Causes of Nicotine Withdrawal Dizziness

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Some people report feeling dizzy or lightheaded when they quit smoking. There are a few things that can contribute to these symptoms. You should discuss any ongoing dizziness with your doctor as it could be a sign of an underlying condition rather than being related to your smoking cessation. Explore some of the possible causes of lightheadedness and what you can do.

Quit Aids That Can Cause Dizziness

Some quit aids may cause dizziness for users. These include:

The nicotine patch, a form of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) that looks like a tan or clear bandage. The patch is the only NRT that lists dizziness as a common side effect. However, all NRTs contain nicotine, and a nicotine overdose can cause dizziness.

If you're using nicotine replacement therapy to help you stop smoking, it is important that you follow the manufacturer's directions for use carefully.

Be sure to match the dosage level initially to how much you were smoking. You don't want to take in more nicotine than you were used to getting as a smoker. Also, be sure to wean off of NRTs in the time suggested as there is a risk of dependence due to the nicotine.

Zyban, a non-nicotine quit aid. Zyban was originally marketed and prescribed under the name of Wellbutrin as an anti-depressant and then it was discovered that smokers using it lost interest in smoking. Zyban has a side effect of dizziness for some people.

Chantix, is a non-nicotine quit aid specifically developed for smoking cessation. It can also cause dizzy feelings for those using it.

If you experience prolonged or severe dizziness while using any of the above quit aids, consult your doctor.

Nicotine Effects as a Stimulant

Nicotine is a stimulant, meaning it speeds up some of the body's functions. When you smoke, nicotine is absorbed into the bloodstream through the lining of the lungs and reaches the brain within seven to 10 seconds. Once there, it causes a chemical reaction that releases adrenaline, the "fight or flight" hormone. Adrenaline speeds the heart up, constricts blood vessels, and raises blood pressure. Additionally, carbon monoxide from cigarette smoke reduces the amount of oxygen in the blood. Both factors work to diminish blood flow (and oxygen) to the brain.

When you stop smoking, nicotine is no longer triggering adrenaline to constrict blood flow. In the absence of inhaled carbon monoxide, there is more oxygen in the blood. Some think could cause dizziness for the newly quit ex-smoker. However, there have been no conclusive studies that show this to be the case.

How Nicotine Influences Blood Sugar

In addition to the stimulant effects, nicotine also slows the release of insulin from the pancreas. Insulin is a hormone that removes excess sugar from the blood. It is instrumental in helping the body keep blood sugar in balance. This imbalance leaves smokers slightly hyperglycemic, with more sugar in their blood than they should have.

Hunger is a symptom of nicotine withdrawal and of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Moderate hypoglycemia can produce feelings of dizziness. Research has not shown a direct correlation between nicotine and low blood sugar when quitting tobacco.

Coping Tips

  • Eat regular meals to minimize the risk of low blood sugar
  • Eat a piece of fruit or drink a small glass of fruit juice to quickly raise blood sugar if you feel shaky or light-headed
  • Avoid eating processed sugar, which can trigger smoking urges and contribute to unwanted weight gain

Anxiety is a Common Side Effect of Quitting Tobacco

Smoking cessation is stressful for most new ex-smokers. It's a big change to your habits. You may be at a loss with how to deal with emotions, good or bad, without the crutch of your smokes. This can cause an uncomfortable level of anxiety, and that in turn can trigger physical responses like dizziness.

If you experience cessation-related anxiety when you stop smoking, try using deep breathing or meditation to calm your mind and body. These anxious feelings will fade away as you become more comfortable as a non-smoker.

Don't Become Dehydrated

It is also worth noting that a lot of people tend to not drink enough water, and suffer from dehydration occasionally. Dehydration can cause serious dizziness, so make sure you're getting enough fluids on a daily basis. Drinking a tall glass of water is also a great craving-buster and good hydration helps you feel better overall.

Important Safety Precautions

When you're feeling lightheaded, use care when getting up from a lying or sitting position. Rather than jumping up, sit and stand up slowly to let your body adjust to the change of blood pressure that happens naturally when you change positions.

A Word From Verywell

Nicotine withdrawal, while intense, is a temporary phase of smoking cessation. It is important to remember that and to understand that it can involve a multitude of physical symptoms, not to mention some that affect your mental state as well.​ Be patient and remember that better days are ahead once you clear the toxins out and your body goes back to functioning as it is meant to.

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