Stop Smoking Treatments: Nicotine Replacement Therapy

If you’re trying to give up smoking, you don’t need to battle through on your own; there are treatments, therapies and support groups available through the NHS, which can help. Some may assume that giving up smoking means suddenly decide to quit one day and then trying desperately to resist urges and cravings; however, there are other methods aside from going cold turkey and often, these can be hugely beneficial. The NHS provides a range of options for people who are trying to quit smoking and research shows that people who make use of NHS services are 5 times more likely to give up than those who go it alone. 

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is a treatment used to help your body adjust to life without nicotine, the addictive ingredient in cigarettes. When you smoke, your body gets used to nicotine and this means that when you give up, you experience cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Nicotine replacement therapy is used to help prevent cravings and get you used to life without nicotine. It works by releasing a very low dose of nicotine into the bloodstream very slowly; this means that you get used to much lower levels and you don’t have to deal with unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, such as feeling irritable and restless, anxiety and mood swings, or the dangerous effects of other chemicals in cigarettes, such as carbon monoxide. 

Types of NRT

There are various different types of NRT available, including:

  • patches
  • gum
  • lozenges
  • tablets
  • nasal spray
  • inhalers
  • oral spray

The type of NRT you use is often a matter of personal preference and there’s no scientific proof that any one method is more effective than others. It may be worth trying a couple of different types and seeing which suits you best. In the case of trying to give u when you are a heavy smoker or you have smoked for a long time, it may be best to use a combination of therapies, such as a patch, which releases nicotine 24 hours a day and a nasal spray, which provides relief from cravings very quickly. NRT is available from your GP or local pharmacies. 

Nicotine replacement therapy can be used during pregnancy, but it is preferable to give up before you try and conceive; if you are already pregnant and you want to give up, your GP may recommend NRT, as it is much safer for your baby than smoking cigarettes. 

Potential side-effects

Some people use nicotine replacement therapy without any problems at all, but there is a risk of side-effects; potential side-effects include:

  • headaches
  • feeling dizzy or light-headed
  • irritated skin (if you are using a patch)
  • itchy nose (if you are using a nasal spray)
  • unsettled stomach
  • interrupted sleep

If you have severe side-effects or you experience effects on a regular basis, it’s advisable to contact your GP, as the dose of nicotine may be too high; by adjusting the dose, you can continue treatment with a lower risk of unpleasant side-effects. 

Cutting down with NRT

Some people prefer to try and cut down before they quit smoking altogether and in this case, NRT can be useful; this form of treatment as known as nicotine-assisted reduction and it is available through your GP. Treatment involves slowly replacing cigarettes with NRT methods, including chewing gum and inhalators. Patches are generally recommended as they release more nicotine over a longer period of time. As you get more used the NRT, you reduce the number of cigarettes until you are ready to cut down completely and try to quit. 


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