Are you one of the 70% of current smokers who say they want to quit? Well, studies show that only about 4-7% of people who try to quit cold turkey without getting help will be successful. By using a combination of counseling and medication, individuals making an attempt to quit can more than double their chances of success.
Quitting is hard because the withdrawal symptoms most people experience cause tension, anxiety and irritability. There are medications that can ease these feelings and help you get through the initial cravings, and the good news is that these feelings usually only last a few weeks.
Here is an overview of FDA-approved medications that can help you to quit. Using these medicines can double your chances of quitting for good. Ask your doctor for advice. But remember: Medicine alone can’t do all the work. It can help with cravings and withdrawal, but quitting will still be hard at times.
Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)
These medications take the place of nicotine from cigarettes. NRT can help with withdrawal and lessen your urge to smoke. You need a prescription to buy the inhaler and nasal spray, but you can buy nicotine gum, nicotine patches, and nicotine lozenges on your own. If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, consult your doctor before using NRT.
- Nasal Spray
Bupropion SR Pills — Bupropion SR is a medicine that has no nicotine. You need a prescription to get these pills. They seem to help with withdrawal and lessen the urge to smoke. Some people have side effects when using bupropion SR pills. The side effects include dry mouth and not being able to sleep.
This medicine is not right for:
- Pregnant women
- People who have seizures
- People with eating disorders
- Heavy drinkers
Varenicline Pills — Varenicline is also a medicine that has no nicotine. You need a prescription to get these pills. This drug may help those who wish to quit by easing their withdrawal symptoms and by blocking the effects of nicotine from cigarettes if they resume smoking. The side effects include stomach complaints such as nausea and vivid dreams. There have been rare reports of mood swings, depression and suicidal thoughts. Your doctor will want to monitor this carefully. Please check the FDA website for updates about this medication: www.fda.gov
This medicine is not right for:
- People with kidney problems
- Women who are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breastfeeding.
Ask your doctor, dentist, or pharmacist which medicine is right for you.
Thinking About Using NRT?
- Ask your doctor, dentist, or pharmacist if nicotine gum, the patch, or some other kind of NRT is right for you. These medicines can cause side effects in some people. Some people should not use NRT without a doctor’s help. Pregnant women are a good example.
- Be patient. Using NRT correctly can take some getting used to. Follow the instructions and give it some time.
- Don’t mix tobacco and NRT. Having one or two cigarettes while you use the gum, patch, nasal spray, inhaler, or lozenge is not dangerous, but your goal is to quit smoking for good. Use NRT only when you are ready to stop smoking. If you do slip up and smoke a cigarette or two, don’t give up on NRT. Keep trying.
- Start out using enough medicine. Use the full amount of NRT in the instructions. Don’t skip or forget to use your NRT after you first stop smoking.
- Slowly use less and less medicine. But don’t stop completely until you’re ready. You can set up a schedule with your doctor or pharmacist.
- Keep some of the medicine with you after you stop using it. This way you’ll be ready for an emergency.
- Wait a half hour after using the gum, lozenge, or inhaler before you eat or drink anything acidic. Acidic foods and drinks can keep nicotine gum and inhalers from working. Acidic foods and drinks include tomato sauce, tomatoes, oranges, lemons, grapefruit, coffee, soda, orange juice, and grapefruit juice.
- Read the instructions that come with the medicine. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions.
U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention Office on Smoking and Health