If you’re a smoker, the urge to smoke a cigarette with your morning coffee is not on your mind. Smoking causes a real physical addiction that can be difficult to shake.
Nicotine is the addictive ingredient in tobacco. Nicotine replacement therapy can help you curb cravings and wean you off tobacco. And it’s definitely something you want to do.
Tobacco use accounts for about one-third of all cancers. And 90% of lung cancer cases. It also contributes to heart disease, stroke and lung disease.
“Nicotine replacement therapy is a great place to start when you’re ready to quit using tobacco,” says Paul Cinciripini, Ph.D., director of MD Anderson’s Tobacco Treatment Program and Professor of Behavioral Sciences. “It’s easy to use, has few side effects, and research shows it works for many people.”
If you are a heavy smoker, medication is also available. “Pills prescribed by your doctor are very effective tools to stop,” says Maher Karam-Hage, MD, co-medical director of MD Anderson’s Tobacco Treatment Program and associate professor of Behavioral Sciences.
So, to quit smoking once and for all, find out which product is right for you.
Medications to help you quit smoking
Your local drug store has several over-the-counter nicotine replacement products. These include patches, lozenges and chewing gum. Other products, such as pills, inhalers and nasal sprays, require a doctor’s prescription.
The patch: Once a day, apply a small, latex patch on your upper body skin. It delivers a steady dose of nicotine. This makes it a great choice for heavy smokers.
Potential side effects:
- Sleep problems or unusual dreams
- Racing heart rate
Suction tablets: Candy-like lozenges are ideal for a quick solution of nicotine. You place the pane in your mouth. It may take five to 10 minutes to feel the effect. Suction tablets should dissolve within 30 minutes. Sucking tablets can also satisfy the need to keep your mouth busy so that you are not tempted to smoke. Potential side effects:
Glue: Nicotine gum starts working within five to 10 minutes – if you use it right. It comes in different flavors and two doses. Glue only works if you follow the instructions and use the correct dose. Potential side effects:
- Can adhere to dentures
Inhalers: The inhaler is a plastic tube similar to the size and shape of a pen. When you take a puff, it immediately releases nicotine. It simulates the act of smoking. But you do not breathe in. Potential side effects:
- Throat irritation
Nasal spray: Nasal sprays are similar in size and shape to allergy or clogged nasal sprays. However, do not inhale the spray into your sinus cavities. Instead, let the spray sit in your nostril. Nasal spray is easy to use. And they quickly send nicotine to your bloodstream. Nasal spray works best for heavy smokers who get strong cravings. Potential side effects:
- Nasal irritation
- Runny nose and watery eyes
- Can harm children and pets
Chantix (Varenicline): Chantix (Varenicline) is a prescription medication that is taken twice a day as a pill. It is the most effective single product to help you quit smoking. And it does not contain nicotine. It reduces cravings by acting like nicotine on the brain.
Chantix (Varenicline) binds to the nicotine receptors in your brain. It blocks the receptors, so smoking a cigarette will not be as satisfying. It also causes some of the same reward effects of nicotine. It helps to reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Potential side effects:
- Vivid dreams
- Derm gas
Zyband (Bupropion): Bupropion is a prescription medication that is taken as a pill. Like Chantix (Varenicline), it does not contain nicotine. It works by blocking nicotine receptors in your brain. Potential side effects:
- Dry mouth
- Light handshake
E-Cigarettes Are Not Effective Aids To Quit
No evidence exists to show that e-cigarettes are safe or that it can help you quit smoking. Yet some people use it and get it right to quit.
“We do not recommend using e-cigarettes as a strategy to help smokers quit,” says Karam-Hage. “Sooner or later, smoking can bring a smoker back to cigarettes.”
Know your smoking behavior
Before applying a patch or chewing gum, take a close look at your smoking habits.
“I usually recommend that people start with a patch and use chewing gum or lozenges for intense cravings that the patch cannot handle,” says Cinciripini.
He also suggests:
- Try another product if you are not successful with the first one or two.
- Try product combinations if you have intense cravings.
Fight urges on all fronts
Whichever route you take:
- Talk to your doctor about your plans to quit. Especially if you are considering medication, using more than one nicotine replacement product or having other health problems.
- Get extra help. According to the National Cancer Institute, combining nicotine replacement therapy with counseling sessions doubles your chances of success.
- Get free counseling by calling one of these stop lines:
- The National Quitline: 1-800-QUIT NOW or SMS TEST to 47848 to receive non-smoking SMS.
- National Cancer Institute: 1-877-44U-QUIT
Remember, quitting smoking offers significant health benefits – no matter how long you have been smoking. Within hours of kicking off the habit, your circulation improves. And within just weeks of quitting, your lung function improves. Keep it up, and within a year, your heart disease risk is 50% less.