Quitting Smoking is a Real Headache.

Ex smoker suffering a headacheIt is not unusual for people to experience headaches when they first quit smoking. It is possible that the headaches experienced during nicotine withdrawal are the result of fluctuating serotonin levels.

When you quit smoking your brain and nervous system suffer physical stresses due to changes in the production of various chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin. Both are modified by smoking and addiction to nicotine.

When you quit smoking, serotonin levels will drop and it has been found that reduced serotonin levels can lead to migraines.

The neurotransmitter serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine [5-HT]) plays a role in the development of migraine attacks. This conclusion is supported by evidence indicating that migraine patients tend to have low levels of serotonin in their brains (Panconesi 2008). Additional support for this theory is found in data indicating that tricyclic antidepressants, which increase serotonin signaling, reduce the frequency of migraine attacks (Cutrer 2012). - www.lef.org/

Of course, additional factors may also play a role in causing headaches during a quit smoking campaign.

Below are a few example causes;

  • Excessive Caffeine and Caffeine withdrawal.
  • Fatigue, another common nicotine withdrawal symptom.
  • Changes in climate and weather.
  • Menstruation.
  • Lack of sleep.
  • Dehydration.


Tips for Managing the Headaches That Come With Quitting Smoking.


  • If the headaches are extreme or do not go away, seek medical advice.
  • Use painkillers such as Aspirin and Paracetamol as directed.
  • Get plenty of sleep and rest.
  • Consider switching coffee for teas that contain significantly less caffeine. Herbal teas that are caffeine free would be even better.
  • Ensure you are drinking enough water.
  • Eat good food with plenty of nutrients.



  1. It could be the extra oxygen too as the carbon monoxide leaves. I have a headache now and am dizzy sometimes. I was concerned about this until I read your article. Now I see it as a natural result of stopping smoking yesterday.

    I didn’t quit because of health reasons. I quit because I want to be free of the shackles of dependency on something that was never satisfying me but was only partially removing the chronic inter-cigarette withdrawal symptoms.

    Non-smokers feel free of these symptoms 24/7 and I want to be just like that.


    • “shackles of dependency ”

      So true :)

      Headaches are definitely part of the healing process, so yeah, I wouldn’t be overly concerned. Though, to play it safe, I’d always advocate letting your doctor know, especially if they continue or cause you distress etc.

      Thanks for the input btw :)

  2. I quit smoking with chantix, worked great for me. 3 weeks after I quit I got 24 hour a day headaches that have been going on for 4 months now, have had catscans and many Dr. visits with no relieve, I am ready to start smoking again life was alot more fun. I have been told Rebound Headache was the problem so I stopped all pain killers 3 weeks ago, they have gotten slightly better, do not know what to do…

  3. Hi Gary, well done on making 4 months!

    Rebound headache could well be the cause. Headache is also reportedly a side effect of champix/chantix.

    I would also consider talking to your doctor about cognitive behavioral therapy. Addiction seriously messes up the brain’s “wiring” and can cause all sorts of physical and psychological problems. I used to get headaches from just thinking about my quit…over thinking it!

    Quitting smoking is certainly not fun and in the middle of the healing process, it is easy to understand why life before quitting seemed so much better.

    However, 4 months is still a young quit, I would give it more time. There will be ups and downs for a few months yet, with the up days becoming more frequent and the down days less severe.

    I also recommend joining an online support group if you haven’t already. If you have facebook, I’d consider starting here…

    Hope it begins getting better for you soon! :)

    • Hi Cameron – i 100% agree with you it takes around seven months to quit an addiction to nicotine – most articles on the internet say it takes less often four weeks – i suspect these people who write this misleading information in their articles never smoked cigarettes in their life in particular if they are doctors – in my past experience i quit using an almost entirely cold turkey approach that lasted almost exactly seven months – this was difficult to get through despite taking aspirins daily – anyone who knows anything knows daily aspirins is generally not good – for stupid reasons i started smoking again almost as if it was going to be fun trying to learn the best approach for quitting smoking as if this some sort of scientific experiment on myself – in retrospect going through nicotine withdrawal again is no picnic or day at the beach – in other words i believe people who actually know how long it takes to quit smoking are the ones who actually used to smoke cigarettes – i just passed the seven month marker again only this time i am still trying to get of nicotine addiction probably due to the fact i was chewing nicotine gum up until six months – now i am not ingesting or inhaling nicotine at all for one month still trying to get over physical symptoms of cigarette withdrawal which is usually felt in the temples region during all hours when conscious with occasional headaches – only one person wrote symptoms may take up to one year to diminish – this person was using champix – i was also using champix the last time i was quitting smoking – i recommend using combinations to try to quit during the initial stages of quitting smoking – champix alone is not adequate hence the headaches – the urge for nicotine is replaced with headaches – it says on the box people who are bipolar should not take champix – this warning on the box means anyone is going to be less in control of their negative emotions in the face of adversity when quitting smoking – if you chew on nicotine gum the headache disappears for 24 – 72 hrs however returns depending on how long you can go without chewing the gum – i figure if you chew the nicotine gum you can go about an extra twenty percent longer without requiring another piece – this translates roughly into an eighty percent longer duration of total time length for nicotine withdrawal – to tell the truth right now i am still experiencing how long it takes to quit smoking using nothing except nicotine gum after the first two weeks i was also using champix since the first two – three weeks are the worst – up to three month you can expect severe fatigue – if you can you will want to sleep 18 hrs / day in the initial stages for months – aspirin seems to help with fatigue – perhaps nicotine is similar to niacin when it is metabolized – yes nicotine stays in the bloodstraem for up to three days then the metabolized form stays in your system for who knows how long – people start to question why they still feel they need a cigarette after so long when so many people on the internet say it only takes three – four weeks to quit – if you have any doubt if cigarettes are the cause of your symptoms chew on a gum or have one cigarette – in this case if you have been refraining from smoking a long time just one or two puffs of one cigarette is all it takes to realize you feel better – if you are feeling lightheaded after smoking than you smoked too much – i never experience light headiness when chewing a piece of nicotine gum in its entirety probably due to it takes up to thirty minutes to chew all the nicotine out of the gum if you follow the instruction chewing once or twice / minute – i usually just chew until it tastes bad then stop chewing – this goes on for ten minutes – sometimes mild headache occurs as a result of this overchewing nicotine gum – i estimate i may have another six or seven months to go until i am completely quit since i have been chewing the gum until recent times – i need one right now i am just trying to refrain for an ongoing entire month – this is what is called willpower for one month – to pacify i smoke decaffeinated green tea in rolling papers – i also bought supposed nicotine free tobacco from Israel on eBay – i am not sure how nicotine free this stuff is in comparison to the last time i quit while smoking this special tobacco – in the past i bought tobacco with trace nicotine in it however this company went out of business probably due to their choice of name they were using “Quest” when you search for “Quest cigarettes you always find articles like “My quest for quitting cigarettes” – there are also nicotine free cocoa leaves cigarettes although i have never tried these – i tried following instructions on youtube for how to make your own nicotine free tobacco by immersing it in water for 24hrs then proceeding to dry it in an oven on low to avoid mold developing which it does if you do not follow this step – something else is if you try this method what happens is the tobacco no longer burns properly – little burning embers falls off the cigarette potentially causing burns in your furniture or clothing – if you do this method this also indicates to others you are not smoking normal cigarettes at parties then they question what it is you are smoking – if you do all these things you get tired of the annoyances of quitting smoking – if you are outside the oxygen seems to help with alleviating withdrawal symptoms – i also take iron supplements when suffering from extreme fatigue – i am not sure of the direct effects smoking has on iron levels although i am sure there are correlations from headlines on the internet – vitamin C also helps with depression associated with withdrawal – eat bananas or eat soya products because these increase dopamine levels – avoid soya beverages since they contain carageenan causing internal polyps – why does the government allow these things for sale to the public ? Good luck in your quest to quit nicotine addiction – in my case this also causes severe facial redness that does diminish 75 – 80 % after seven months cold turkey – smoking itself causes Rosacea symptoms then gets 50 % worse when quitting then is first noticeable in reduction of symptoms when you truly feel for the first time you no longer need a cigarette after several months – the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal does not get less severe until one day after several months cold turkey you realize you feel normal again – until this point nicotine withdrawal just takes longer for symptoms to return depending on your past frequency of nicotine use – the only in between time when you sort of need a cigarette and sort of do not need a cigarette is in the last two or three days of nicotine withdrawal after several months hard quitting – until this point nicotine withdrawal returns full force just with less fatigue – i hope this is of help with the subject of nicotine addiction – i wish someone wrote this for myself to read in the past – i know this is not the best written however i think all my past details are in here – good luck again with quitting an addiction to nicotine.

  4. although I would question replacing tea for coffee – tea can contain as much caffeine as coffee. Switch for something else

  5. Hi I am on my 7th day today but I seem to feel dizzy since I stopped im just using the smoking loz at the moment apart from the dizzy spells and alittle tired im ok

    • I quit smoking two weeks ago and my headaches are slowly going away. I remember the first 7 days I felt like I had a fog in my brain and a headache that would come and go throughout the day. I was having serious issues with concentration. I also felt really tired and was going to sleep 2 hours earlier every day and I took long naps last Saturday and Sunday. Today it’s been exactly 2 weeks and I can feel that I am a lot more energized and the concentration is almost completely back to normal. Fatigue is pretty much gone also. I’ve heard that the withdrawals should completely go away within a month. My throat feels dry and itchy like I am having a little cold.

  6. I’ve been trying to quit smoking and the last time I smoked was 2 cigarettes 5 days ago. I was also coming down with a cold that exact night. I FEEL AWFUL. I have had such a headache the past couple days, I feel like my head is a balloon about to pop with too much air in it. I am sort of getting over my cold– which was terrible— but the headache isn’t going away. I’ve been taking Tylenol Severe Cold and Sinus but it doesn’t even seem to be helping and thats why I think maybe it’s cigarette related.

  7. I was a chronic smoker,smoked 2 packets a day,had lungs basal infection,i stopped that very day of my result.That was three months back and now I am okey with my chest but this headache doesn’t go away,24×7 for 2 months,doctors says its nicotine withdrawal symptoms but I get worried sometimes.I need help to cope with this headache.

  8. Ambe, I have to ask what sort of headaches. 3 months after I quit cold Turkey (which I must say after 17 years was quite easy) my headaches started. Almost 4 months later I am still having the headaches 24/7 the intensity varies and the pains move all over my head. They can be stabbing, pressure even like fire ball pain in eyes, ears, back teeth, forehead and cheeks. They only last seconds but combined with the constant hangover feeling it has worn me out. The Neurologist hasn’t heard of this before. I am at my wits end

    • Jacqui, I also have these exact same sensations. I just recently stopped smoking a week ago and after day 3 i have these pains in my head every day. I also have the constant hangover feeling and on top of taking care of two kids it wears me out and works up my anxiety like crazy. I do believe this is just your body getting used to “fresh air” if you will in your body and your brain. Every ones body reacts differently in some way to quitting. I also get a feeling of losing my breath even when sitting down that i feel like I’m going to stop breathing. I spoke with my grandmother who has smoked throughout a significant part of her life about that feeling and she said that she had never experienced that after she quit. So just remember everybody reacts differently in in some way shape or form. However if it remains constant and you are worried about it see your doctor. I know I will if my headaches don’t dissipate just to be safe. Wish everyone well!

  9. A little over a month of quitting cold turkey! Smoked for little over 15 yrs. 2 weeks ago I started getting a pretty constant headache only on left side. It goes from hurting like a 5-6 on scale of 10 being worst to a 1-2 with tingling only on left side of head also. Even get tingling on same side of face radiating out from left temple. I quit for my health to be around for my family. I’m concerned about headaches but don’t want to jump to conclusions and rack up some pretty serious medical bills for nothing. I have already contacted my doc and they said they would send me to neurologist, but from all my research and reading on this site and others these types of headaches are common. I’m no doc not even close. I also have family history of migranes which I get on regular basis, but never 1 side of head and never this long.

  10. Day 17 here, migraine type headaches started two days ago. It goes away when I run but creeps right back shortly after. I have tried Excedrin, plenty of water, and decongestants. Nothing makes it go away and I don’t know if I can do months of this. My pain is so bad my vision is blurring occasionally and I have already had to leave work early because I could barely function. Has anyone found any type of relief?

    • Hey Shawn after I posted I started asking more people about the headaches. I found some relief in caffeine. Nothing crazy like pills, the person I spoke to suggested trying a soda or coffee. I was reluctant to go back I quit drinking sodas 2 years ago, but surprisingly I got some relief from a small can of pepsi. I do get the blurred vision as well it gets kind of scary. I have noticed physical activity does help and it came back right after. Nicotine is some wicked stuff. I done more research on it, and it effects your neuro-receptors so when you quit everything has to re-wire. They believe chocolate effects the same pleasure part of brain so that can help also if you don’t replace smoking with chocolate. I’m trying to give my head stuff another week before I go see docs. The caffeine did ease it though. Just don’t give in. If I read half the stuff I did in past week I never would have started.

  11. I have had a problem with headaches lately as well. It has been 41 days since my last cigarette. The weird thing is my headaches just started a couple of days ago and were not a problem until this week. I don’t think it is a hydration issue because I drink several liters a day. Do you guys think it is smoking related?

    • Hi Kyle – i just posted a big story on here – it takes seven months to quit cold turkey – look for my reply to Cameron above your post >

  12. I quit smoking 3 months ago last Friday, the first 2 weeks I felt pretty decent…but ever since I feel disgusting….the worst part are these migraine type feelings I get almost everyday….I wake in the morning feeling pretty good, after about an hour or so I start feeling light headed, almost like when I turn my head too fast i feel dizzy, with some headache pain, and a weird feeling behind my eyes…like pressure or something….no pain killers work either…some times going for a walk seems to help for a short time…..I felt better when I smoked!!! when I quit years ago on the patch I felt awesome….this cold turkey quitting sucks….my gut and bowels have been suffering to occasionally….im trying so hard to not start again, but how much can one person take…I smoked for about 28 years, prob. around 2 packs a day…

    • Hey Bud,
      hang in there! You can now understand what cigs have done to you already. If you go back to smoking, the damage will be more and more and you’ll end up dying from some kind of disease sooner then you think. If you get through these withdraws and let your body to heal, you’ll have more years to live a happy life. I know a guy who was a chain smoker for as long as I knew him, we worked together. One day he quit smoking and looked pretty sick for about 6 or 7 months. After that I didn’t see him for about 2 years and when I finally saw him, he looked 10 years younger. I was shocked because it was hard to recognize him. He looked pretty sick when I saw him last time, lots of wrinkles on his face and always looked tired like he never slept. Go see your doctor, do your physical if you haven’t done it yet. Take good care of yourself and your body. Watch what you eat and put lots of nutrients into your body because that will help with the healing process. You’ve done a great job for 3 whole months!!! You’re almost there!

      • Thanks Lana…..
        well, its been 4 months now…:-)
        still feel like shit, but im sure it will get better, my ego wont let me smoke again!!!for once, an ego is a good thing…lol

  13. I Feel so bad dizzy and so much pressure on my head in the top of my head I quit smoking 3 months now I am trying my very best not to go back to smoking but I quit my job don’t want to see anyone cause I get annoyed by people when they talk which is so not like me I am such a nice guy lol…I really pray this headache goes away and its always in afternoons I get them very very unbearable

  14. Glad I found this thread. I’m on day 18, smoked 21 years, last several years American Spirit Organic, went cold turkey, and aside from looking eleven months pregnant, I’ve been doing okay. Roughly three days ago, though, I started waking up with headaches. I take an ibuprofen, and they go away eventually, but they are starting somewhere during the night, because I wake up with them, and they are interrupting my much-needed sleep.

    • I am on day 24. I have been smoking for 42 years. I can’t sleep and when I do I wake up in sweating so bad that my pillow is soaking wet. I constantly have headaches. I am not a caffeine drinker but I have been taking a pain reliever with caffeine in it. I don’t know if it is worth giving up smoking and feeling crappy. I stopped because I didn’t want to smell like a cigarette anymore. I didn’t have any health problems until I quit smoking.

      • Patty,
        cigarettes act as a “cover up”. The only way you can finally see how healthy you are is by quitting smoking. Right now you are feeling sick because that’s what cigarettes have done to your body over the years. You can get through the withdrawal process and let your body to heal itself. If you want to stay a life longer, don’t go back to cigarettes, as you can see how much damage they have already done to your body.

  15. thanks I don’t feel alone my neurologist could not find fault I hope the headaches stop I am closing on month 4 of stopping smoking I have given up before and never had headaches perhaps it is the slow burn feature in cigarettes now that caused this

  16. im on day 3 and feel so aggravated and headaches on my left temple…
    kinda emotional type of way I don’t know if this is normal and when it will get better, I can say that I have smelt the smell of smoke from cowokers and it make me wanna gag, just saying any advise people?

  17. Hello,

    Day 4 of quitting smoking and I have had an agonizing headache from day 1!!!

    Nothing makes it go away and it is the only thing making me feel terrible! It is by no means the cravings that are making this unbearable it is these headaches. I work on a computer all day and as soon as it hits around 3 o clock it is agony to look at the screen.

    I am totally committed to giving up as it is scaring me seeing the reliance I had on them now I have given up but any advice would be much appreciated :-)

  18. Emma parr says:

    Hi everyone today is my first day if stopping smoking after 15 years at 20 plus a day im using the 10mg patch but all day i have had a horrible head ache and got the shakes and also felt like i was gonna faint a few times, has any one else experianced this so soon xx

    • Emma Parr, I also have headaches along with the feeling like I’m going to lose my vision completely and pass out I don’t know about you but I do suffer from anxiety disorder so quitting smoking it definitely makes my anxiety worse but it is normal after quitting smoking. the feeling of fainting took quite possibly the small levels of anxiety due to not having a cigarette. I have two children so it makes it hard for me to deal with my anxiety with the constant feeling of fainting. the best thing to do is try to relax as much as possible and just remember that it will get better in due time. Stay positive! Wish everyone well!

      • I guess I also forgot to mention I am on day 8 of quitting smoking. I was fine the first couple of days until about day 3 is when I started getting light to moderate headaches and have progressed a little bit. I’ve quit smoking in the past due to my pregnancies but unfortunately went back to it after breastfeeding. I am 24 years old I started smoking when I was 14 (yes I know very young) but I want to better myself for my children and I don’t want that stinky smell around anymore just because I chose to have the bad habit my kids should not have to suffer through it with me therefore I’ve decided to stop. I’m trying to stay as positive as I can and I always think about the good things in my life which also helps me deal with my anxiety. Best of luck!

  19. I’m on day two of quitting. I’ve have mild headaches but I feel more dizzy and a bit nauseated. I started smoking 3 years ago after a divorce and usually smoked 1/2 a pack a day. I’m disgusted that I ever started smoking and I am determined to quit. It’s been encouraging reading all your stories and I give you all a lot of credit. Have a great smoke free, happy, healthy holiday.

  20. I am on day 6 of quitting smoking after 44 years of 1 pack a day. My lungs are pretty much a disaster area as walking up one flight of stairs takes a toll. I have a weird sensation in the top and front of my head that feels alternately like pressure and then tingling. All the comments about headaches are a concern however, I feel it is better to be prepared for what is coming than find out and think that returning to smoking will be my only relief. One warning I read regarding jaw and neck pains along with swelling of glands in the throat was a wake-up call regarding the affect smoking has on the thyroid gland. I had both the pains and the swelling for quite some time and denial prevented me from looking into just how much damage I was doing to myself. Knowing what is coming helps and so this discussion page is invaluable. Thank you and keep talking please.

  21. I am now in sixth week of quitting. I have started feeling headache for the last one week. The headache generally starts after having lunch and remain till sleep. But now I am determined that I shall never smoke. Can someone advise from his experience that how many days this headache will take?

  22. It has been 40 days since Ive quit (cold turkey) and Ive just developed headaches the past couple weeks. Mostly in the forefront area of the head. There are few days that I don’t get any headaches and feel great then there are days where I want to hide in a hole until the pain passes. The headaches will vary in degree with me with some being low level (such as 2-3 on scale of 10) to annoying level (6-7). I have done some research on the topic since its disconcerting to feel this way after giving up something so bad for you (to feel better). I talked to many ex-smokers and many (not all as everyone’s side effects will vary) have stated that headaches are normal during the quitting stage. Some have lasted several months while others have lasted on and off over a year. Few have told me the first year, they ran a lot which helped them (1-2 miles day). I cant run every day but I do exercise which during so, I wont have any headache at all. An extra cup of coffee a day helps me too

  23. Im glad that i found this thread. Its my 3rd day of quitting.Im experiencing nicotine withdrawal symptoms right now, but I find going to gym a useful remedy.Im a doctor but I was a light smoker, smoking about 1-5 a day. now it seems a bit hard, but Im sure i can survive:D. I want to swim as I used to, so I need my lungs.want to forget it, and design a new life style for myself.

  24. 8th day today smoked for 20 odd years , 40 a day . The first couple of days were ok but having trouble dealing with the severe headaches I’m getting today being the worst . I can handle the no sleeping and sweats but I’ve never really had headaches but these are pretty bad on the plus I can take a full breath and intend to start running tomorrow to rid this dirty habit good luck all .

  25. I smoked for 7 years on average 10 per day,quit 15 days ago..from very next day started having strange sensation in back of the head,sporadic headaches at back of the dead,forefront aswell,strange sensations on my left cheek,pressure behind eyes..dont know are these withdrawal symptoms..scared..will see a neurologist soon.

    • I smoked close to 20 years and averaged a pack every 2-3 days. The first few days I felt these “shock” type sensations go thru my head but it wasn’t until about a month after quitting cold turkey that the sensations turned into headaches. I don’t just get headaches but other types of physical changes as well. They are withdrawal symptoms as your body is going thru a drastic change. What has helped me is exercise and avoiding/reducing trigger moments such as stress and past habits that used to make me want to smoke. Be sure to get plenty of rest and keep hydrated. im on day 64 so far – headaches are less and few as with physical changes but im staying positive.

  26. quit smoking cold turkey 4 days ago after smoking a pack a day for 15 years! I keep getting a slight headache and feeling tired!! the cravings were bad yesterday but today they seemed to have eased off a bit! Glad to be smoke free now and no matter the challenge I will stay this way! Good Luck to all of you!!!! :)

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