Nicotine Replacement Therapy For Smoking Cessation.

Most state sponsored quit smoking programs advocate nicotine replacement therapy for smoking cessation. It is often first on the list when recommending quit smoking aids to smokers who have had little success with complete abstinence (cold turkey).

Nicotine replacement therapy assists smokers by significantly reducing the severity of nicotine cravings, allowing users to gradually wean themselves off nicotine dependency.

Nicotine Replacement Therapy Effectiveness

For millions of ex smokers, the use of nicotine replacement therapy has been without question, an effective aid in overcoming their nicotine addiction. Having said this, it must be re-enforced that nicotine replacement therapy is not a miracle cure.

According to a review into the effectiveness of nicotine replacement therapies by the Cochrane Collaboration;

This review includes 150 trials of NRT, with over 50,000 people in the main analysis. We found evidence that all forms of NRT made it more likely that a person’s attempt to quit smoking would succeed.

The chances of stopping smoking were increased by 50 to 70%. The evidence suggests no overall difference in effectiveness between different forms of NRT, nor a benefit for using patches beyond eight weeks.

NRT works with or without additional counselling, and does not need to be prescribed by a doctor. Heavier smokers may need higher doses of NRT.

People who use NRT during a quit attempt are likely to further increase their chance of success by using a combination of the nicotine patch and a faster acting form or by combining the patch with the antidepressant bupropion.

Data suggest that starting to use NRT patches shortly before the planned quit date may increase the chance of success. –

As many successful NRT quitters will tell you, recovery from nicotine addiction is largely influenced by additional factors, such as user education, support and adherence to a well thought out stop smoking plan.

Ultimately it is the quitter that determines the success of a quit smoking attempt. If you are contemplating a quit, be sure to cover the fundamentals first, and check out what I consider to be the five best practices used by successful quitters.

The use of nicotine replacement therapy is a logistical choice. Its effectiveness increases with preparation and resolve.

Nicotine Replacement Therapy Products


Transdermal Nicotine Patch.

The transdermal nicotine patch is one of the most commonly used forms of nicotine replacement therapy. The nicotine patch suppresses cravings by releasing a controlled dose of nicotine into the bloodstream over a specific period of time, usually coming in 16 or 24 hour variants.

The nicotine patch dose is also reduced in gradual steps over two to three months. It is not usually advised that people use the nicotine patch and smoke at the same time. There are however, pre-quit, nicotine patches available for smokers who want to cut down gradually.

Common Nicotine Patch Side Effects;

  • Users may find the nicotine patch itchy. Nicotine patches should not be repeatedly used on the same location.
  • Users of the nicotine patch may also experience vivid and realistic dreams.
  • Nicotine patches may also induce insomnia. Using a 16 hour patch may reduce these symptoms.
  • Users of the nicotine patch may also experience headaches.

Note: Discuss nicotine replacement therapy with your physician or chemist to gain more insight into the potential side effects of nicotine replacement therapy.

Nicotine Gum, Lozenges and Spray.

Nicotine gum, lozenges and spray operate differently to transdermal nicotine patches as they do not provide a constant, controlled release of nicotine into the bloodstream.

The idea behind this method of nicotine replacement therapy is to allow users to experience a similar spike in nicotine levels to that provided by cigarettes.

It is advised that users commit to following a reduction plan, so as to avoid simply replacing cigarette addiction with an addiction to nicotine gum or lozenges.

Common Nicotine Patch Side Effects;

  • Nicotine gum, lozenges and spray, may cause nausea and heartburn.
  • Nicotine gum, lozenges and spray, may cause a sore throat and an unpleasant tingling and burning sensations in the mouth.
  • Nicotine gum may cause jaw pain from excessive chewing.
  • Nicotine gum, lozenges and spray, may cause headaches.

Note: Discuss nicotine replacement therapy with your physician or chemist to gain more insight into the potential side effects of nicotine replacement therapy.


Nicotine Inhaler.

Nicotine inhalers function in a similar manner to nicotine gum, lozenges and spray by providing a sudden spike in nicotine levels.

The main difference is that inhalers allow for the absorption of nicotine via the lungs as opposed to oral consumption and tend to mimic the action of smoking.

Nicotine inhaler side effects are more or less the same as for the nicotine patch, gum, lozenge and spray.

Note: Discuss nicotine replacement therapy with your physician or chemist to gain more insight into the potential side effects for nicotine replacement therapy.

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Nicotine Replacement Therapy?

The main advantage of NRT, is cravings and withdrawal symptoms will be significantly weaker than those experienced by cold turkey quitters.

Please refer to the Quit Smoking Side Effects Timeline for details on the standard withdrawal symptoms that are associated with quitting smoking.

There is a cost or disadvantage to NRT, in that the physical addiction to nicotine takes significantly longer to break. The trade off between severity of withdrawal and length of time suffering from withdrawal needs to be carefully considered when planning a quit smoking campaign.

Recovery Time Using Nicotine Replacement Therapy.


Medium Term Chemical Dependency Recovery. (Approximately 3 Months)

The first 3 months of a NRT quit campaign involves the gradual weaning off nicotine and breaking down of the brain’s chemical dependance.  Users will still experience weak to moderate withdrawal, particularly when transitioning to complete nicotine cessation at the end of the NRT program.

Long Term Neurological Recovery. (6 – 12 months for significant recovery)

Involves recovery of brain tissue that has been manipulated by addiction, particularly areas associated with memory and emotion.
See The Path To Nicotine Addiction Recovery for more info.