Nicotine replacement therapies (NRT) are used by individuals to quit smoking and are specifically designed to assist with their nicotine addiction. NRT is simply a method of getting nicotine into the blood without smoking a cigarette. The main benefit of this is that it prevents cravings for cigarettes as the individual is made to feel like they have smoked and so avoid the harmful effects of cigarettes. Therapies come in different forms including patches, gums, inhalers, tablets, lozenges and sprays which are available to buy from all pharmacies.
Are they Effective?
NRT replacement therapies have certainly shown their ability to increase the chances of quitting smoking, yet there are still many users who have failed to gain any real benefit from them. Numerous studies have looked into issue and found varying results. For instance, one study found that around 17 in 100 people who took NRT stopped smoking compared with 10 out of 100 who took a placebo. This essentially means an increased success rate of 70% which is excellent news for smokers.
However, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and the University of Massachusetts Boston found that nicotine replacement therapies are ineffective at helping smokers to quit in the longer term, even with smoking cessation counselling. Their study followed just under 800 smokers who had recently quit. Each participant was surveyed over three time periods: 2001-2002, 2003-2004, and 2005-2006 where they were asked if and for how long they had used any type of nicotine replacement therapy. The results showed that for each time period, 1/3 of the quitters had relapsed. The researchers too found no difference in relapse rates for those who had used NRTs for more than 6 weeks, with or without counselling. All in all, the results highlighted that NRTs are not effective at aiding a smoker quit in the long run.
Types of Nicotine Replacement Therapies
Nicotine gum is available in two different strengths – 2mg and 4mg. If you smoke more than 15-20 cigarettes a day you should use the 4mg version. Chew the gum slowly to release the nicotine and then rest it between the cheek and the gum to let the nicotine be absorbed into the bloodstream. You can chew anywhere up to 15 pieces to start with.
After 2-3 months you should use the gum less frequently until you eventually stop completely.
Nicotine patches work by sticking onto the skin and releasing nicotine into the bloodstream. There are various types with some being only for daytime use that last up to 16 hours and others lasting up to 24 hours. If you choose to wear the patch overnight, be warned that it could disturb your sleep, or at least give you some very strange dreams.
The main disadvantage to patches is that it is not like a cigarette as there are no highs and lows but rather a steady amount of nicotine being delivered into the blood. Some individuals may find some minor skin irritation too.
Tablets and Lozenges
Simple enough, these tablets are dissolved under the tongue where they slowly release nicotine into the bloodstream.
There is a lot of debate surrounding the suitability and effectiveness of electronic cigarettes. Nevertheless they can work for many individuals. They look and feel like a cigarette but are smokeless and odourless and provide you with the feeling that you are smoking a real cigarette. For a more in depth look at e-cigarettes you can view our article here.
Nasal and Mouth Sprays
With the nasal spray, nicotine is very quickly absorbed into the bloodstream via the nose. The main benefit of this is that it mimics the sudden high you get from smoking a cigarette and theoretically may even be more useful for quashing those cravings. Side effects include nose and throat irritation as well as watering in the eyes.
Nicotine mouth sprays work in a similar fashion to the nose spray in terms of the speed it delivers the nicotine.
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