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Quitting Smoking with Nicotine Replacement Therapies

A nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is just what it sounds like: a therapy that does its job by replacing the nicotine you’d normally get by smoking. When you use nicotine replacement therapy, you are preventing and treating nicotine withdrawal symptoms, but you aren’t smoking.

Here's one of the great benefits of nicotine replacement therapy: You minimize the discomforts of withdrawal without having to smoke. No longer are you exposed to the irritating and disease-causing additives or the acrid smoke.

If you are a regular smoker and you stopped smoking cold turkey, you would experience uncomfortable nicotine withdrawal symptoms that could prevent you from functioning at work, home, or school and could drive you right back to the very thing you were trying to get away from. These withdrawal symptoms include

  • Fatigue

  • Hyperactivity

  • Anxiety

  • Restlessness

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Depression

  • Irritability

  • Preoccupation with smoking

  • Wandering thoughts

  • Excessive eating

Nicotine replacement therapies are healthier than tobacco because you eliminate the hundreds of toxic ingredients of smoke (except nicotine). Nicotine replacement therapies also contain far less of the byproducts of the combustion of tobacco — the particularly toxic free radicals and aerosolized polyaromatic hydrocarbons that can wreak havoc on cell growth and cause cancer.

Plus, the NRT delivers a measured amount of nicotine to your body at regular intervals. Knowing how much nicotine you’re taking in enables you to titrate, or carefully monitor and eventually decrease the amount of nicotine you’re getting.

A 2002 report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that nicotine replacement therapy has not increased the rate of quitting since it became available over the counter. However, this study has been criticized because it was not conducted using rigorous scientific methods. The change to over-the-counter availability is relatively recent, so it’s too soon to draw conclusions one way or the other regarding the impact on smoking cessation.

Nicotine replacement therapies include

  • Nicotine patches:

  • Nicotine gum

  • Nicotine lozenges

You can also get prescriptions for nicotine inhalers and nasal sprays.

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