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How do Quit Smoking Medicines Work?

When you first stop smoking, you may feel uncomfortable and will have the urge to smoke. This is due to withdrawal. Withdrawal is your body getting used to not having nicotine, the chemical in cigarettes that makes you want to keep smoking. Quit smoking medications help reduce feelings of withdrawal and cigarette cravings.

Why Should I Use Quit Smoking Medications?

Using these medications can double your chances of quitting for good. They help reduce your cigarette cravings and withdrawal symptoms. They can also save you money. Quit smoking medications are usually used for a short amount of time. You will end up spending less to take these medications than to keep smoking.

Which Quit Smoking Medications are Available?

The most commonly used quit smoking medications are nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). NRT reduces withdrawal by giving you a little bit of nicotine, but not any of the other dangerous chemicals found in cigarettes. This satisfies your nicotine craving and lessens your urge to smoke. As you quit, you will use NRT with less and less nicotine. This allows your body to gradually get used to being without nicotine. NRT options include patches, gum, lozenges, an inhaler, and nasal spray. Patches, gum, and lozenges are available without a prescription. If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant‚ talk to your doctor or pharmacist before using NRT.

If you are unable to take NRT or it is not working for you, other quit smoking medications without nicotine are available. These medications can also help reduce withdrawal symptoms and cigarette cravings. You will need a prescription to use these medications. See your doctor or pharmacist to talk about your medication plan and to get a prescription.

Keep in mind that there is no "best" medication to help you quit, everyone is different. The medication guide below provides an overview of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved medications for smokers trying to quit. This guide may not include every medication currently available.

Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)

Method Availability Description
Nicotine Patches Over-the-Counter The nicotine patch is placed on the skin and gives users a small and steady amount of nicotine.
Nicotine Gum Over-the-Counter Nicotine gum is chewed to release nicotine. The user chews the gum until it produces a tingling feeling, and then places it between their cheek and gums.
Nicotine Lozenges Over-the-Counter Nicotine lozenges look like hard candy and are placed in the mouth. The nicotine lozenge releases nicotine as it slowly dissolves in the mouth.
Nicotine Inhaler Prescription A nicotine inhaler is a cartridge attached to a mouthpiece. Inhaling through the mouthpiece gives the user a specific amount of nicotine.
Nicotine Nasal Spray Prescription Nicotine nasal spray is a pump bottle containing nicotine, which is put into the nose and sprayed.

Other Quit Smoking Medications

Method Availability Description
Bupropion Prescription Bupropion, also known as Zyban®, helps to reduce nicotine withdrawal and the urge to smoke. Bupropion can be used safely with NRT.
Varenicline Prescription Varenicline, also known as Chantix®, helps to reduce nicotine withdrawal and the urge to smoke. It also blocks the effects of nicotine from cigarettes if the user starts smoking again.

For more information on NRT and other quit smoking medications, visit our withdrawal page.

Thinking About Using Quit Smoking Medications?

When deciding to use quit smoking medications, keep in mind the following:

Talk with your doctor or pharmacist about using medications if you…

  • Are pregnant or nursing
  • Have a serious medical condition
  • Are currently using other medications
  • Are under 18 years of age

Read the instructions on the package carefully and talk with your doctor or pharmacist if you have questions.

Most NRT products can be used alone or in combination. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist before taking more than one NRT product.

Medications alone can't do all the work. They can help with cravings and withdrawal‚ but they won't completely take away your urge to smoke. Even if you use medication to help you stop smoking‚ quitting may still be hard at times. Using other quit strategies with quit smoking medications gives you the best chance to quit. Quit strategies could include:

It is never too late to try quit smoking medications. No matter how long you have been smoking, your health will improve if you quit.

No matter how much you smoke, quit smoking medications can help you quit.

Your chance of becoming addicted to NRT is much lower as compared to cigarettes. There is less nicotine in NRT and it is delivered more slowly.

Using quit smoking medications doesn't mean you aren't strong enough to quit on your own. Using NRT can strengthen your resolve to quit and shows you are committed to quitting for yourself and others.

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