Alcohol, Nicotine, & Other Drug Use Department

Please remember, this column is designed to help the consumer seeking behavioral-health information, and not intended to be any form of psychotherapy or a replacement for professional, individualized services. Opinions expressed in the column are those of the columnist and do not represent the position of other staff.


How long does nicotine stay in the system? Is there any risk associated with quitting smoking "cold turkey"?


Nicotine is a short-acting drug that is eliminated from the body relatively quickly (i.e., within a day or so). However, the effects of acute nicotine withdrawal can be felt for as much as two weeks or more. In addition, the byproducts of nicotine can be detected in the blood for up to a month after you stop smoking. This is only of concern if you are in a situation where someone else might want to test you for the presence of nicotine or nicotine byproducts in your system.

Most people can quit "cold turkey" without any ill effects other than feeling irritable, restless, and craving cigarettes. However, if you have any medical condition for which you are (or should be) receiving treatment, it's a good idea to check with your doctor first. He or she can also support your efforts to quit and discuss nicotine replacement options if you choose to slowly wean yourself off nicotine.

If you're going to quit, check out the many resources we have here at the zine. I'm sure you'll find at least some of them helpful.


Reid K. Hester, Ph.D.
Director, Research Division
Behavior Therapy Associates
3810 Osuna Rd NE Suite 1
Albuquerque, NM 87109
505.345.6100 ph
505.342.2454 fax
Behavioral Self-control Program for Windows


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