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Managing with medications

A variety of medications can help you quit smoking. These medications can help reduce withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting smoking.

Nicotine replacement therapy is the most common type of medication and can be bought without a doctor's prescription. This is designed to cut down on cravings by gradually reducing the dose of nicotine during the quitting period. Gums, patches, inhalers, oral sprays, or lozenges ease withdrawal symptoms by providing your body with nicotine without delivering all the other substances that come with cigarettes – such as tars and toxins known to cause cancer.

To use nicotine replacement therapy effectively and safely, you must not smoke while you are using the patch, gum, lozenge, oral spray, or inhaler. In general, most people can use nicotine replacement therapy, but consult your health care provider if you have any medical conditions, such as heart problems.

  • Nicotine patches are a type of delivery system that allows the nicotine to enter the bloodstream slowly through the skin. The patches are usually available in different strengths. You start off with a strong dose of nicotine, gradually going down to lower concentrations as your body gets used to it.
  • Nicotine gum is another form of nicotine replacement, but it works in a different way from patches. While patches deliver nicotine slowly and steadily, the gum allows you to choose when you want or need the nicotine. When you get the urge to smoke, instead of lighting up, you chew a piece of nicotine gum. Many people find it convenient because it also gives them something to do (chew gum) that takes their minds off smoking. As you go along, you chew fewer pieces of the gum or choose a lower strength of the gum as the need for nicotine begins to disappear.
  • Nicotine lozenges are similar to the gum pieces and can be used by people who cannot or prefer not to chew. Instead of chewing a piece of gum, you let the lozenge dissolve in your mouth. Like the gum, you choose when to use the lozenges and you gradually use fewer lozenges and choose a lower strength as your craving for nicotine lessens.
  • Nicotine oral sprays are also an option. People may find them convenient to use when they get the urge to smoke. As you go along, you gradually use a fewer number sprays per day as your craving for nicotine lessens.
  • Nicotine inhalers are yet another option. These devices also allow you to continue the hand-to-mouth smoking motion for as long as you need. As you breathe through the inhaler, your body absorbs the nicotine from the inhaler through the linings in your mouth and throat. This isn't the same thing as smoking, however, because you're getting only nicotine and not the other harmful chemicals that come with cigarette smoke.

There are other medications available in Canada that do not use nicotine to help reduce withdrawal symptoms. These require a prescription from your doctor and may not be appropriate for everyone.

  • Varenicline reduces the sense of pleasure derived from smoking by blocking nicotine's effect in the brain. It also helps with cravings and withdrawal symptoms. It should be used in combination with counselling. Unlike nicotine replacement therapy, varenicline is started while you are still smoking, with your quit date occurring 1 to 2 weeks after you start the medication.
  • Bupropion is an antidepressant that is also used in quitting smoking. It works by helping to control cravings and withdrawal symptoms. It should be started while you are still smoking. It should be used in combination with counselling, and may also be used in combination with nicotine replacement therapy to increase chances of success.

Whatever you decide, be sure to discuss the treatment with your doctor or pharmacist.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2024. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source:

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