Medications to Help You Quit Smoking

Medicines to Help You Quit Smoking

Quitting tobacco isn’t easy. But millions of people have done it. And you can too. Once you decide to quit, it's important to have a plan.

The first step is to set a quit date. You will also need to figure out who can help you. And figure out what to do when you want to use tobacco. Your plan might also include medicines that can help you quit.

Several different medicines are available to help with withdrawal symptoms. Some require a prescription from your healthcare provider. Others don't need a prescription. Before starting any of these medicines, talk with your healthcare provider about them and which ones are best for you. Tell your provider all the prescribed and over-the-counter medicines you are taking. Tell your provider if you want to get pregnant.

A close up of a nicotine patch on a man's upper arm

Over-the-counter medicines

  • Nicotine patch. Nicotine is delivered through the skin to fight cravings. Several types and strengths are available. The strength you use depends on how often and how much tobacco you use most days. Follow the specific instructions on the label. They will tell you how to apply the patch. And how to get rid of it. You will need to replace the patch with a new one every day. Place the new patch on a different area to prevent irritation. Slowly reduce the strength of the patch. Patches can be used for 6 to 20 weeks depending on the specific instructions supplied with the patches.

  • Nicotine gum. Gum delivers nicotine quickly. It comes in 2 strengths: 2 mg and 4 mg. The strength you use also depends on how much tobacco you use most days. For the first 6 weeks you can chew 9 or more pieces a day. But don't chew more than 24 pieces a day. Slowly reduce the number of pieces you chew each day. If you need to use nicotine gum for more than 12 weeks, talk with your healthcare provider. You can't eat or drink within 15 minutes of using the gum. Try using the gum when you crave nicotine the most. Don't smoke cigarettes or use other nicotine products while using nicotine gum. This will help prevent a nicotine overdose.

  • Nicotine lozenge. Lozenges are like hard candy. They are available in 2 strengths: 2 mg and 4 mg. The strength you use depends on when you first normally use tobacco each day. Let them slowly melt in your mouth by moving them around with your tongue. Don't crush or chew them. You can’t eat or drink within 15 minutes of using the lozenges. Don't smoke while using nicotine lozenges. If you need to use them for more than 12 weeks, talk with your healthcare provider.

Prescription medicines

  • Nicotine nasal spray. Nicotine is delivered quickly. The spray works well, but it can cause sneezing and watery eyes.

  • Nicotine inhaler. Using an inhaler is like smoking cigarettes. When you puff on the inhaler, it releases nicotine. But the medicine doesn't go into your lungs. It's delivered to your mouth and is absorbed quickly.

  • Bupropion. This pill (oral medicine) helps reduce your cravings for nicotine. Some people combine it with nicotine replacement therapy. Some people start taking it shortly before quitting.

  • Varenicline tartrate. This is another pill. It reduces the uncomfortable feelings when you try to quit. It also reduces the pleasure you get from smoking. It may cause mood changes. People may start taking it shortly before quitting.

Make sure you have answers to your questions. Ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist:

  • Is the medicine safe for me? _______________________________________________________________

  • Can I take it with my other prescribed and over the-counter medicines? ________________________________________________________

  • When should I start taking it? ________________________________________________________________

  • How long should I use it? ___________________________________________________________________

  • What are the side effects? ___________________________________________________________________

  • How much does it cost? ____________________________________________________________________

  • When should I come back for an office visit? _____________________________________________________

  • Other questions? __________________________________________________________________________

Online Medical Reviewer: Eric Perez MD

Online Medical Reviewer: Rita Sather RN

Online Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Godsey

Date Last Reviewed: 4/1/2019

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