Many people who are looking to quit smoking turn to nicotine replacement therapy. Nicotine replacement therapy uses aids, including nicotine patches, nicotine replacement gum and nicotine lozenges, to help reduce nicotine withdrawal and cravings. The goal behind nicotine replacement therapy is to slowly wean a person’s body off of nicotine and eventually completely eliminate a person’s dependence on nicotine.
How Nicotine Replacement Therapy Works
When people become addicted to tobacco products, they are actually addicted to the nicotine that the tobacco products contain. Nicotine increases certain chemicals in the body, including dopamine and norepinephrine. When people who are addicted to nicotine don’t supply the body with the substance it craves, the levels of these chemicals drop, causing a person to feel grouchy and hungry.
Nicotine replacement aids supply a person’s body with nicotine. However, these aids deliver far less nicotine than cigarettes, generally only one-third to one-half the amount of nicotine. The level of nicotine delivered, however, is enough to increase the levels of dopamine and nicotine. This greatly reduces a person’s withdrawal symptoms.
Another benefit of nicotine replacement aids is that they don’t contain tars, carbon monoxide or other toxic chemicals. These substances are much more harmful to the body than nicotine.
Nicotine Patch Addiction
Often, people who are trying to quit smoking via nicotine replacement therapy fear they will become addicted to the nicotine replacement aids. However, nicotine from these aids is absorbed by the body much more slowly than nicotine from cigarettes and other tobacco products. Thus, a person is much less likely to become dependant on nicotine replacement aids than on tobacco products.
Nicotine Replacement Therapy Candidates
Doctors consider nicotine replacement therapy to be safe for many groups of people, especially those who are trying to quit smoking or quit chewing tobacco. There are, however, some people who might not be good candidates for nicotine replacement aids, including:
- People with Heart Disease: Although nicotine replacement aids are generally safe for people with heart disease, they should not be used by people who have recently had a heart attack or who have serious heart conditions, including angina and heart arrhythmias. If you have a heart condition, talk to your doctor before using a nicotine replacement aid.
- Pregnant Women: Nicotine replacement aids have been associated with low birth weights. However, using tobacco products during pregnancy can be more dangerous than using nicotine replacement aids. If you are pregnant or are trying to become pregnant, talk to your doctor. He will likely suggest trying other quitting methods before resorting to nicotine replacement aids.
Nicotine replacement aids should also not be used by people who are less than 18 years of age, as side effects of these products on young people are not known.
Some smokers think that switching to nicotine-free cigarettes will help them quit smoking. While some people may find limited success using nicotine-free cigarettes to quit smoking, most will fail. This is because nicotine-free cigarettes don’t wean a person off of nicotine and will cause a person to experience withdrawal symptoms.
Side Effects of Nicotine Replacement Aids
Side effects will vary depending on the type of nicotine replacement aid you choose. For example, nicotine patch users may experience a skin rash as well as sleeping problems. In general, however, side effects of nicotine replacement therapy include:
- upset stomach.
To help prevent nicotine overdose or nicotine poisoning, do not continue to smoke or use tobacco products while using nicotine replacement aids.
Foulds, Jonathan (June 2, 2007). Think you don’t really smoke for nicotine? Retrieved December 20, 2007, from the Healthline Web site: http://www.healthline.com/blogs/smoking_cessation/2007/06/think-you-dont-really-smoke-for.html.