Medicines to help you quit smoking (2023)

With the risks of smoking to your health widely recognised and most of the world now smoke-free there's no better time to try and stop smoking.

While going cold turkey works for some people, using medicines to help you has been shown to approximately double your chances of successfully stopping smoking.

There are three types of medicine available to help you quit:

  • nicotine replacement therapy
  • buproprion (Zyban)
  • varenicline (Champix).

    What is nicotine replacement therapy?

    Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is the name given to stop-smoking medicines that release nicotine into the bloodstream to help counter cravings and reduce other physical withdrawal symptoms when you quit (nausea, headaches, irritability, dizziness).

    These products don't give you the same sort of buzz as you get from cigarettes, but they do reduce cravings and can be used to help slowly wean you off nicotine. You can use NRT to relieve cravings once you have stopped smoking, or to help you cut down the number of cigarettes you smoke before you give up completely.

    NRT products still contain nicotine, which is harmful and addictive, but they deliver smaller amounts than cigarettes and without any of the other harmful substances in tobacco, such as tar and carbon monoxide. They are a safer alternative to smoking and can also help if you just want to cut down the amount you smoke, or if you're in a situation where you're unable to smoke. You can use NRT if you're pregnant or breastfeeding and struggling to quit using willpower alone.

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    All forms of NRT can be purchased over-the-counter from any pharmacy and some from general retail outlets like supermarkets, but these products are also available on prescription. This means if you qualify for free prescriptions, you can get NRT for free on the NHS.

    What's the difference between the products?

    Several different nicotine replacement products are now available, so you should be able to find one that can help you. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice. It's possible to use one or more of these medicines in various different ways to help you cut down the amount you smoke, or to quit altogether.

    Nicotine patches are useful for preventing cravings because they give you a background level of nicotine all the time you are wearing the patch. Products like nicotine gums, sprays, lozenges, microtabs and inhalators act quickly when needed to relieve cravings and reduce withdrawal symptoms. They can be used alongside patches or just on their own.

    You can decrease the amount of NRT you use over time, either by using lower strengths of the products, or by using them less frequently. The strength at which you start is determined by the number of cigarettes you smoke a day and when you need your first cigarette.

    • Nicotine patches are worn on the skin and deliver a regular dose of nicotine over 16 or 24 hours. The long-lasting action means they can be worn around the clock to help prevent cravings. If you get strong cravings to smoke as soon as you wake up, a 24 hour patch may be best for you.
    • Inhalators look like pens and can help if you miss the physical action of smoking. You insert a cartridge into the device and inhale nicotine vapour through the mouthpiece.
    • Lozenges release nicotine as they dissolve in the mouth.
    • Microtabs are tablets that dissolve under your tongue (sublingual tablets). They can be more discreet than lozenges.
    • Chewing gums are used when you would normally reach for a cigarette. The gum needs to be chewed in the special way described in the pack, not like normal chewing gum.
    • Nasal spray is used to give more rapid relief from cravings. Previously only available on prescription, it delivers nicotine more quickly than all the other NRT products.
    • Mouth spray is another option for use when you would normally reach for a cigarette. You spray it directly into your mouth to provide fast relief from cravings.

      If you choose to use lozenges, microtabs, gums or mouth spray, you should avoid drinking coffee, soft drinks and fruit juice 15 minutes before using them, because acidic drinks like these can reduce the amount of nicotine absorbed from the mouth.

      The products currently available are listed below - click the links to find out more about them.

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      • Boots NicAssist gum
      • Boots NicAssist inhalator
      • Boots NicAssist lozenges
      • Boots NicAssist microtab
      • Boots NicAssist nasal spray
      • Boots NicAssist patches
      • Nicorette gum
      • Nicorette inhalator
      • Nicorette invisi patches
      • Nicorette lozenges
      • Nicorette microtab
      • Nicorette nasal spray
      • Nicorette quickmist
      • Nicotinell gum
      • Nicotinell lozenges
      • Nicotinell patches
      • NiQuitin gum
      • NiQuitin lozenges
      • NiQuitin patches
      • NiQuitin strips

        Do nicotine replacement products have side effects?

        As with all medicines, nicotine products may cause side effects, though sometimes these may be difficult to distinguish from withdrawal symptoms associated with stopping smoking. Common side effects with all products are headache, nausea and dizziness.

        In addition patches can cause skin rashes and irritation and the nasal spray can cause nosebleeds, sneezing, sore throat, runny nose and watery eyes.

        Nicotine from lozenges, microtabs, gums and inhalators may irritate the mouth and throat and cause dryness.

        These products can also increase the production of saliva at the start of treatment, and excessive swallowing of nicotine in this saliva can cause nausea, indigestion and hiccups.

        Can you become dependent on NRT?

        Because nicotine is the addictive substance in tobacco, there is a risk you may become dependent on the nicotine replacement products. But the risk of this is small compared to the much greater risks of continuing to smoke. It's also a much easier habit to break than smoking.

        There is a lower chance of becoming dependent on nicotine patches, because these products release nicotine slowly and constantly through the skin, so there is less fluctuation in nicotine levels in your blood.

        (Video) Medications to Help You Stop Smoking

        What is Zyban?

        Zyban contains bupropion, a prescription-only medicine that was originally intended as an antidepressant. Its ability to help people stop smoking came about by chance when participants in the early clinical trials lost their desire to smoke. Zyban was launched in the UK in 2000.

        It's not fully understood how Zyban works to help you stop smoking. It increases the levels of behaviour and mood modulating chemicals called noradrenaline and dopamine in your brain.

        Pros and cons

        Zyban is an alternative to NRT and doesn't contain nicotine. It's only available on prescription.

        Like all medicines, it has side effects, which may put some people off using it. There are also some people who aren't suitable for this type of medicine.

        Side effects of Zyban

        • Common side effects include fever, nausea, agitation, anxiety, dry mouth, headache, skin rashes and constipation. It can also intensify the sleep problems that many people encounter when they stop smoking.
        • The most serious side effects are convulsive fits, which affect approximately 1 person in 1000.
        • Zyban should not be used by people with epilepsy, liver problems or with eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia.

          What is Champix?

          Champix is another prescription-only medicine. Launched in December 2006, the tablets contain the active ingredient varenicline.

          Varenicline works by:

          (Video) Quit Smoking Medications

          • stimulating the same receptors in the brain as nicotine. This relieves the craving and withdrawal symptoms that you can get when you stop smoking.
          • blocking nicotine's action on these receptors. This means you won't get any enjoyable effect from nicotine if you do have a cigarette.

            Pros and cons

            Like Zyban, Champix is an alternative to NRT and doesn't contain nicotine.

            In clinical trials reported so far, more people have quit successfully with Champix than with Zyban. Champix has not yet been compared to NRT.

            On the negative side, some people found that after they stopped taking Champix:

            • the urge to smoke returned
            • they felt irritable
            • they felt depressed
            • they had sleeping difficulties.

              Gradually lowering the dose at the end of treatment may help to reduce these problems.

              Like all medicines, Champix has side effects, which may put some people off using it. There are also some people who aren't suitable for this type of treatment.

              Side effects of Champix

              • Nausea is the most common side effect, usually in the first few weeks of treatment. It should improve as you continue to take the tablets.
              • Other common side effects include headache, difficulty sleeping, abnormal dreams, increased appetite, taste changes, dry mouth, drowsiness, tiredness, dizziness, and gut disturbances such as constipation, diarrhoea or indigestion.

                Based on a text by Marianne Møller, NetDoctor pharmacist

                (Video) 5 TIPS to QUIT SMOKING // Want to quit but don't know where to start?

                Last updated 09.11.2017

                Helen Marshall, BPharm, MRPharmSHelen Marshall, BPharm, MRPharmSA UK registered pharmacist with a background in hospital pharmacy.


                What is the number one method to quit smoking? ›

                Nicotine replacement.

                Using nicotine replacement doubles the quit-rate. It helps with withdrawal symptoms and cravings, and can be tapered off easily as withdrawal symptoms improve. There are many forms available over-the-counter or with prescription: patches, gum, lozenges, nasal spray, and inhaler.

                What can I get to help me stop smoking? ›

                It's OK to start nicotine patches, gum, or lozenges a week or two before you quit smoking. This can help you get ready and may cut down on your smoking. Starting medicine, especially the nicotine patch, before you quit may improve your chances of quitting successfully.

                What are 2 options to aid someone to stop smoking? ›

                Ways to Quit Tobacco Without Using Medicines
                • Cold turkey and gradual withdrawal. ...
                • Filters. ...
                • Smoking deterrents. ...
                • Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) ...
                • Tobacco lozenges and pouches. ...
                • Other forms of nicotine not approved by the FDA. ...
                • Hypnosis. ...
                • Acupuncture.
                Oct 10, 2020

                How can I train my brain to quit smoking? ›

                Celebrate being tobacco-free and try these tips to keep your mind off smoking:
                1. Think about being a host. ...
                2. Don't overdo it. ...
                3. Try to stay away from alcohol. ...
                4. Avoid spicy and sugary foods. ...
                5. Nibble on low-calorie foods. ...
                6. Stretch out meals. ...
                7. Keep busy at parties. ...
                8. Treat yourself to something special.
                Oct 10, 2020

                How successful is Wellbutrin to stop-smoking? ›

                D., principal pharmacist with Gore & Company. “In clinical trials, patients on Zyban 300mg/day had a four-week quit rate of 36 percent, 25 percent at week 12, and 19 percent at week 26,” says Dr. Taylor. These numbers increased significantly if patients used bupropion alongside nicotine patches.

                Is Chantix available yet? ›

                Brand-name Chantix has been fully discontinued since its recall.

                Do quit smoking gummies work? ›

                While CBD gummies are not considered the standard treatment for quitting a smoking addiction, they are pretty effective. It helps curb cravings and ease the horrible withdrawal symptoms.

                How long does nicotine stay in your system? ›

                Generally, nicotine will leaves your blood within 1 to 3 days after you stop using tobacco, and cotinine will be gone after 1 to 10 days. Neither nicotine nor cotinine will be detectable in your urine after 3 to 4 days of stopping tobacco products.

                What is the best nicotine substitute? ›

                In fact, Chantix alone or combination NRT (patch plus gum or lozenge) are considered the two most effective options to help people quit smoking.

                How can I trick my brain into not craving nicotine? ›

                1. Remind. Remind yourself why you want to quit. ...
                2. Rehearse. Rehearse what you will do to handle the urge when a highrisk situation arises.
                3. Reward. Reward yourself for each urge you overcome.
                4. Delay. Delay acting on the urge. ...
                5. Deep Breathing. ...
                6. Drink Water. ...
                7. Distract.

                Do cigarette cravings ever go away? ›

                Cravings for nicotine can start 30 minutes after your last cigarette. Individual cravings usually pass in 3 to 5 minutes. You may get the most cravings 2 to 3 days after you stop smoking. You should stop getting cravings 4 to 6 weeks after you stop smoking.

                Why can't I quit smoking? ›

                Your brain has to get used to not having nicotine around. Nicotine is the main addictive drug in tobacco that makes quitting so hard. Cigarettes are designed to rapidly deliver nicotine to your brain. Inside your brain, nicotine triggers the release of chemicals that make you feel good.

                What vitamin do smokers need more of? ›

                Vitamin C, folate, Vitamin A, and Vitamin E are frequently lacking in smokers' diets. Vitamins C, A, and E are powerful antioxidants needed to offset some of the damage done by inhaling massive amounts of free radicals.

                How can I detox my body from smoking at home? ›

                How Can I Detox My Body From Smoking?
                1. Drink plenty of water. Water can help flush out toxins and chemicals from your body. ...
                2. Eat a diet rich in antioxidants. ...
                3. Exercise regularly. ...
                4. Avoid secondhand smoke. ...
                5. Steer clear of pollution.
                May 28, 2021

                What vitamins should smokers avoid? ›

                A few prospective studies have shown that long-term use of high doses of some supplements, such as retinol, β-carotene, B vitamins, and vitamin E, increase lung cancer risk in current and former smokers.

                Can a smoker's lungs go back to normal? ›

                Your lungs are a remarkable organ system that, in some instances, have the ability to repair themselves over time. After quitting smoking, your lungs begin to slowly heal and regenerate. The speed at which they heal all depends on how long you smoked and how much damage is present.

                How long until my lungs feel better after quitting smoking? ›

                Within the first month after you quit smoking, your lung function will improve, and this will increase circulation, too. Within nine months, the cilia begin to function normally and symptoms like coughing and shortness of breath become less frequent.

                Do you still smoke while taking bupropion? ›

                Do not smoke at any time if using any nicotine products with this drug. Too much nicotine can cause serious side effects. Use this medication regularly in order to get the most benefit from it. To help you remember, use it at the same times each day.

                How does Wellbutrin make you not want to smoke? ›

                Bupropion is effective in the early stages of smoking cessation withdrawal by attenuating the effects of nicotine withdrawal. This is most probably mediated by the inhibition of dopamine reuptake within the synaptic cleft.

                What is the best way to take Wellbutrin to quit smoking? ›

                Take 1 tablet daily for 3 days, then increase to 1 tablet twice daily if you tolerate it. Take at a similar time each day, allowing approximately 8 hours in between doses. Don't take bupropion past 5pm to avoid trouble sleeping. This medicine may be taken for 7-12 weeks and in some cases up to 6 months.

                How can I get Chantix without seeing a doctor? ›

                You can request a prescription for smoking cessation medications such as CHANTIX from an online telehealth site like PlushCare. A licensed doctor can provide you with a prescription to buy CHANTIX.

                Will insurance cover Chantix? ›

                Fortunately, almost all health insurance plans, Medicaid, and Medicare Part D prescription drug plans cover Chantix. Copays vary by the health plan, but many insurance companies will cover it at full price, providing insured pharmacy customers with free Chantix.

                How long can you smoke on Chantix? ›

                With CHANTIX, you can keep smoking until your quit date. If you have completely quit smoking by the end of 3 months, your doctor may recommend that you take CHANTIX for another 3 months to help you stay smokefree.

                What candy is best for quitting smoking? ›

                Zero-Calorie Candy

                Gum, mints, cinnamon sticks, and hard candy (butterscotch or cinnamon drops) can help when you feel a craving coming on. Many ex-smokers also claim that flavored toothpicks keep their mouth busy and combat the psychological effects of nicotine withdrawal.

                Can CBD help you stop-smoking? ›

                Simply put, CBD could help with nicotine withdrawal symptoms; many users have reported an easing of cravings and other withdrawal symptoms when using CBD to quit smoking, and results from studies suggest CBD has great potential in this area.

                Can a doctor tell if I smoke? ›

                Medical tests can detect nicotine in people's urine, blood, saliva, hair, and nails. Nicotine is the addictive substance in tobacco, cigarettes, and vapes or e-cigarettes. When someone smokes a cigarette, their body absorbs up to 90 percent of the nicotine.

                Does nicotine show in your bloodwork? ›

                Nicotine shows up in blood tests, as do its metabolites, including cotinine and anabasine . Nicotine itself may be present in the blood for only 48 hours, while cotinine may be detectable for up to three weeks. After blood is drawn in a lab, results can take from two to 10 days.

                Can doctors tell if you smoke from a blood test? ›

                Yes, your doctor can tell if you smoke occasionally by looking at medical tests that can detect nicotine in your blood, saliva, urine and hair. When you smoke or get exposed to secondhand smoke, the nicotine you inhale gets absorbed into your blood.

                What medication is similar to Chantix? ›

                Chantix (varenicline) and bupropion (Wellbutrin, Zyban) are two effective prescription smoking cessation medications. Studies suggest that Chantix is more effective than bupropion for helping you initially quit smoking, but both are similarly effective at getting you to stay away from smoking long term.

                How many hits of nicotine is equivalent to a cigarette? ›

                Around 14 puffs would be equal to one cigarette and a 60 ml bottle of 3 mg e liquid would be equal to 15 cigarettes. People also ask how much nicotine is in a juul, one pod is equivalent to 20 cigarettes.

                Is Chantix better than nicotine patch? ›

                The findings, which relied on lab tests to gauge carbon monoxide levels, did not find any statistically significant differences between the products at either six months or one year. At six months, for instance, the quit rate was 23 percent for the patch; 24 percent for Chantix; and 27 percent for a patch and lozenges.

                What are the most successful smoking cessation programs? ›

                Ranked as one of the most effective cessation programs in the country, Freedom From Smoking® has helped hundreds of thousands of people quit for good and is now available in a variety of formats.

                Is cold turkey the best way to quit? ›

                But cold turkey may not be the most effective way to quit — especially for people who are dependent on a substance. Quitting too quickly can lead to uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms and a powerful urge to start using the substance again.

                How can I quit smoking quickly for free? ›

                For support in quitting, including free quit coaching, a free quit plan, free educational materials, and referrals to local resources, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).

                What is the hardest time to quit smoking? ›

                The first few days of quitting smoking can be the most challenging. You may have strong regular cravings due to nicotine withdrawal and also from smoking triggers. Being prepared and knowing what to expect can make things easier.

                Is there a shot you can take to quit smoking? ›

                Nicotine vaccines were developed to help people stop smoking, prevent relapse, and to prevent people from becoming addicted to nicotine. Once administered, the vaccine creates antibodies that can block nicotine's effects on the body.

                Can CBD help stop-smoking? ›

                Simply put, CBD could help with nicotine withdrawal symptoms; many users have reported an easing of cravings and other withdrawal symptoms when using CBD to quit smoking, and results from studies suggest CBD has great potential in this area.

                What happens to your lungs when you quit smoking? ›

                Within the first month after you quit smoking, your lung function will improve, and this will increase circulation, too. Within nine months, the cilia begin to function normally and symptoms like coughing and shortness of breath become less frequent.

                What can you replace nicotine with? ›

                Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT)
                • skin patches.
                • chewing gum.
                • inhalators (which look like plastic cigarettes)
                • tablets, oral strips and lozenges.
                • nasal and mouth spray.

                How long do nicotine cravings last? ›

                Cravings for nicotine can start 30 minutes after your last cigarette. Individual cravings usually pass in 3 to 5 minutes. You may get the most cravings 2 to 3 days after you stop smoking. You should stop getting cravings 4 to 6 weeks after you stop smoking.

                How long until nicotine leaves my body? ›

                Once you've stopped smoking, it will take nicotine around 72 hours to leave your body- and the withdrawal symptoms you experience will take effect around 2-3 days after you quit.

                Is there a home remedy to quit smoking? ›

                Sugar-free gum and mints. Chewing gum and mints can keep your mouth busy when you have an urge to smoke. Plus, both gum and mints last a long time—typically longer than it does to smoke a cigarette.

                How can I go all day without smoking? ›

                Think about trying some of these activities:
                1. Exercise.
                2. Get out of the house for a walk.
                3. Chew gum or hard candy.
                4. Keep your hands busy with a pen or toothpick, or play a game in the QuitGuide app.
                5. Drink lots of water.
                6. Relax with deep breathing.
                7. Go to a movie.
                8. Spend time with non-smoking friends and family.
                Jan 25, 2023

                What is the hardest day of nicotine withdrawal? ›

                The first week, especially days 3 through 5, is always the worst. That's when the nicotine has finally cleared out of your body and you'll start getting headaches, cravings, and insomnia. Most relapses happen within the first two weeks of quitting.

                What happens after 3 weeks of not smoking? ›

                At three weeks, you've likely gotten through the shock of physical withdrawal. Now you're beginning to tackle the mental side of nicotine addiction, or psychological withdrawal. 2 This turn of events often triggers cravings to smoke that can feel like you're back at square one.

                How long after you quit smoking are you considered a non smoker? ›

                One Month to One Year After Becoming a Non-Smoker

                Additionally, your circulation gradually gets better over the next several months that you remain a non-smoker. By the nine-month mark, your lungs show considerable signs of healing.


                1. Can a smartphone app help you quit smoking?
                (Osmosis from Elsevier)
                2. 5 Home Remedies to Help You Quit Smoking
                (HealthFeed Network)
                3. What is the Single Best Thing You Can Do to Quit Smoking?
                4. Nicotine Affects the Brain. Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) Can Help You Quit Smoking.
                (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC))
                5. Alternative Medicine Herbal Remedies : Herbal Quit Smoking Products
                6. Medicaid can help you quit Smoking!
                (NYSDOH NY)
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