Medications can help you stop smoking. There are some that contain low levels of nicotine and others that do not. Both types can help to relieve the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal and/or reduce the rewarding feeling you get from smoking. So, if you’re not one of the very few people who can quit “cold turkey” (stopping cigarettes abruptly), then don’t despair! Medications may make it easier to break the habit.
Although you can buy some medications without a prescription, certain medications may be better for you than others. So, talk to your doctor about which medications may be right for you. Also keep in mind that medications work best to help you quit successfully when they are used along with counseling. Counseling section above That’s because cigarette smoking is both a physical addiction (for most people) and a learned behavior, and counseling can help you change your behaviors for long-term success.
Nicotine Replacement Medications (NRM)
All nicotine-replacement medications (NRM) provide nicotine to a smoker without using tobacco. This helps relieve nicotine withdrawal symptoms as the smoker stops the behavior of cigarette smoking. Research shows that even people with heart disease can safely use nicotine-replacement medications. That’s likely because the amount of nicotine provided is less than the amount provided by cigarette smoking. So, the benefits of nicotine replacement far outweigh the risks in most smokers.
Generally, the smoker picks a day to stop smoking cigarettes (“the quit day”) and begins the product on that day. The products are recommended for use for two to three months. However, doctors usually recommend allowing use of nicotine-replacement medications for a longer period of time if the alternative would be to return to cigarette smoking.
Nicotine gum, lozenges and the patch are available over the counter, while the nicotine nasal spray and inhaler are available by prescription only. Some possible side effects of all of the nicotine replacement medications may include dizziness, perspiration, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache and abdominal pain. In addition to these, there are some side effects and other considerations specific to the type of NRM used.
Nicotine-Replacement Medications (PDF)
Other Prescription Medications (That Do Not Contain Nicotine)
The two most commonly used prescription medications for smoking cessation are bupropion (Zyban) and varenicline (Chantix). Both have been shown to be effective in helping people quit, but they are not without risks and they are not for everyone. Talk to your doctor about your health history and your risk before deciding whether you should take one of these medications.
Try downloading these medication charts to review before discussing with your doctor which one might be best for you.
Other Prescription Medications (That Do Not Contain Nicotine) (PDF)