Maybe you’ve been contemplating finally putting down that cigarette for a while. Perhaps you’ve tried before, and it’s been difficult to actually quit the habit. Health professionals label this a nicotine dependence, which just means that your brain becomes hardwired to the pleasing effects nicotine produces.1 Though you may experience that chemical “high” while smoking, its effects are only temporary, which provokes you to keep turning back to the cigarette, over and over.2 In fact, many people experience such unpleasant mental and physical changes of withdrawal when they do try to stop that make quitting smoking seem implausible.3
The good news is that even with these symptoms of withdrawal, there is an option of trying to quit that includes FDA-approved nicotine replacement products. There are a family of quit smoking medications— commonly known as nicotine replacement therapy (NRT)—that give you a controlled dosage of nicotine that can help reduce withdrawal symptoms.4 Below, we explore what nicotine replacement therapy is, the various types of nicotine replacement therapy available, and how NRT can help you on your journey to quitting smoking.
What is Nicotine Replacement Therapy?
As discussed before, nicotine replacement therapy is a way in which you can wean yourself off the physical dependence of nicotine by using a patch, gum, nasal spray, inhalers, and even lozenges.5 These medical therapies contain measured doses of nicotine without the other harmful chemicals in tobacco, and have proven to nearly double the chances of quitting smoking.6
According to the US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, nicotine replacement therapy is safe for adults who have the desire to quit smoking, except for women who are pregnant and teenagers.7
Types of Nicotine Replacement Therapy
Not only can NRT help you on your journey to quitting smoking, but there are a variety of nicotine replacement therapies available to try.
There are many different nicotine patches available on the market for you to choose from, including NicoDerm®CQ®Patch. Patches provide you with a measured dose of nicotine through the skin, available in different strengths.8 You can set and forget a patch for all-day relief. For example, the usage of Nicoderm®CQ® Patch is broken down into various steps. If you smoke more than 10 cigarettes a day, there’s a suggested 10-week plan, starting you at a higher dosage of nicotine in the first six weeks, and then slowly decreasing the dosage within the last four weeks.9
When using a nicotine patch, you may experience a number of possible side effects. These symptoms can range from skin irritation, rapid heartbeat, nausea, sleep disturbances, vomiting and even dizziness.10 These can vary from person-to-person, but if you find yourself experiencing symptoms, it's best to contact your healthcare provider.
Another form of nicotine replacement therapy is nicotine gum, which is absorbed through the mucous membrane of the mouth.11 Nicotine gums help keep your mouth busy when cravings strike. You can chew Nicorette® Gum, which has been formulated to provide fast craving relief and curb withdrawal symptoms in order to help you quit smoking.12 When using Nicorette® Gum, you’ll want to follow all of the instructions, including not eating or drinking for 15 minutes before or while chewing Nicorette®, staying with the full 12-week quit program to increase your chances of success, and others.13
There are potential side effects to using nicotine gum, including allergic reactions, nausea, jaw discomfort, and more.14 Nicotine gum is a medicine and must be used a certain way to get the best results. Make sure to follow the label instructions and check in with your health care provider if you start experiencing any of these symptoms.15
A nicotine lozenge works similarly to nicotine gum, minus the chewing part. In fact, using a lozenge could appear less conspicuous than chewing on gum, which could be more suitable for you if you’re wanting to keep your NRT usage more discreet. For example, the Nicorette® Lozenge dissolves in your mouth, releasing therapeutic nicotine to help beat nicotine cravings wherever and whenever they strike.16
The recommended treatment plan for Nicorette® Lozenges is 12 weeks, using at least nine lozenges a day for the first six weeks and then slowly working your way to smaller amounts.17 Once you start using any nicotine lozenge, it’s important to be aware of possible side effects that range from nausea to indigestion to trouble sleeping, depending on the product.18
Before starting any nicotine replacement therapy, it’s important to read and follow label directions and talk with your doctor if you have any other pre-existing medical conditions that could be impacted by the therapy. The journey to quitting smoking may seem daunting, but we hope that a better understanding of nicotine replacement therapy may provide you with some hope that quitting smoking is possible, and can be a gradual process of letting go. Find more articles about quitting smoking and more at the Nicorette® Support Hub.