Nicotine patch is a popular and effective smoking cessation aid. Studies have found that using a nicotine replacement therapy (such as a patch) can increase a person’s chance of successfully quitting smoking by about 50% to 60%.
Since consuming most nicotine-containing products is risky to health and the possibility of addiction is high, many people are looking for ways to reduce the use of these products. Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is a popular option to reduce dependence on nicotine. Due to its ease of use and effectiveness, nicotine patches have become one of the most popular NRTs.
The nicotine patch was approved by the FDA in 1991. From 1992 to 1996, the patch was only available by prescription in the United States. Since 1996, it has been available over the counter (without a prescription).
Other forms of medicinal nicotine products include chewing gum, lozenges, inhalers and sprays.
This article discusses the effects of nicotine patches and some of the benefits they provide. It also covers some of the side effects you may encounter when using nicotine patches and other things to consider.
Are nicotine patches effective?
The nicotine patch provides a stable, controlled dose of nicotine throughout the day, thereby reducing the effects of nicotine withdrawal. Over time, the strength of the patch will decrease, allowing users to gradually quit nicotine.
Seven first-line drugs have been found to increase long-term withdrawal rates: bupropion (Zybran), varenicline (Chantix), nicotine gum, nicotine inhalers, nicotine lozenges, nicotine nasal sprays, and nicotine patches. All five NRTs have roughly the same level of efficacy.
Studies have shown that all types of NRT can effectively quit smoking, but short-acting NRT patches are the best. The combination of counseling and medication is more effective than using it alone.
Studies have shown that if used properly, nicotine patches and other types of nicotine replacement therapies are safe and effective.
Nicotine intake and health risks
Nicotine is associated with health risks, including increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, and narrowed arteries. It is also very addictive, which is why quitting smoking can cause withdrawal symptoms. Using NRT such as patches can help you gradually reduce your nicotine dose and minimize the severity of withdrawal symptoms.
Tobacco products contain different levels of nicotine.
- Traditional cigarettes contain 10 to 20 mg of nicotine, of which about 1 to 2 mg is absorbed by your body when you smoke.
- Juul is the most popular e-cigarette brand and contains 50 mg of nicotine.
- Waterpipe smoking is a global practice to absorb nicotine, and research shows that it may actually be more harmful than smoking cigarettes. Hookah smoke is heated by charcoal briquettes.
According to a 2016 study, synthetic hookah charcoal contains more heavy metals and a higher lead concentration than most cigarette brands.
Nicotine patch dosage
Nicotine patches usually come in three different dosage strengths: 21 mg, 14 mg, and 7 mg. These numbers refer to the nicotine content in the product. For people who smoke a pack of 20 or more cigarettes a day, the 21 mg patch is usually recommended as a starting point. From there, following the package instructions, the user gradually reduces the dosage of the patch until the last step is reduced to no patch.
The nicotine patch resembles a square tan or transparent bandage. The size depends on the dosage and brand, but is usually between one and two square inches. Nicotine patches should be used once a day to clean, dry, and hairless skin. Manufacturers generally recommend wearing the patch for 16 to 24 hours a day, depending on your comfort level.
When using patches, people usually start with a higher dose and then gradually switch to a lower dose over time until they no longer need to use the patch.
Possible side effects
Sleeping with nicotine patches at night can disrupt sleep and cause vivid dreams. If this becomes a problem, please remove the patch before going to bed and apply a new patch the next morning.
Some users experience itching, burning, or tingling when using the patch for the first time. This usually disappears within an hour, as a result of nicotine contact with the skin.
Some people may experience redness or swelling at the patch site for up to 24 hours. Other symptoms that people may sometimes experience include diarrhea, dizziness, headache, upset stomach or vomiting.
More serious side effects may include abnormal heartbeat or rhythm, difficulty breathing, seizures, severe skin rash or swelling.
Before using the nicotine patch, be sure to consult your doctor if any of the above symptoms are severe or will not go away.
You should always talk to your doctor before using nicotine patches. Be sure to mention whether you have any diseases or medical conditions, because if you have certain conditions, you should not use the patch. Some of them include:
- Allergies to tape, bandages, or medications
- Chest pain or recent heart attack
- heart disease
- Kidney or liver disease
- Skipped or irregular heartbeat
- Skin rash or skin disease
- Stomach ulcer
- Thyroid disease
If you take any other medicines, be sure to consult your doctor before starting the patch, as it can change the way certain medicines work.
Smoking while using the nicotine patch
Do not smoke while using nicotine patches or any other NRT because you are at risk of overdose of nicotine. Some signs of nicotine overdose may include:
- Blurred vision
- Cold sweat
- Dizziness, weakness, or fainting
- Hearing problems
- Upset stomach
If you suspect an overdose, remove the patch and call your doctor immediately. Nicotine overdose is rare, but it can be fatal.
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Studies have shown that the most effective way to quit smoking is to combine a long-acting nicotine patch with another short-acting nicotine replacement therapy (such as lozenges, chewing gum, or nasal spray). This type of method will significantly increase your chances of successfully quitting after using it for 12 weeks or longer.
Although nicotine inhalers are another form of NRT that can be used with patches, you should avoid e-cigarettes. E-cigarettes used for e-cigarettes are related to severe lung damage, and all e-cigarette products should be avoided.