Why Nicotine Replacement is Safe, Helpful, and Recommended

Great job on getting ready to quit. We'll be here to support you every step of the way. Quitting isn't easy. Your brain is physically dependent on nicotine. The first few weeks can be difficult, but nicotine replacement can help you quit. Watch this video to learn more.

Now, let's explore why nicotine replacement is safe, helpful and recommended for quitting. It includes things like patches, gum, and lozenges.

Why Tobacco Isn’t Safe

Smoking, chewing, and vaping all put harmful chemicals in your body. There are about 7000 chemicals in the smoke from cigarettes, pipe, hookah, and cigars. Things like arsenic (rat poison!) and formaldehyde (mummies!). Those other chemicals (not nicotine) cause most of the damage to your body. Chewing tobacco also has many chemicals that cause cancer. And if you vape, you’re still inhaling lots of chemicals other than nicotine. The long-term effects of inhaling those heated chemicals are not yet known.

Using tobacco regularly leads to addiction. Smoking tobacco, chewing, or vaping all put nicotine into your body. Over time, nicotine changes your brain. When you’re addicted and you smoke or chew or vape, your brain cells release large amounts of feel-good neurotransmitters. It reminds you that tobacco is just what you need, as soon as possible. The longer you resist, the more you crave that feel-good feeling. And the more anxious and irritable you can become. That’s nicotine withdrawal.

Using tobacco relieves withdrawal, but it doesn't last long. For smoking, nicotine reaches the brain in just 7 seconds. That’s how it keeps you hooked. But the relief is fleeting, because your body processes nicotine quickly. For some people it lasts only a couple of minutes. Before long, you’re anxious and irritable again. The cycle continues.

Diagram of the Nicotine Craving Cycle

Why NRT Is Safe

Nicotine from FDA-approved patches, gum and lozenges is a “clean” way to get it into your body. Because there’s no burning or heating, you avoid the toxic chemicals of cigarettes and vaping. Patches, gum, and lozenges also deliver nicotine slowly. The speed that a drug hits you is directly related to how addictive it is.

Symbols of Different types of medications that can help you quit smoking, like nicotine patches, nicotine gum, nicotine lozenges, and Chantix and Zyban

Why NRT is Helpful

When you use NRT, you’ll start to notice something. Actually smoking, vaping, dipping or chewing is not as exciting as the moments right before you do it. It’s exciting to look forward to it, and to know you are about to get that relief. But the relief itself is fleeting.

Nicotine replacement medications deliver “clean” nicotine. It calms your cravings. It eases the withdrawal symptoms just enough so you can practice coping with triggers in new ways.

To successfully quit, you have to practice. You have to practice not smoking, vaping, dipping or chewing while you are feeling cravings. Nicotine replacement gives you a break from the intensity of cravings, urges, and withdrawals. It can offer a little peace of mind while you are trying to quit. It gives you space to practice.

There is a lot of misunderstanding about Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT). People tend to take their own path while they quit and maybe NRTs are something you plan to try. If so, be assured that it can be helpful and add to the likelihood of success.

Dr. HaysDr. Hays

Next, learn a mindfulness method to practice quitting.