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Nicotine Replacement Therapy

Nicotine Replacement Therapy

By former Tobacco Talk Coordinator Colin Maloney

While many people feel that they ought to be able to stop using tobacco “cold turkey,” or without any supports many find that their quit process is made easier through the use of Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) products. There are a number of nicotine-based products on the market that have been determined by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be safe and effective in helping people who use tobacco to quit. (There are also some non-nicotine medications that have been approved for the same purpose.)

nicotine patchThere is a lot of information out there about the various products, some of it good, and some of it not-so-good. This article isn’t meant to cover all of it, but to talk about the basics of what it is and how it works. Also, I hope to help dispel some of the myths around NRT.

Nicotine causes physical dependence and symptoms of withdrawal when it’s expected but isn’t present. NRT products work by supplying the nicotine that your body has grown accustomed to in a manner that is far less dangerous.  Nicotine, when derived from an FDA approved source, is relatively benign. Without the physical cravings for nicotine, it’s easier to find new ways to relax or deal with stress, deal with habits and patterns, or cope with environmental triggers.

All the forms of FDA approved NRT are meant to be used throughout the day to avoid withdrawal symptoms, and not (as commonly believed) when cravings come on. The amount of nicotine generally will start at the level that you’re used to and then gradually reduced until you’re able to step off much more easily. While typically used for 8-12 weeks, new guidance from the FDA states that it’s likely safe to use NRT for longer in most cases.

Stopping your tobacco use can be challenging, but so can anything that you have been doing for a while. Nicotine Replacement Therapy, especially as part of a comprehensive quit plan, is a safe and effective way to improve your likelihood of reaching your goal.

Contact the Tobacco Talk program at (206) 616-8476 or