Medications to Help with Smoking Withdrawal

By National Cancer Institute

When you quit smoking, you may feel strange at first. You may feel dull, tense, and not yourself. These are signs that your body is getting used to life without nicotine. It usually only lasts a few weeks.

Many people just can’t handle how they feel after they quit. They start smoking again to feel better. Maybe this has happened to you. Most people slip up in the first week after quitting. This is when feelings of withdrawal are strongest.

There are medicines that can help with feelings of withdrawal:

  • Nicotine gum
  • Nicotine inhaler
  • Nicotine lozenge
  • Nicotine nasal spray
  • Nicotine patch
  • Bupropion SR pills
  • Varenicline pills

Using these medicines can double your chances of quitting for good. Ask your doctor for advice. But remember: Medicine alone can’t do all the work. It can help with cravings and withdrawal, but quitting will still be hard at times.

Here is more information about the different medicines. Also see the Medication Guide.

Nicotine Gum, Patch, Inhaler, Spray, and Lozenge (NRT)

Nicotine gum, patches, inhalers, sprays, and lozenges are called nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). That’s because they take the place of nicotine from cigarettes. NRT can help with withdrawal and lessen your urge to smoke.

You need a prescription to buy the inhaler and nasal spray. But you can buy nicotine gum, nicotine patches, and nicotine lozenges on your own.

Other Medicines

Bupropion SR is a medicine that has no nicotine. You need a prescription to get these pills. They seem to help with withdrawal and lessen the urge to smoke.

Some people have side effects when using bupropion SR pills. The side effects include dry mouth and not being able to sleep.

This medicine isn’t right for:

  • Pregnant women
  • People who have seizures
  • People with eating disorders
  • Heavy drinkers

Ask your doctor, dentist, or pharmacist if this medicine is right for you. Make sure to use it the right way if your doctor prescribes it.

Varenicline is also a medicine that has no nicotine. You need a prescription to get these pills. This drug may help those who wish to quit by easing their withdrawal symptoms and by blocking the effects of nicotine from cigarettes if they resume smoking. The side effects include stomach complaints such as nausea and vivid dreams.

There have been rare reports of mood swings, depression and suicidal thoughts. Your doctor will want to monitor this carefully. Please check the FDA website for updates about this medication: www.fda.gov.

This medicine isn’t right for people with kidney problems and women who are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breastfeeding.

Ask your doctor, dentist, or pharmacist if this medicine is right for you. Make sure to use it the right way if your doctor prescribes it.

Thinking About Using NRT?

  • Ask your doctor, dentist, or pharmacist if nicotine gum, the patch, or some other kind of NRT is right for you. These medicines can cause side effects in some people. Some people should not use NRT without a doctor’s help. Pregnant women are a good example.
  • Be patient. Using NRT correctly can take some getting used to. Follow the instructions and give it some time.
  • Don’t mix tobacco and NRT. Having one or two cigarettes while you use the gum, patch, nasal spray, inhaler, or lozenge is not dangerous, but your goal is to quit smoking for good. Use NRT only when you are ready to stop smoking. If you do slip up and smoke a cigarette or two, don’t give up on NRT. Keep trying.
  • Start out using enough medicine. Use the full amount of NRT in the instructions. Don’t skip or forget to use your NRT after you first stop smoking.
  • Slowly use less and less medicine. But don’t stop completely until you’re ready. You can set up a schedule with your doctor or pharmacist.
  • Keep some of the medicine with you after you stop using it. This way you’ll be ready for an emergency.
  • Wait a half hour after using the gum, lozenge, or inhaler before you eat or drink anything acidic. Acidic foods and drinks can keep nicotine gum and inhalers from working. Acidic foods and drinks include tomato sauce, tomatoes, oranges, lemons, grapefruit, coffee, soda, orange juice, and grapefruit juice.

Bottom line: Read the instructions that come with the medicine. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions.

 

APA Reference
Cancer Institute, N. (2009). Medications to Help with Smoking Withdrawal. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 22, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/medications-to-help-with-smoking-withdrawal/0001548
Scientifically Reviewed
    Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Jan 2013
    Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.