It’s hard to quit and many of us simply don’t have the willpower to do it alone, but there’s help when you need it. Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) refers to nicotine delivery systems that can help you quit. If the physical withdrawal symptoms are especially hard for you, these methods work well to minimize these symptoms and reduce cravings.
The nicotine patch is the most popular form of NRT today. It’s a patch that you stick onto your body and it delivers a measured dose through the skin. There are many different levels of strength depending on how much you smoke and the patch is available both by prescription and over the counter.
There are some downsides to the patch. It can cause skin irritation for some people. Most of the side effects, which include racing heartbeat, headaches and nausea, are caused by using the wrong dose. Make sure you’re buying the right patch and seek medical advice if you’re not sure.
Nicotine gum delivers nicotine to your system through your mouth’s mucous membrane. It comes in two strengths: 2mg for those who smoke a pack a day or less and 4mg for those who smoke more than a pack a day. Both are sold over the counter at your local pharmacy.
Follow the directions carefully. You’re not supposed to chew nicotine gum before or after eating or drinking. When you chew the gum, it releases a peppery taste and that’s the nicotine release. The main downside of nicotine gum is that some people hate the taste. You can also experience mouth, throat or jaw irritation and you can’t chew nicotine gum if you have dentures.
For many people trying to quit smoking, nicotine lozenges are a better option. These are small candy-like tablets that you simply pop into your mouth. As it dissolves, the nicotine is absorbed and it takes around 20 to 30 minutes.
The main advantage of lozenges is that they’re easy to use. In fact, they’re considered the easiest NRT method. The downside is that they’re more expensive than other methods. There are no generic brands on the market.
Inhalers and Sprays
Inhalers and sprays are the most recent additions to the NRT arsenal. An inhaler is a cigarette-like tube that has a cartridge of nicotine and a mouthpiece. You suck on the mouthpiece just as you’d suck on a cigarette. One of the main advantages of inhalers is that using them is like smoking, so you have something to do with your hands.
Nicotine spray delivers nicotine through the membranes in the nose. Like a nose spray you’d use for nasal congestion, you spray it a set number of times per day as directed by your doctor.
Both inhalers and sprays are only available by prescription and both have side effects such as sneezing, watery eyes, and nasal irritation. You also can’t use them when you’re driving.
All NRT methods have side effects, so it’s good to talk to your general practitioner about which method is best for you. You can also combine methods if that’s what works best.
NRT reduces the physical cravings of quitting smoking, but you still have to work out the psychological part. This is why using NRT alone doesn’t guarantee you’ll quit smoking. Instead, use NRT as a tool to help you along with your own motivation and coping strategies.