Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) can double your chances of giving up smoking and remaining smoke free. Unlike cigarettes NRT treatments do not contain toxic chemicals like tar and carbon monoxide making them suitable for most people trying to quit.
What are the options?
- Patches-these are applied to the skin and can work for up to 24 hours (depending on the product).The nicotine is absorbed through the skin.
- Gum- the nicotine gum is chewed and the nicotine absorbed through the lining of the mouth.
- Microtabs - sucked and dissolved quickly under the tongue
- Lozenges- these are sucked slowly and dissolve under the tongue
- Inhalators - release nicotine vapour which is absorbed through the mouth and throat. Useful if you miss the ‘hand to mouth’ action of smoking.
- Nasal Sprays- nasal sprays provide a quick dose of nicotine through the lining of the nose.
How NRT works
It is the nicotine in cigarettes that makes them addictive which is why NRT is so helpful in reducing cravings. Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is available from your pharmacy and comes in patches, gum, lozenges, microtabs, inhalators and sprays. These work by releases low levels of nicotine into your bloodstream, without the other poisonous chemicals present in cigarettes. This helps curb cravings as your body is still getting a steady supply of nicotine.
If you are on other medication, pregnant, breast feeding or have a heart or circulatory conditions or you are under 18 you should check with your GP first before taking nicotine replacement products.
NRT is available from the NHS with a prescription but also without a prescription from your pharmacy.
Which product is right for me?
Nicotine patches release nicotine directly into the bloodstream. You can either use the patches during waking hours (16 hour patch) or at day and night (24 hour patch). The 24 hour patch is helpful if your cravings are strong early in the morning. Patches also come in different strengths.
Nicotine gum comes in two strengths 2mg and 4mg. The stronger gum is suitable for those who smoke more than 20 cigarettes a day. You need to chew the gum until the taste becomes strong or hot which tells you that the nicotine has been released. Discard the gum after about an hour. You should gradually reduce the amount of gum you use.Microtabs should be left to dissolve under the tongue (not swallowed). You should start with one or two tablets every hour for up to three months after you quit and then gradually cut back.
Lozenges should be sucked until the taste becomes strong or hot. Each one should last 20 to 30 minutes. Lozenges should be used for about 12 weeks, starting with one every one to two hours during the first six weeks, then one every two to four hours, finally cutting down to one every four to eight hours in the last two weeks of treatment.
An inhalator looks like a plastic cigarette. You suck on this to release the nicotine vapour whenever you have a strong craving. The inhalator should be used for up to 12 weeks, cutting back on use as the weeks go by. Inhalators work more quickly than gum or lozenges to curb cravings.
A nasal spray delivers a quick dose of nicotine through the nose lining. You use this by releasing one spray into each nostril twice an hour. Each dose is the equivalent of smoking one cigarette. Once again the spray should be used up to 12 weeks and you should reduce the amount you use it as the weeks count down.