Giving up smoking can be a challenge even for the most dedicated quitter. Part of the reason that smoking is so addictive is due to nicotine, a colorless, odorless alkaloid which paradoxically acts as both a muscle relaxant and stimulant. Not surprisingly then, the first thing many people reach for when attempting to give up smoking are nicotine patches, to replace the nicotine hit of cigarettes. Yet there are many other ways to give up smoking without using nicotine patches. This article looks at the top 5 alternatives to nicotine patches.
Firstly, one of the often overlooked alternatives to nicotine patches is sheer willpower. Long term success rates are higher in smokers who quit “cold turkey” than those who quit gradually. Within just 12-24 hours the body can adjust to nicotine withdrawal and within one week cravings for cigarettes will begin to subside. Plus, one of the biggest benefits of willpower is of course it is free!
2. Nicotine Gum
Nicotine gum is another form of nicotine replacement therapy. Each piece of gum contains 2 – 4 mg of nicotine which is about the same as 1 or 2 cigarettes. About half of the nicotine content of each piece of gum is absorbed into the bloodstream. The starting dose of nicotine gum is around 1 piece of gum every two hours which is tapered off over several weeks to 1 piece every 8 hours. In most parts of the world nicotine gum can be purchased over the counter in pharmacies without prescription.
3. Nicotine Inhalers
Nicotine inhalers and nasal sprays release a puff of air containing nicotine particles directly into the mouth or nose. Nicotine is absorbed more slowly than a cigarette and it may take up to 10 – 15 minutes before the effects of an inhaler may be fully felt. Each puff contains only about 10 per cent of the nicotine content of a cigarette. The inhaler is designed to replicate the act of smoking in the same way as the electronic cigarette. Nasal sprays release a dose of nicotine directly into the nasal passageways where it is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. Like other forms of nicotine replacement products, inhalers and sprays should not be used for longer than 12 weeks.
4. Smoking Cessation Medication
There are currently two medications licensed for smoking cessation – Zyban and Chantix. Zyban is a form of the antidepressant Bupropion which is believed to alter chemicals in the brain to prevent nicotine craving. The success rate for stopping smoking with Zyban is about 30% over the first few months dropping to 15% at one year. Chantrix affects the nicotine receptors in the brain reducing the pleasurable experience of nicotine and reducing the desire to smoke.
Electronic cigarettes (smokeless cigarettes or e-cigs) simulate the act of smoking, but without the harmful chemicals. They work by heating up a form of liquid nicotine which is inhaled in the same way as normal cigarette smoke. Smokeless cigarettes give off a vapor which tastes and smells the same as cigarette smoke but without the harmful chemicals. The cartridges in e-cigs are available in different strengths of nicotine so it is possible to reduce nicotine intake gradually.
If you really want to replace nicotine, you’re probably best of quitting. So here are my recommended resources for quitting for good. And more resources related o the top 5 list of alternatives.