Nicotine Replacement Medications (NRM)
All nicotine-replacement medications (NRM) provide nicotine to a smoker without using tobacco. This helps relieve nicotine withdrawal symptoms as the smoker stops the behavior of cigarette smoking. Research shows that even people with heart disease can safely use nicotine replacement medications. That’s likely because the amount of nicotine provided is less than the amount provided by cigarette smoking. So, the benefits of nicotine replacement far outweigh the risks in most smokers.
Generally, the smoker picks a day to stop smoking cigarettes (“the quit day”) and begins the product on that day. The products are recommended for use for two to three months. However, doctors usually recommend allowing NRM use for a longer period of time if the alternative would be to return to cigarette smoking.
Nicotine gum, lozenges and the patch are available over the counter, while the nicotine nasal spray and inhaler are available by prescription only. Some possible side effects of all of the nicotine replacement medications may include dizziness, perspiration, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, and abdominal pain. In addition to these, there are some side effects and other considerations specific to the type of NRM used.
Other Prescription Medications (That Do Not Contain Nicotine)
The two most commonly used prescription medications for smoking cessation are bupropion (Zyban) and varenicline (Chantix). Both have been shown to be effective in helping people quit, but they are not without risks and they are not for everyone. Talk to your doctor about your health history and your risk before deciding whether you should take one of these medications.
Try downloading these medication charts to review before discussing with your doctor which one might be best for you.
(A fully expandable, magazine format version is available below each chart. (PDF))
- Nicotine-Replacement Medications
- Other Prescription Medications (That Do Not Contain Nicotine)