If you are trying or have ever tried to quit smoking, in all likelihood, you have felt strong cravings to smoke – up to 90% of smokers say their experience of cravings prevents them from quitting.
These are caused by the body’s physical dependence on nicotine, which develops from long-term smoking. Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) slashes cravings by remedially administering controlled doses of nicotine to the body through means other than tobacco, literally weaning the patient off nicotine without smoking.
NRT comes in a wide range of forms and dosages that can help you quit smoking permanently, but may also have disadvantages that will be of concern to some patients.
What Kinds of NRT are Available?
Small amounts of nicotine can be administered to the body using nicotine patches, sprays, chews/gums, lozenges and inhalers. Usually, these products come in different doses; higher dosages are to be used when cravings are worst when you first quit, gradually declining to lower dosages as cravings subside. All NRTs contain lower doses of nicotine than cigarettes, thereby progressively reducing your dependency on nicotine.
Other, less healthful NRT options include nasal snuffs and e-cigarettes, though their efficacy remains under examination by the Food and Drug Administration.
Do You Need NRT?
NRT treatments are not for everyone. Many smokers successfully quit without the assistance of NRT products, but the majority of smokers need multiple tries to quit completely. So trying to quit once or twice and failing is perfectly normal, but not necessarily an indication that you need to try NRT. Consult your health care practitioner to know if an NRT can work with your particular needs.
NRT products combat the physical symptoms of nicotine withdrawal, but smoking cessation comprises many different aspects, including the emotional and psychological. Research shows that smokers are more likely to successfully quit by pairing NRTs with a supportive stop smoking program. Your doctor can help you to create a plan that works in tandem with NRT products.
What are the Drawbacks of NRT?
One of the biggest drawbacks of NRT products is the price. Though they vary in price, some patients complain that cigarettes are far less expensive, making it more difficult for them to quit. Prices differ across the United States and from product to product, but keep in mind that by successfully quitting smoking, you will eventually cut out the cost of not only NRTs but also cigarettes. This amounts to a potential $183,000 lifetime savings, according to the book The Price of Smoking, published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press.
NRT products also have different side-effects to consider, from mild headache, to dizziness, to indigestion. For example, some users experience skin irritation caused by the nicotine patch. The patch can also cause sleep disruption and, because it delivers a constant dose of nicotine, some purchasers complain that it does not adequately mimic the “highs and lows” of smoking. Though rare, a nicotine overdose can happen if one does not carefully follow all labels and instructions on NRT packaging.
When considering NRT products, your choices go far beyond simply “patch or gum.” Your doctor can help you to create a well-rounded action plan to quit smoking that involves not only the NRT products that best suit your lifestyle, but also the information to use them effectively and a support group that can work on the psychological aspects of your smoking addiction.