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Get Help from Medications

Medications can double your chances of quitting for good. And they can help to reduce withdrawal symptoms and cigarette cravings.

There are many types of medications you can use to help you quit smoking. VA offers veterans all FDA-approved quit smoking medications. If you don’t receive health care from VA, check your insurance plan to learn if quit smoking medications are covered.

Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)

NRT is the most commonly used quit smoking medication. A lot of research has been done on NRT. It has been shown to be safe and effective for almost all tobacco users who want to quit.

Your VA health care provider can give you a prescription for NRT. It’s also available without a prescription from your local pharmacy.

Patches, gum, and lozenges are types of NRT. The patch is a long-acting form of NRT that releases a small, steady amount of nicotine through the skin. This small amount of nicotine helps satisfy your craving for nicotine. Gum and lozenges are a short-acting form of NRT. They release a small amount of nicotine into the lining of your mouth.

You may still have cravings while on the quit medications. Doctors recommend using combination NRT, a long-acting form of NRT—like the patch—along with a short-acting form of NRT—like the gum or the lozenge. This can help you fight cravings. The patch provides a steady amount of nicotine to reduce your cravings and withdrawal symptoms. If you also use gum or lozenges at the same time, that can help reduce cravings even more. Over time, you can slowly cut down the amount of NRT you’re using until you cut it out altogether. If you have a severe medical condition or are pregnant, talk to your doctor about using NRT.

If you plan to use NRT, have it available on your quit day. Read the instructions on the NRT package and follow them carefully. NRT will give you the most benefit if you use it as recommended. VA has patient medication guides that describe how to use combination NRT and other quit smoking medications.

NRT is only one type of medication that can help with withdrawal and reduce your urge to smoke.

You have options. Quitting “cold turkey” isn’t your only choice, and choosing another option can improve your chances of success.

Other Medications

Bupropion SR

Bupropion SR is a medication that contains no nicotine. You need a prescription to get this medication. It may help with withdrawal and reduce the urge to smoke. Some people have side effects when using bupropion SR pills. If you decide to use bupropion SR pills, you can combine them with NRT for better results. The gum or the lozenge can be used as needed with bupropion SR to help with cravings. VA patient medication guides describe how to use bupropion SR in combination with NRT.

Side effects can include dry mouth and not being able to sleep. If you have mood changes—like depression, suicidal thoughts, or homicidal thoughts—contact your doctor right away. If you cannot reach your doctor, go to the closest emergency room. If you are in crisis, call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) and press 1 to talk to someone now.

Ask your doctor‚ dentist‚ or pharmacist if this medication is right for you. Make sure to use it the way your doctor prescribes it. This medication may not be right for:

  • Pregnant women
  • People who have seizures
  • People who have eating disorders
  • Heavy drinkers

Varenicline

Varenicline is a medication that contains no nicotine. You need a prescription to get this medication. This drug may help you quit by easing withdrawal symptoms and blocking the effects of nicotine from cigarettes if you start smoking again. Varenicline is not used in combination with any other medication.

 Side effects can include stomach issues—like nausea—and vivid dreams. There have been rare reports of mood swings‚ depression, and suicidal thoughts. If these happen, stop taking the medication and contact your doctor right away. If you cannot reach your doctor, go to the closest emergency room. If you are in crisis, call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) and press 1 to talk to someone now.

Ask your doctor‚ dentist‚ or pharmacist if this medication is right for you. Make sure to use it the way your doctor prescribes it. This medication may not be right for:

  • People with kidney problems
  • Women who are pregnant‚ plan to become pregnant‚ or are breastfeeding
  • People who have seizures
  • People who drink heavily

Quit smoking medications can help, but they won’t do all the work. To give yourself the best chance for success, you can combine medication with other quit methods.

More For You

Check out resources from VA, Smokefree, and the National Cancer Institute—trusted experts who can help you quit.
See how tobacco can affect your health if you have PTSD, HIV, depression, or substance use disorders.
Once you quit smoking, you can begin to build healthy habits for exercise, nutrition, and—if necessary—weight loss.
There are a lot of myths about nicotine replacement therapy like gum or lozenges. You should know the truth.