Types of NRT Medication
Once you’ve made the decision to quit smoking, you may feel overwhelmed by the process and the temptation to give into your craving for nicotine. Many smokers have had success while using nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) medications. In fact, only 5% of people who try to quit tobacco are able to succeed without the help of a quit-smoking product like an NRT.2 These products supply a low, controlled dose of nicotine without the toxins and chemicals found in cigarettes.1,3 The goal of therapy is to reduce an individual’s craving for nicotine and ease the symptoms of withdrawal, making it easier to resist the urge to reach for a cigarette.1
There are many different types of NRT medication to quit smoking. Gum, lozenges, and nicotine patches are available over the counter. Read on for a thorough breakdown of the different types of NRT medications available and how they can help you to quit smoking.
Types of NRT Products
The following five NRT products have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration as effective aids that help people quit smoking cigarettes.3 If used correctly, all the below NRT products work well and help to relieve nicotine cravings. You can easily compare NRT products on our website.
Nicotine gum allows you to control the amount of nicotine you get when a craving strikes.3 Chewing one piece per hour is common for most users. If you experience strong or frequent cravings, you may use a second piece within the hour. However, do not continuously use one piece after another and do not exceed 24 pieces in a day.3 This gum is available without a prescription and comes in two different strengths. If you smoke your first cigarette within 30 minutes of waking up, use 4 mg nicotine gum.3 The goal is to stop using the gum to manage cravings within 12 weeks; talk to your doctor before using it for a longer period of time.1
NRT gum is not meant to be used like regular gum; instead you must follow a specific chew and park technique for it to work effectively:2
- Chew the gum slowly until it tingles.2
- Then, park the chewed piece between your cheek and gum. When the tingle is gone, begin chewing again, until the tingle returns.
- Repeat this process until most of the tingle is gone (about 30 minutes).2
- Don’t eat or drink for at least 15 minutes before chewing nicotine gum, and do not eat or drink while chewing a piece of nicotine gum.3
Nicotine gum is an excellent option for smokers who are looking for fast relief of nicotine cravings. It is available without a prescription. To improve your chances of quitting, use at least 9 pieces per day for the first 6 weeks. However, do not continuously use one piece after another since this may cause hiccups, heartburn, nausea or other side effects. Do not use more than 24 pieces of nicotine gum per day.
Using nicotine gum may cause mouth irritation, jaw soreness, and heartburn. It is important to complete treatment. If you feel you need to use the gum for a longer period to keep from smoking, talk to your health care provider.
Nicotine lozenges are tablets that contain a small amount of nicotine that is released as the lozenge dissolves. They’re held between your gum line and your cheek, and the nicotine enters your bloodstream as it is absorbed through the lining of your mouth.2 Each lozenge should last for 10 to 30 minutes, and it’s important that you suck on it slowly until it’s fully dissolved, rather than biting it or chewing it like a hard candy.3 These lozenges are available in 2 mg and 4 mg doses, so you can choose the strength that works for you and your nicotine dependency. If you smoke your first cigarette within 30 minutes of waking up, use the 4 mg strength. If you smoke your first cigarette more than 30 minutes after waking up, use the 2 mg strength.
As with nicotine gum, avoid eating or drinking for at least 15 minutes before or while using a lozenge.3 Do not use more than one nicotine lozenge at a time, or more than 20 lozenges in a day.3 If you experience strong or frequent cravings, you may use a second piece within the hour. However, do not continuously use one piece after another. The goal of using these NRT products is to gradually reduce your nicotine consumption over time, and use of lozenges should be stopped after 12 weeks.3
Nicotine lozenges are a discreet, convenient way to find relief from nicotine cravings and they do not require a prescription. They are available in regular and mini sizes and two different strengths to help control withdrawal symptoms based on a person’s need.2 They do not require chewing and won’t stick to dental appliances. However, they may cause mouth irritation, heartburn, or nausea.2
Smokers who are looking for a one-step option to help them quit may find relief while using the nicotine patch. It’s a small, self-adhesive patch that releases nicotine into the body through your skin over the course of the day.1 Every day, a new patch is applied to a dry, clean, and hairless area of skin.1
As with nicotine gum and lozenges, nicotine patches can be purchased without a prescription and are available in different types and strengths: some can be worn for only 16 hours while others are meant to last 24 hours.3 These different strengths allow smokers to reduce the amount of nicotine in their body over time; the FDA has approved use of the patch for a total of 8 to 10 weeks.3
Stop using nicotine patches and talk to a doctor if you experience any of the following:
- Skin redness caused by the patch that does not go away after four days,
- Your skin swells or you get a rash
- Irregular heartbeat or palpitations
- Symptoms of nicotine overdose such as nausea, vomiting, dizziness, weakness, or rapid heartbeat
- Symptoms of an allergic reaction (such as difficulty breathing or rash)
Other potential side effects of the nicotine patch are skin irritation where the patch is adhered, sleep problems, headache, and nausea.3 If you have vivid dreams or other sleep disturbances, remove the patch at bedtime.
Nicotine nasal spray is a fast, effective method for delivering nicotine and helps combat cravings and withdrawal symptoms. It is only available by prescription, and the nicotine is absorbed through the lining of your nose.2,3 Use the spray as directed by your doctor.
The FDA recommends that this medication to stop smoking be prescribed for 3-month periods and that usage does not exceed 6 months.3 Individual usage will vary, but you should not use more than 40 doses (80 sprays) in a single day.3 Common side effects of nicotine spray include: nose and throat irritation, coughing, and watery eyes.2
Medication to Stop Smoking
Some smokers will turn to medications for smoking cessation. Varenicline has been approved by the FDA for the treatment of nicotine addiction, though it is notable that this drug does not contain nicotine.2
- Varenicline is a prescription drug that works by blocking nicotine receptors in the brain, which makes the act of smoking less pleasurable.2
This drug comes in pill form and must be prescribed by a healthcare provider, who can help you determine if it’s right for you.2 This medication to stop smoking may take several days to achieve effective levels in your body.2
The most effective strategy for quitting smoking for good is a combination of a supportive network and top quit-smoking products. Nicorette can help you find quit support to keep you on the right track.