Couple holding hands and smiling in hammock
Hand refusing cigarette offer

Your Guide to Quit-Smoking Medications

Quitting smoking can be a difficult journey, but luckily there are many quit-smoking medications that can help. Using quit-smoking products can greatly increase your chance of success.1-3 These days, the market is saturated with different medications for quitting smoking, from smoking cessation pills to nicotine replacement aids. Below, we’ll walk you through the different types of quitting smoking medications and discuss the benefits and side effects of each so you can make an informed decision about the right choice for you.

 

Prescription Quit-Smoking Medications

The medication available by prescription for helping quit smoking is Varenicline.4 Talk to your doctor about whether this is the right choice for you.

 

Varenicline

Varenicline is a popular prescription medication used to quit smoking.5 Varenicline does not contain nicotine.6 The way this drug works is by blocking nicotine receptors in the brain, which reduces the effects of nicotine on the body and therefore the pleasurable aspects of smoking. Varenicline also helps control withdrawal symptoms and can reduce tobacco cravings.7

If you choose to use Varenicline, it’s necessary to start taking it a couple of weeks before you want to quit, as it requires some time to reach effective levels in the bloodstream. Varenicline is a pill and can be taken in combination with other quit-smoking products.8 Varenicline is not recommended for people with kidney problems and those who are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to become pregnant.9 Side effects may include nausea, insomnia, vivid or strange dreams, and shifts in mood or behavior.10 As with any prescription medication, consult your doctor for instructions for use.

 

Over-the-Counter Nicotine Replacements

If you don’t want to go the prescription route, there are also numerous quit-smoking aids available over the counter. Even if you don’t need a doctor’s prescription, we recommend consulting your healthcare provider before starting to use any of these quit-smoking medications.

 

Nicotine Patch

One of the most well-known nicotine replacement therapies is the patch. A nicotine patch adheres to the skin and releases a small amount of nicotine into the body via the skin. Using a patch is fairly straightforward—simply place one someplace between your waist and neck (upper arm and chest are popular locations) at the start of the day.11

The upsides of using nicotine patches are that they’re easy to use, don’t require a prescription, and can be used for 24-hour craving relief. A downside of the patch is that it doesn’t allow you to adjust the amount of nicotine administered and must be replaced every day.  Some report experiencing skin irritation, rashes, and itching, as well as insomnia or vivid dreams while using the patch.12

 

Nicotine Gum

Gum is another popular over-the-counter aid for quitting smoking. The way nicotine gum works is by releasing a small amount of nicotine that is absorbed through the lining of the mouth. Users can chew a new piece of nicotine gum every one to two hours but should not exceed 24 pieces per day.13

Nicotine gum is available in two different strength options. One of the upsides of nicotine gum is that you can use it to combat withdrawal symptoms and cravings rapidly. It may irritate the mouth and cause jaw soreness, heartburn, nausea, and hiccups.14

 

Nicotine Lozenges

Lozenges are another common OTC quit smoking option. Nicotine lozenges are tablets that contain nicotine and release nicotine that is absorbed through the lining of the mouth. Use nicotine lozenges by placing one lozenge in your mouth and allowing it to slowly dissolve. Occasionally move the lozenge from one side of your mouth to the other until completely dissolved.14

Nicotine lozenges can help relieve sudden cravings and don’t require chewing like nicotine gum products. While they can cause mouth irritation, indigestion, or sore throats in some cases, nicotine lozenges can be used throughout the day to help curb cravings.14

 

Other Nicotine Replacement Therapies

In addition to patches and gum, there are a few additional nicotine replacement therapies that are typically available over the counter. Talk to your doctor about your options and which medications are safe to combine if one of these is of interest to you.

We hope this guide has helped you understand the different quit-smoking medications available. If you do choose to use a quit-smoking product to help quit tobacco, the statistics are in your favor—only around 5% of people are able to succeed quitting tobacco without the help of a medication for quitting smoking.15 When it comes to price, consult your insurance provider to see if any of these prescription or non-prescription medications are covered by your plan.

Looking for more related resources? Check out more articles that can support your quitting journey on topics like meditation, sleep, and building a commitment kit.


SOURCES

 

1. Quit smoking. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/quit-smoking/in-depth/quit-smoking-products/art-20045599.  Accessed 1/15/21. Referenced text indicated on pages 3 in source PDF.

2. Quit smoking. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/quit-smoking/in-depth/quit-smoking-products/art-20045599.  Accessed 1/15/21. Referenced text indicated on pages 3 in source PDF.

3. Quit smoking. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/quit-smoking/in-depth/quit-smoking-products/art-20045599.  Accessed 1/15/21. Referenced text indicated on page 3 in source PDF.

4. Medications Can Help You Quit. Smokefree. https://smokefree.gov/tools-tips/how-to-quit/medications-can-help-you-quit. Accessed 1/15/21. Referenced text indicated on page 1 in source PDF.

5. Medications Can Help You Quit. Smokefree. https://smokefree.gov/tools-tips/how-to-quit/medications-can-help-you-quit. Accessed 1/15/21. Referenced text indicated on page 1 in source PDF.

6. Medications Can Help You Quit. Smokefree. https://smokefree.gov/tools-tips/how-to-quit/medications-can-help-you-quit. Accessed 1/15/21. Referenced text indicated on page 1 in source PDF.

7.  Quit smoking. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/quit-smoking/in-depth/quit-smoking-products/art-20045599.  Accessed 1/15/21. Referenced text indicated on page 4 in source PDF.

8. Quit smoking. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/quit-smoking/in-depth/quit-smoking-products/art-20045599. Accessed 1/15/21. Referenced text indicated on page 4 in source PDF.

9. Medications Can Help You Quit. Smokefree. https://smokefree.gov/tools-tips/how-to-quit/medications-can-help-you-quit. Accessed 1/15/21. Referenced text indicated on page 1 in source PDF.

10. Quit smoking. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/quit-smoking/in-depth/quit-smoking-products/art-20045599. Accessed 1/15/21. Referenced text indicated on page 4 in source PDF.

11. Quit smoking. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/quit-smoking/in-depth/quit-smoking-products/art-20045599. Accessed 1/15/21. Referenced text indicated on pages 1 and 2 in source PDF.

12. Quit smoking. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/quit-smoking/in-depth/quit-smoking-products/art-20045599. Accessed 1/15/21. Referenced text indicated on pages 1 and 2 in source PDF.

13. Quit smoking. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/quit-smoking/in-depth/quit-smoking-products/art-20045599. Accessed 1/15/21. Referenced text indicated on page 2 in source PDF.

14. Quit smoking. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/quit-smoking/in-depth/quit-smoking-products/art-20045599. Accessed 1/15/21. Referenced text indicated on page 2 in source PDF.

15. Quit smoking. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/quit-smoking/in-depth/quit-smoking-products/art-20045599. Accessed 1/15/21. Referenced text indicated on page 1 in source PDF.