Medication for Stopping Smoking
There are now a range of options when it comes to medication to support you
through your quit attempt, having some form of medication when you are
stopping smoking increases your chances of successfully stopping and staying
Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT)
Nicotine is highly addictive, and it's the nicotine in cigarettes that causes you to
become addicted to smoking. Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) works by
releasing nicotine steadily into your bloodstream at much lower levels than in a
cigarette, without the tar, carbon monoxide and other poisonous chemicals
This helps control your cravings for a cigarette that happen when your body
starts to miss the nicotine from smoking.
NRT comes in different forms, including:
• skin patches
• chewing gum
• inhalators, which look like plastic cigarettes through which
• tablets and lozenges, which you put under your tongue
• nasal spray
• mouth spray
Your Time to Quit Stop Smoking Adviser will be able to explain how to get your
NRT, they may give you a voucher to go to a local pharmacy or they may speak
to your doctor and ask them to prescribe it.
Choosing your NRT
The one you choose is down to personal preference. When deciding, it helps to
think about the type of smoker you are. For example, are you a heavy smoker
who needs a cigarette as soon as you wake up, or are you an occasional smoker
who only smokes when they are out having a drink, or after a meal?
Some heavy smokers find a 24-hour patch useful, as it helps to relieve the cigarette craving when waking up. Others prefer using an NRT nasal spray or mouth spray, because they're the fastest-acting form of NRT.
Some smokers find it useful to combine NRT products. For example, they wear patches through the day, then use gum or an inhalator to help relieve a sudden craving for a cigarette.
Most courses of NRT last 12 weeks before you gradually reduce the dose and eventually stop. Most people stop using NRT altogether within three months, although heavy smokers may need to use it for longer.
Side effects of NRT
As with all medications there are possible side effects of using NRT, these include:
• skin irritation when using patches • irritation of nose, throat or eyes when using a nasal spray • disturbed sleep, sometimes with vivid dreams • upset stomach • dizziness • headaches
Side effects are usually mild to moderate, but if they become particularly troublesome speak to your Time to Quit Stop Smoking Adviser as your dosage or type of NRT may need to be adjusted.
Also, the nasal spray can cause sneezing and watering eyes for a short time after use. So, don't use an NRT nasal spray while driving, or just before driving.
Stop smoking medication
Two medications are available on the NHS to help you stop smoking.
Zyban was originally designed to treat depression, but it was discovered that it also helped people quit smoking. It's not entirely clear why, but most experts believe it affects parts of the brain involved in addictive behaviour.
Zyban is prescribed as one to two tablets a day.
You need to take Zyban for 7-14 days before you try to quit as the medication takes this long to reach its maximum effect. A course of treatment usually lasts seven to nine weeks.
Zyban is not suitable for everyone so it will have to be prescribed by your GP.
Your Time to Quit Stop Smoking Adviser can discuss Zyban with you and will explain how to get this drug prescribed.
Champix is currently the only medication specifically designed to help you quit smoking.
It works by preventing nicotine from binding to receptors (parts of your brain that respond to nicotine), which eases cravings and reduces the rewarding and reinforcing effects of smoking.
If you've not stopped smoking completely before starting Champix, aim to do so within 7-14 days of starting treatment. It's recommended you take Champix for 12 weeks. If you successfully stop smoking in this time, you may be prescribed another 12 weeks of treatment to ensure you do not start smoking again.
Champix is not suitable for everyone so it will have to be prescribed by your GP.
Your Time to Quit Stop Smoking Adviser can discuss Champix with you and will explain how to get this drug prescribed
Electronic cigarettes - or e-cigarettes - are electrical devices that mimic real cigarettes but using an electronic cigarette. ‘Vaping’ as it’s come to be known, produces a vapour that’s potentially less harmful than tobacco smoke. Many e-cigarettes contain nicotine and, when they do, it’s the vapour that gives the nicotine hit.
E-cigarettes aren’t available on the NHS. They are not the same as the inhalator, which is a type of nicotine replacement therapy that IS available on the NHS.
Since their emergence around five years ago, e-cigarettes have become increasingly popular. They’re typically marketed as a healthier (and cheaper) alternative to traditional cigarettes.
While e-cigarettes may be safer than conventional cigarettes, we don’t yet know the long-term effects of vaping on the body. There are other potential drawbacks to using them:
• Electronic cigarettes aren’t regulated as medicines so you can’t be
sure of their ingredients or how much nicotine they contain – whatever it says on the label
• The amount of nicotine you get from an e-cigarette can change
• They aren’t proven as safe. In fact, some e-cigarettes have been
tested by local authority trading standards departments and been found to contain toxic chemicals, including some of the same cancer-causing agents produced from tobacco
• So far, there’s no proof that they can help people to stop smoking
There are clinical trials in progress to test the quality, safety and effectiveness of e-cigarettes, but until these are complete, the government can’t give any advice on them or recommend their use.
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