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In this article we’ll look at the different forms of Nicotine Replacement Therapy.

Nicotine Replacement Therapy

This article has been medically approved by Pharmacist Sumaiya Patel - GPhC Reg No: 2215078


Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) can double your chances of quitting smoking for good. Unlike cigarettes, NRT treatments do not contain toxic chemicals like tar and carbon monoxide. Instead, they release low levels of nicotine into the body to manage nicotine withdrawal symptoms.

What are the options?

Nicotine replacement therapy comes in different forms, and which treatment will work best for you depends on a few things, including if you're a light or heavy smoker, and if you want to cut down on smoking or stop completely. If you're unsure, your GP or pharmacist can work with you to decide which form of NRT would suit you best.

  • 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, from 7mg to 25mg.
  • Nicotine gum comes in two strengths: 2mg and 4mg. The stronger gum is suitable for those who smoke more than 20 cigarettes a day. It is chewed until the flavour becomes strong and then rested between the cheek and gum. This then allows the nicotine to pass into the body through the lining of the mouth. You should discard the gum after about an hour and gradually reduce the amount of gum you use.
  • Lozenges are a perfect alternative f you don't want to chew gum. Like gum, lozenges release nicotine into the body through the lining of the mouth when they are rested between the gum and cheek. Each one lasts approximately 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.
  • Microtabs are ideal if you're looking for a Nicotine Replacement Therapy that is even more discreet than lozenges. These dissolve when placed under the tongue and release nicotine. You should start with one or two tabs every hour for up to three months after you quit and then gradually cut back.

  • Inhalators may be the solution for you if you miss the hand to mouth action of smoking, or are looking to quickly relieve intense cravings. These are plastic cigarette-shaped devices that provide nicotine quicker than gum or patches. You suck on it 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.
  • Sprays are similar to inhalators in that they provide fast and effective relief from cravings. They come in the form of mouth or nasal sprays to provide nicotine to the body through either the lining of the nose or mouth. You use this by releasing 1 or 2 sprays every 30 minutes to 1 hour. Each dose is the equivalent of smoking one cigarette. The spray should be used up to 12 weeks and you should reduce the amount you use it as the weeks count down.

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) products release low levels of nicotine into your bloodstream, without the other poisonous chemicals present in cigarettes. This helps to curb cravings as your body is still getting a steady supply of nicotine.

You can combine different forms of NRT to further your chances of success. For example, patches can provide a consistent low level of nicotine to curb symptoms but, when intense craving strikes, a mouth spray can provide quick relief.

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.

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