The Most Effective Stop Smoking Aids
Many things motivate people to quit tobacco: being a good role model, wanting to reduce others’ exposure to second hand smoke, saving money, and wanting to feel better and improve health.
Whatever your reason, keep in mind that quitting cold turkey is the least successful method for kicking cigarettes for good.
Fortunately, many over-the-counter and prescription quit aids have been developed that may significantly improve your odds of success.
As you figure out which quit-smoking aids best meet your needs, keep the following in mind:
- Some treatments to stop smoking are covered by health insurance. Check with your carrier to see.
- Some products are available both over the counter (behind the pharmacy counter) and with a prescription. Ask your health insurance about whether you need a prescription for coverage or reimbursement.
Try, try, and try again.
People who successfully quit smoking rarely do so on the first attempt. If you’ve tried before without success, don’t be discouraged. Consider a different quit aid—the nicotine patch instead of gum, or adding in a prescription medication—and evaluate what worked and didn’t work to keep you on track during past attempts to quit.
Start with your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist.
They can offer invaluable advice and connect you with programs for people trying to quit, including support groups and other resources. Consider taking advantage of these supports, because most people do best when they combine quit-smoking products with behavior change programs.
When selecting a product, consider your current medications and health conditions. Consult your doctor or pharmacist if unsure about whether any particular smoking cessation product is safe for you.
Some people load up on patches, gum, and sprays yet continue to smoke at the same time. This can overload your system with nicotine, resulting in jitters, rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, and trouble sleeping. However, some products can be used together, so ask your doctor or pharmacist what’s best for you.
Research suggests that medications and nicotine replacement therapies can double and sometimes even triple the chances that a smoker will successfully quit. Some of these treatments also help to minimize weight gain while quitting — an important plus for many smokers who want to kick the habit.
The Best, Most Up-To-Date Quit Smoking Aids:
The nicotine patch is a small, self-adhesive patch that releases a slow, steady amount of nicotine into your body through your skin. You apply a new nicotine patch every day on a hairless area of skin between your waist and neck, such as your upper arm or chest.
The nicotine patch is available without a prescription in various doses. The patch is easy to use. The nicotine patch is long acting, controlling nicotine cravings and withdrawal symptoms for 24 hours at a time. You can gradually taper off the nicotine patch as your cravings and withdrawal symptoms decrease. The patch may be used in combination with other quit-smoking aids.
You can’t quickly adjust the amount of nicotine if you have sudden cravings or withdrawal symptoms. However, you may be able to use a second quit-smoking medication along with the patch when a craving arises. The patch may cause skin itching, rash and irritation where it’s applied. Patches also may cause sleep disturbances and vivid dreams. Removing the patch at night may help. Patches must be replaced every 24 hours. To minimize potential skin irritation, avoid putting the patch in the same place more than once every two weeks or so.
If you have certain skin conditions, such as eczema or psoriasis, you may more easily develop skin irritation if you use the patch.
It’s typical to use the nicotine patch for eight to 12 weeks. You may need to use it longer if cravings or withdrawal symptoms continue. Talk to your health care provider if you think you need to use it longer.
Nicotine gum contains a small amount of nicotine. The nicotine enters your body as it’s absorbed through the lining of your mouth when you use the gum according to directions.
Nicotine gum is available without a prescription in two doses. It’s short acting, which means it can control sudden nicotine cravings and withdrawal symptoms for short periods of time. When you first start using nicotine gum, you can use a piece every one to two hours, up to 24 pieces a day. Nicotine gum comes in several flavors. It’s often used in combination with the nicotine patch and other quit-smoking medications.
You must use nicotine gum repeatedly throughout the day to control cravings or withdrawal symptoms. Nicotine gum may only take the edge off cravings, not make them go away completely.
You must follow a specific biting technique for nicotine gum to work effectively. Don’t chew it like chewing gum. To release nicotine from the gum, bite a piece until it has a peppery taste or you notice a tingly sensation in your mouth. Then, to let the nicotine absorb, hold the gum between your gumline and cheek until the taste or tingly sensation stops. To release more nicotine, bite and hold again. Repeat the cycle for about 30 minutes, and then discard the gum because all the nicotine in it has been used. Side effects include jaw soreness from too much biting, as well as mouth irritation, nausea, stomach upset and excess saliva.
Nicotine gum may stick to dentures or other dental work. Avoid eating or drinking anything but water during use and for 15 minutes before to prevent problems with poor nicotine absorption.
Nicotine gum is recommended for up to 12 weeks. You can start by using a piece every hour or two, and then gradually reduce the frequency as cravings and withdrawal symptoms decrease.
Nicotine lozenges are tablets that contain a small amount of nicotine. You place a lozenge between your gumline and cheek and suck it slowly, allowing it to dissolve. The nicotine enters your bloodstream as it’s absorbed through the lining of your mouth.
Nicotine lozenges are available without a prescription in different doses and flavors. One type is called a minilozenge, and it’s intended to get nicotine into your system more quickly. All lozenges are short acting, which means they can control sudden nicotine cravings and withdrawal symptoms for short periods of time. You can generally use up to 20 lozenges a day. Nicotine lozenges are often used in combination with the nicotine patch and other quit-smoking medications.
You must use nicotine lozenges repeatedly throughout the day to control cravings or withdrawal symptoms. Nicotine lozenges may sometimes cause nausea, indigestion, heartburn, throat irritation or hiccups.
Avoid eating or drinking anything but water for 15 minutes before use or during use to prevent problems with reduced nicotine absorption.
Nicotine lozenges are recommended for about 12 weeks. Reduce how many times a day you use the lozenges as your cravings and withdrawal symptoms decrease.
Nicotine Inhaler – Only by Prescription
The nicotine inhaler is a prescription device that gives you a small dose of nicotine. When you puff on the nicotine inhaler, nicotine vapor is released from a cartridge inside the device. The nicotine enters your bloodstream as it’s absorbed through the lining of your mouth and throat. Hold the vapor in your mouth for a few seconds and then blow it out — don’t inhale it into your lungs.
The nicotine inhaler is short acting, which means it can control sudden nicotine cravings and withdrawal symptoms for short periods of time. You control the dose of nicotine you receive. You can take as few puffs as needed to satisfy withdrawal symptoms or cravings and save the rest of the cartridge for later. The inhaler also keeps your hands busy, which can help with cigarette cravings. The nicotine inhaler is sometimes used in combination with the nicotine patch and other quit-smoking medications.
The inhaler is available only by prescription. You must use the nicotine inhaler repeatedly throughout the day to control cravings or withdrawal symptoms. The nicotine inhaler may cause coughing and mouth or throat irritation.
Check with your doctor before using the nicotine inhaler if you have any lung disease, such as asthma. Avoid eating or drinking anything but water for 15 minutes before use or during use to prevent nicotine absorption problems.
Recommended use of the nicotine inhaler is six to 16 cartridges a day for six to 12 weeks, gradually tapering to none over the next six to 12 weeks.
Nicotine Nasal Spray – Only by Prescription
The nicotine nasal spray is a prescription medicine which delivers a solution into your nostrils that contains a small dose of nicotine. The nicotine enters your body by being absorbed through the lining of your nose. The recommended dose is a spray in each nostril one to three times an hour.
The nicotine nasal spray is short acting, which means it can control sudden nicotine cravings and withdrawal symptoms for short periods of time. The nasal spray also works faster than does nicotine gum, lozenges and the inhaler. You control the dose by using the spray as needed throughout the day. The nicotine nasal spray also can be used with the nicotine patch and other quit-smoking medications.
Nicotine nasal spray is available only by prescription. It may be inconvenient, since you must use the nasal spray repeatedly throughout the day to control cravings or withdrawal symptoms. Side effects include nasal, sinus and throat irritation, watery eyes, sneezing, and coughing. These effects typically go away with regular use over five to seven days. The nasal spray also poses a slight risk of dependency.
Nicotine nasal spray isn’t recommended if you have a nasal or sinus condition.
Nicotine nasal spray is often used for about three to six months. Recommended use is one to two sprays in each nostril an hour at first, gradually tapering to none.
Bupropion (Zyban) – Only by Prescription
Bupropion (Zyban) is a prescription medication classified as a type of antidepressant. A sustained-release form of bupropion is approved for smoking cessation. Unlike nicotine replacement therapy, bupropion doesn’t contain nicotine. It’s thought to decrease tobacco cravings and withdrawal symptoms by increasing the levels of certain brain chemicals.
Bupropion is a pill, so it’s relatively easy to use. It can be used in combination with any nicotine replacement medication.
Bupropion is available only by prescription. Because it takes five to seven days to achieve effective levels in the bloodstream, you typically should start taking bupropion a week or two before you quit smoking.
Side effects may include insomnia, agitation, headache and dry mouth. Also, you must remember to take the pill two times a day.
In 2009, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) required bupropion to carry a black box warning — the strongest safety warning that the FDA can issue about a prescription medication.
The warning is required because bupropion may be associated with serious mental health problems either while taking it or after stopping it, including an increased risk of suicidal thoughts or behavior, hostility, and depression.
If you take bupropion, report any changes in mood or behavior to your doctor immediately and stop taking the medication. Bupropion isn’t appropriate if you have a seizure or eating disorder, if you’ve lost consciousness for more than an hour because of head trauma, if you’re already taking a medication containing bupropion, or if you take a type of antidepressant known as a monoamine oxidase inhibitor.
Bupropion is generally used for 12 weeks, but if you’ve successfully quit smoking, you can use it another three to six months to reduce the risk of a smoking relapse.
Varenicline (Chantix) – Only by Prescription
Varenicline (Chantix) is a prescription medication that can help reduce cravings for tobacco and control nicotine withdrawal symptoms. It also blocks nicotine receptors in your brain, which decreases the pleasurable effects of smoking.
Varenicline is a pill, so it’s relatively easy to use. It can be used in combination with any nicotine replacement medication.
Varenicline is available only by prescription. Because it takes several days to reach effective levels in the blood, you typically should start taking varenicline a week or two before you quit smoking. Also, you must remember to take the pill two times every day. Side effects can include nausea, vision trouble, fainting, severe skin reactions, vivid or strange dreams, and impairment of the ability to drive or operate heavy machinery. Some studies have shown an increase in road accidents and falls among people taking varenicline.
In July 2009, the FDA required varenicline to carry a black box warning — the strongest safety warning that the FDA can issue about a prescription medication. The warning is required because varenicline may be associated with serious mental health problems either while taking it or after stopping it, including an increased risk of suicidal thoughts or behavior, hostility, and depression. If you take varenicline, report any changes in mood or behavior to your doctor immediately and stop taking the medication. Varenicline should be used with caution if you have severe kidney problems.
Varenicline is typically used for 12 weeks, but if you’ve successfully quit smoking, you can use it another 12 weeks to reduce the risk of a smoking relapse.
Nic Out Cigarette Filter Holder
While researching smoking cessation products, I came across an item called Nic Out Cigarette Filter Holder, which looked interesting.
Its a disposable cigarette filter which cuts out up to 90% of the tar in cigarette smoke.
The idea of this product is to gradually lower the nicotine level in your blood, thus reducing cravings.
This is not technically for quitting smoking, but it’s something positive which can be implemented until one is fully committed to the quitting process. At the very least, you will be limiting the amount of cancer causing nicotine, tar and other chemicals from entering your lungs while you smoke (worth doing!)
What struck me about this product were the numerous positive reviews. Apparently, the Nic Out doesn’t change the taste of the cigarette, so its a relatively unobtrusive way to cut down on the harm from smoking.
It comes in a pack of 30, with each filter being good for 5 cigarettes.
It might be worth investigating as an intermediate measure until your quitting day.
The most effective strategy to quit smoking for good is to combine a quit-smoking product with a program that includes support from professionals trained to treat tobacco dependence.
Consider joining a community stop-smoking group or starting in-person or telephone counseling. Call 800-QUIT-NOW (800-784-8669) to obtain free telephone counseling services and information about stop-smoking programs near you.
I’d love to hear your experience with quitting smoking (or trying to). Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.
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