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Medications That Can Help Smokers Quit

Armen Hareyan's picture

The Medication Guide was created to provide you with a general understanding of the current medications used by smokers who are trying to quit. Please note that this guide may not describe every product available. All of these medicines have been shown to be useful for helping smokers quit. There is no one best medicine for all smokers. Always read the instructions on the package carefully and talk with your doctor or pharmacist if you have questions. Dosing information provided in descriptions of these products is intended only to illustrate typical use of these medications. Individual dosing for prescription medications must be determined by a physician. If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have a severe medical problem, talk with your doctor before starting any new medication.

First Line Medications: Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)
Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) helps individuals quit smoking by reducing the craving sensations associated with withdrawal from the nicotine in tobacco. NRT products provide controlled amounts of nicotine. Individuals reduce their use of NRT products over time, allowing their bodies to gradually adjust to increasingly lower nicotine levels.

The nicotine patch is placed on the skin and supplies a small and steady amount of nicotine into the body. Nicotine patches contain varied concentrations of nicotine (21mg, 14mg, or 7mg, for example) and the user reduces the dose over time.

Nicotine gum is chewed to release nicotine that is absorbed through tissue inside the mouth. The user chews the gum until it produces a tingling feeling, then the gum is placed (parked) between the cheek and gum tissue. Nicotine gums have varied concentrations of nicotine (typically 2mg or 4mg) to allow the user to reduce the amount of nicotine in their system.

Nicotine Lozenges look like hard candy and are placed between the cheek and gum tissue. The Nicotine lozenge (typically 2mg or 4mg dose of nicotine) releases nicotine as it slowly dissolves in the mouth.

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A nicotine inhaler consists of a cartridge attached to a mouthpiece. Inhaling through the mouthpiece delivers a specific amount of nicotine to the user.

Nicotine nasal spray is a pump bottle containing nicotine that is inserted into the nose and sprayed. Nicotine nasal spray can be used for fast craving control, especially for heavy smokers.

Bupropion, also known as Zyban, helps to reduce nicotine withdrawal symptoms and the urge to smoke. Bupropion can be used safely with nicotine replacement products.

Varenicline, also known as Chantix, is a prescription medication that eases nicotine withdrawal symptoms and blocks the effects of nicotine from cigarettes if the user resumes smoking.

Nortriptyline, also known as Aventyl, is generally prescribed to treat depression; however nortriptyline has been prescribed to assist with smoking cessation when the first line medications do not work. The use of nortriptyline for smoking cessation has not yet been approved by the FDA.

Clonidine, also known as Catapres, is generally prescribed to treat high blood pressure; however clonidine may reduce tobacco withdrawal symptoms when first line medications do not work. The use of clonidine for smoking cessation has not yet been approved by the FDA.

Information provided on the Medication Guide and Fact Sheets was obtained from a variety of sources, such as product information guides; manufacturers' Web sites, medical Web sites, and articles in the medical literature, including Corelli, R.L. & Hudman, K.S. (2006) Pharmacologic interventions for smoking cessation, Crit Care Nurs Clin N Am, 18, 39-51.