

These are available from most chemists and supermarkets and are the same as regular mints except they release a small dose of nicotine as well to help you manage the cravings. You can step down the amount of these lozenges or pieces of gum you take each day and they are also available in different strengths.

Nicotine patches

Illustration showing nicotine patch

One of the oldest and most effective ways to quit smoking, these adhesive patches release nicotine through the skin around the clock. You can gradually step down the amount of nicotine you are absorbing each day before weaning yourself off the patches.

Nicotine pouches

illustration showing where to use nicotine pouch

These are a relatively new product but they are taking the UK by storm. Stocked by V&YOU, nicotine pouches have absolutely no tobacco and just slot underneath the tongue to deliver a fresh burst of flavour with a nicotine hit to help you manage your cravings. These also assist with the hand to mouth action of smoking and you can be assured by the V & YOU promise that all of our ingredients, including nicotine, are reputably sourced and designed to be safe.

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