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Nicotine Substitutes Can Help You Quit

If you're ready to stop smoking, then you must be ready for the challenge when your quit date arrives. Clean out your ashtrays, and throw away any lighters and old packs lying around. Doing so can help you get smoke-free for good.

Of course, you probably will have to face the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal. Quitting may frustrate you, even make you irritable or anxious. Headaches, restlessness, and problems concentrating are also common. At times, the urge to smoke may feel too overwhelming to take. Some people are able to quit "cold turkey" and withstand these feelings. For many smokers, using nicotine substitutes can ease these symptoms.

Beating the nicotine withdrawal fit

You get a small dose of nicotine from the patch, gum, lozenges, and nasal sprays and inhalers. None of these substitutes provide the rush that inhaling cigarette smoke does, but they can ease withdrawal. Because they don't produce that "rush" of smoking nicotine, they are seldom addictive and easier to stop using. They also lack the tars, chemicals, and radionuclides (radioactive lead and polonium) that are in cigarettes, so they aren't as dangerous. In general, the patch is easier to use than gum, nasal spray, inhalers, or lozenges. You simply place it on your skin, and it works for 24 hours. It can, however, cause dizziness, skin irritation where it's applied, sleep problems, and headaches.

Chewing the gum releases nicotine through the lining of your mouth. It also helps replace the emptiness from not having a cigarette there. If used incorrectly, however, it can cause you to swallow nicotine, which can upset your stomach and prevent the nicotine from reaching your bloodstream as quickly.

You can buy the patch, lozenges, and the gum without a prescription, but the nicotine nasal spray and inhaler need a prescription from your health care provider. You should talk with your provider or pharmacist to see which nicotine substitute method is best for you.

Electronic cigarettes have not been proven to be safe or to be an effective tool to help you quit smoking, so are not recommended. E-cigarette manufacturers don't tell you how much nicotine you are getting with the devices and they may as addicting as regular cigarettes.

Kicking the habit

Nicotine addiction is only part of the problem. The smoking habit is the other part. You'll need to learn to cope with situations you used to handle by smoking. A support group or smoking cessation program can help you do this. There are also many online resources to help you quit. Your chances of quitting for good may be better if you combine the use of a smoking substitute with this kind of support.

Whatever methods you use, withdrawal symptoms are likely to fade within seven to 14 days after you stop smoking. People vary greatly in the severity of their withdrawal symptoms over time. Those who use nicotine products are usually free of both cigarettes and substitutes in three to six months. So don't lose faith. You can be smoke-free if you really want to be.

Online Medical Reviewer: Russell, Nikki, RN, BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Stock, Christopher J., PharmD, BCPP
Last Review Date: 12/31/2013
© 2000-2014 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.