Nicotine replacement therapy is a medically approved way to take nicotine by a method other than tobacco. It is used to help people quit smoking. In fact, many studies have shown that the use of nicotine replacement therapy can double people’s chances of quitting smoking. There are many formats of nicotine replacement therapies, including adhesive patches, chewing gum, lozenges, mouth sprays and inhalers. All of them are available without a prescription at your local pharmacy or grocery store. We’ll discuss them in this article.
Nicotine patches deliver a measured dose of nicotine through your skin. A nicotine patch looks much like an adhesive bandage and comes in a variety of sizes (larger patches deliver a higher dose of nicotine). Patches can be purchased over the counter at a pharmacy, and they’re available in various strengths. Generally, people start with a patch that delivers a higher dose of nicotine, and then gradually taper down to a lower dose. It’s important to follow the package directions carefully. Check with the pharmacist if you don’t know which dose to start with.
You put the patch on in the morning, on a clean, dry and relatively hairless part of your body between the neck and the waist — the upper arm or the chest, for example. Switch around the location of the patch each day, so that you’ll reduce the chance of irritating your skin. Once you apply a nicotine patch, you wear it throughout the dosage period (usually 24 hours), never removing it. Because it releases nicotine in a slower and steadier fashion than a cigarette, the patch shouldn’t be taken off and put on only when cravings strike. It takes about three hours for the nicotine in the patch to seep through the skin into the bloodstream.
Nicotine gum is a fast-acting form of replacement in which nicotine is taken in through the mucous membrane of the mouth. It comes in 2-milligram and 4-milligram strengths; the strength you use will depend on how many cigarettes you smoke per day.
For proper use, you should chew the gum slowly until the taste becomes very strong. Once that happens, rest the gum inside your cheek until the taste fades. Then, chew it again to get the strong taste back, and then rest it inside your cheek again.
One advantage of nicotine gum is that it allows you to control the nicotine dose. You can chew it throughout the day (although you should never chew more than 20 pieces per day). Or, you can chew it when you feel you need it the most – when you have cravings.
Nicotine lozenges are similar to nicotine gum. They are also available in 2-milligram and 4-milligram strengths, depending on how much you smoke. For proper use, place the lozenge in your mouth; it will soon begin to melt. Keep moving it from one side of your mouth to the other, until the lozenge has completely dissolved; this usually takes about 10 minutes.
Nicotine mouth spray acts very quickly and can get to work on cravings in 60 seconds. It is the fastest form of nicotine replacement therapy.
Here is how it works:
- Slide the black button of the canister down until it can be pushed lightly inwards.
- While pushing in, slide upwards until the top of the dispenser locks into place.
- Before using the mouth spray for the first time, prime the pump by pressing a few times into a tissue until a fine mist appears.
- Press the top of the dispenser firmly to release one spray into the side of your cheek, avoiding your lips. For best results, do not swallow for a few seconds after spraying or inhaling the mist.
- To close the dispenser, slide the button down until it can be pushed lightly inwards. While pushing in, slide down to lock, then release. Use one to two sprays every half-hour for the first six weeks, and then follow the package directions to gradually reduce the number of sprays per day.
Nicotine inhalers are made up of a mouthpiece and a replaceable nicotine cartridge. When you draw on the mouthpiece, the cartridge releases nicotine into your mouth to help relieve your cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Unlike other inhalers, the nicotine is not delivered into your lungs but through the mouth into the bloodstream. And, because it is held like a cigarette, your hands are kept busy too. Use between six and 12 cartridges per day for the full 12 weeks, then follow the package instructions to gradually reduce the number of times you use the inhaler per day.
Talk to your pharmacist before starting nicotine replacement therapy to find the most suitable product for you.