Written by Michelle Chen
At the Health Center, we see many patients who believe willpower is the key to quitting smoking. However, it often takes more than motivation to quit successfully. When you smoke, your body becomes addicted to nicotine, a substance found in cigarettes and other tobacco products. Nicotine can make you feel good, but leaves you wanting more. You may feel irritable, anxious, or depressed when you do not smoke for a period of time. These withdrawal symptoms make quitting hard.
Fortunately, there are safe and effective medications to help you manage withdrawal symptoms. Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is one of them. It gives you a small dose of nicotine without 7,000 of the toxic chemicals that the typical cigarette has. NRT is available as patches, gum, lozenges, an inhaler, and nasal spray. There are also pills (Zyban® and Chantix®) that you can take to fight discomfort and help you quit.
Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)
|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 gums and cheek.|
|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.|
|Bupropion (Zyban®)||Prescription||Bupropion helps reduce nicotine withdrawal and the urge to smoke. Bupropion can be used safely in combination with NRT.|
|Varenicline (Chantix®)||Prescription||Varenicline helps to reduce nicotine withdrawal and the urge to smoke. It also blocks the effects of nicotine from cigarettes.|
Speak to your doctor to learn if smoking cessation medication is right for you. Some smokers may need to use smoking cessation medication for 3 to 6 months before their withdrawal symptoms end. Most insurance companies will cover the cost of prescription drugs.
We know quitting can be hard, but your health improves the moment you stop. Just one day without smoking can lower your blood pressure and your risk for heart attack. Your loved ones will be thankful for it, too. Are you ready to take the next steps, but don’t know where to begin? Check out our posts for reasons to quit and more ways to handle cravings, and learn about secondhand smoke.
At the Health Center, we can help patients quit or cut back on smoking.
- Charles B. Wang Community Health Center
Internal Medicine (Manhattan)
You can also get free patches and help from:
- Asian Americans for Equality
(212) 979-8988 (Chinese)
- Asian Smokers’ Quitline
- NY State Smokers’ Quitline
This article is made possible with funding from the RCHN Community Health Foundation. Medication information is from CDC.
Michelle Chen is a Health Educator at the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center. She has a B.A. in Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies from Barnard College. She is interested in the intersection of public health and Asian American activism.