Monday, December 9, 2013

Effectiveness Of The Nicotine Patch

Nicotine is the primary addictive substance in tobacco. Nicotine patches are designed to wean someone off tobacco who is addicted to either cigarette smoking or smokeless tobacco ("snuff" or "chew"). The patches work by releasing nicotine into a person's bloodstream through the skin in steady but gradually decreasing amounts. Research shows that nicotine patches are effective tools in the fight against tobacco addiction.


Nicotine cravings and withdrawal symptoms are why 70 to 90 percent of smokers say they can't give up cigarettes. The American Heart Association reports that using any one of the nicotine replacement therapies (NRT) consistently (including the patch, gum and inhalers) more than doubles a person's chances of quitting smoking.

In a study on the effectiveness of nicotine patches and gum published in the peer-reviewed medical journal "BMJ," nicotine gum was found to be more effective than the patch for heavy smokers (more than a pack a day). In light smokers, the patch was found to be just as helpful as gum. Study findings concluded that NRT could assist 15 percent of smokers in their smoking-cessation efforts.

Chewers and Snuffers

Nicotine patches also benefit smokeless tobacco users who are trying to quit. In a University of Minnesota School of Medicine study comparing the patch to a placebo, only the patch helped people stop smokeless tobacco use for up to 15 weeks. Interestingly, both the patch and the placebo reduced cravings and withdrawal symptoms such as depression and irritability. Abstinence rates dropped in some of the study participants after discontinuing the patch.


Nicotine patches come in 16- and 24-hour durations and in various strengths. Picking the right mix of duration and strength can affect how well the patch will help curb withdrawal symptoms. The 16-hour patch is recommended for lighter smokers, but since it's not worn at bedtime, it will not be as effective for people who light up first thing in the morning. The 24-hour patch will cut the morning cravings, but the all-night-long release of nicotine could interfere with sleep quality.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends that smokers who have just quit should use a patch with 15 to 22 mg of nicotine each day for a month and then decrease to 5 to 14 mg throughout the second month.


The ACS emphasizes that combining a nicotine replacement, such as the patch, with smoking cessation counseling can double a person's chances of quitting tobacco for good. The addition of a stop-smoking support group or counseling appears to be particularly helpful for very heavy tobacco users who smoke more than 25 cigarettes a day.


People who are ready to try a nicotine patch should be ready to go cold turkey. Nicotine patches shouldn't be used by people who are currently smoking or using other forms of tobacco. Nicotine patches can cause skin redness and itching in the area where they are worn. They can also cause dizziness, heart palpitations, sleep problems, headache, muscle aches, nausea and vomiting.

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