Nicotine patches are one of the most popular nicotine replacement therapies around. They help smokers to stop smoking. Like every good thing under the sun, patches have their pros and cons. This article is about these and more.
Since they were introduced into the stop smoking market, several studies have been done on their effectiveness. The New York Times once published results on a study which revealed that the nicotine patch is effective in helping a quarter of smokers quit when combined with will power and determination.
For many smokers trying to drop off cigarettes, nicotine withdrawal symptoms seem to be a big issue. Call it their albatross and you won’t be far from the truth. This is because their bodies, which have been so accustomed to having nicotine (a highly addictive substance), yearns for the usual supply. Without the regular dose, the smoker’s body reacts violently and goes through indications such as severe headaches, grouchiness, unexplainable sadness, despair, sleeplessness and touchiness. To overcome these symptoms, some smokers make use of nicotine patches.
What is a Nicotine Patch?
According to Wikipedia, “a nicotine patch is a transdermal patch that releases nicotine into the body through the skin. It is used as an aid in nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), a process for smoking cessation.”
A Nicotine patch looks like a big bandage or plaster and is fixed firmly onto the skin so that small doses of nicotine can be discharged and taken into the bloodstream through it. Through this, the body experiences a constant supply of nicotine; the urges to smoke are minimized and the cigarette withdrawal signs are greatly reduced.
How do Nicotine Patches Work?
There are different manufacturers for Nicotine patches but they generally appear in three different doses: 21mg, 14mg and 7mg.The 21mg patch contains the highest quantity of nicotine and is usually recommended for people who feel the urge to smoke once they wake up. From there, the consumer ‘steps down’ to lower dosage patches until the final step down to no patch.
Nicotine patches are predicated on the belief that most smokers will succeed with their stop smoking efforts if they gradually weaned themselves off nicotine. Proponents of this therapy say it’s more effective than the cold turkey method which involves abrupt withdrawal from cigarettes.
If you decide to go for this method of quit smoking, please note that the nicotine patch should be placed on dry ,dirt-free, hairless skin once every day. Producers advocate wearing the patch for 16 hours daily, depending on your comfort-ability level. However, wearing the nicotine patch to bed at night is highly discouraged as it can disturb sleep and cause what is popularly known as nicotine patch vivid dreams. If you ever experience this, do away with the patch before bed and apply a fresh one the next day.
Ideally, the nicotine patch treatment should last for 10 weeks after which you should have completely weaned yourself off nicotine, be able to stop wearing the patches and not feel like smoking again.
Brands of patches include those manufactured by Habitrol, Nicoderm, Prostep and Nicotrol, and they all work by steadily passing nicotine (in little doses) through the skin and into the bloodstream. This is said to help the body battle strong urges for nicotine that surface after dropping off cigarettes and also to quell nicotine withdrawal symptoms (ranging from moodiness, severe headaches to depression) that normally cause would-be quitters to return to smoking cigarettes.
NicoDermCQ comes in two plans (10 week or 8 week) to be used depending on how many cigarettes the smoker smokes a day. The 10-week plan is for smokers who smoke more than 10 cigarettes a day. Smokers should use Step 1 (21 mg) for 6 weeks, Step 2 (14 mg) for 2 weeks, and Step 3 (7 mg) for 2 weeks. The 8-week plan is for smokers who smoke ten or less cigarettes a day. Use Step 2 (14 mg) for 6 weeks and Step 3 (7 mg) for 2 weeks. This leads to a steady weaning from the nicotine, hopefully producing fewer side effects. The instructions are very clear, and the site states that you must adhere to the directives carefully to get the desired result. The approximate retail cost of the 10 week program is $350.
In most cases, the smoker would wear the 21 mg patches, for the first 6 weeks. One patch is applied in the morning, at the same time every day if possible, to a dry, hairless, clean and non-irritated area of skin on the upper arm, chest, back or hip. The patch is worn all day and removed at night (16 hour patches). The next day, a new patch should be applied to a different area of skin to avoid skin irritations.
If after 6 weeks you have managed not to smoke, you can start to use the 14 mg patches for a further two weeks and for the final two weeks after that, the 7 mg patches. By this time the nicotine intake is so small that you should be able to stop the treatment completely and not have any urges to smoke.
The NicodermCQ website says the most important thing is that you must stop smoking before beginning the program, or else your blood will have too much nicotine in it. One thing that is very clear is that the program only works once the smoker has made a personal decision to stop smoking. The patch cannot take precedence over the mind. Also, choose your quit date (it should be soon) and stick to it. Enrol in a support program for success. NicodermCQ offers a behavioral support called Committed Quitters. It’s a completely free program that offers advice and counseling for smokers trying to quit using Glaxo Smith Kline’s (GSK’s) nicotine replacement therapy products. Committed Quitters includes a no-charge, personally tailored quit plan, newsletters, certificates and other motivational material, as well as a toll-free help line.
It should however be noted that Nicotine patches only address and help with the physical cravings. In order to manage the mental or emotional cravings, you will need to change your routine and stop doing the things that you associate with smoking (throw away your ash tray,stop drinking and avoid events where you will see people smoking). Also try to occupy that time with another productive venture. Being aware of when you smoke and why will help. However, if the urge to smoke is just too strong, you may seek professional counseling.
Pros of Using Nicotine Patches to Stop Smoking
✴ The patch greatly reduces the urge to smoke.
✴ The patches are convenient, easy to use and apply.
✴ It’s an effective substitute for people who hate oral medication.
✴ This therapy has proven to be very effective in managing withdrawal symptoms.
✴ The patches come in various dosages and users can apply according to their level of addiction.
✴ A week’s supply costs more or less the same as a week’s supply of cigarettes.
✴ The patches are discreet and can be hidden under clothes.
✴ The patch doesn’t require much attention as you apply once in the morning and face your activities for the rest of the day.
Cons of Using Nicotine Patches to Stop Smoking
✴ It’s not a one-size-fits-all smoking cessation aid as you need other things alongside it. And that’s Will Power. To confirm this, each pack of the Nicotine Patch carries this statement: Willpower is needed.
✴ It causes another form of nicotine addiction. After successfully quitting cigarettes with the help of patches, most smokers realize they can’t do without them (patches).
✴ The patch greatly reduces the urge to smoke but they do not completely eliminate the cravings they go through. Smoking carries with it some physical and mental effects on one’s person, and some aspects cannot be handled by nicotine patches.
✴ Patches are good in reducing the nicotine craving but they do not do anything to reduce the nicotine withdrawal symptoms. Nicotine withdrawal symptoms are moodiness, nervousness, despair, sleeplessness, tetchiness and restiveness. These indications manifest in varying degrees in different people depending upon how long they have smoked. It is vital to reduce these symptoms in the early phase of quitting so that it helps the person in staying away from smoking.
✴ The product is not for use by persons under 18 years.
✴ It causes redness and irritation on the spot which it is placed.
✴ Patches should not be used by women when pregnant or breastfeeding.
✴ If after 10 weeks you do not succeed with this plan, it is not meant for you.
✴ If you are on other prescription drugs, you may not be able to use patches.
✴ You may not be able to use patches if you have health conditions like stomach ulcers, chest pain, diabetes, heart disease, skipped heart beats, liver or kidney disease. Tell your doctor if you have any of these conditions before using nicotine patches.
Side Effects of Nicotine Patches
✴ One of the side effects is nicotine patch vivid dreams. If you are wearing the patch at night or in bed, it has been known to bring about what is popularly called nicotine patch vivid dreams. By nature, Nicotine boosts neuro-transmission in the brain, thereby exciting and giving you more pleasure (or something like that). Maybe this is increased whilst you are asleep and causes you to have those dreams.
✴ Other side effects include dizziness, light-headedness, drowsiness, stomach upset and nausea. In some cases, these are the outcome of nicotine overdose while using the patches; in some cases these effects are temporary. But it pays to know the side effects before starting your nicotine patches therapy.
Smoking While Using the Patch
Avoid smoking while using the patch as it could cause an overdose of nicotine in the blood. Indications for nicotine overdose include stomach pains, seizures, dizziness, hearing or vision problems, confusion, chest pain, headache and diarrhea. Consult your doctor should you have such a case.
How Long Should I Quit Smoking Before Applying the Nicotine Patch?
Wait at least half an hour after your last cigarette before using the Nicotine Patch.
Nicotine Patches Success Rate
If you are one of those who are asking if nicotine patches work, these findings will interest you.
Nicotine Patch Tips
✴ Develop a strong desire to quit and commit to it before beginning the program.
✴ Don’t just rush into buying the patches themselves. Consult with your doctor if you have medical conditions that may get aggravated when you take patches. You don’t want to
✴ Should your doctor approve, the first application of the patch will tingle a bit, so choose a part of your skin that’s got less hair. Also, vary the areas you stick the patch to. Inspect the areas well, they should not have open wounds and rashes. Should you feel any sudden palpitations or breathing changes, consult your doctor.
✴ Mind the doses. Also, note that you may have to try lower doses after maybe two weeks, as your body will have gotten used to them by then. These things vary from person to person. Hence the need to be monitored by a physician through consultations. You may experience a surge in appetite, so bear with it.
✴ Complete the full program, applying a new patch every day.
✴ Nicotine Patches work best when used together with a support program:
✴ Just remember to consult with your doctor before you try the nicotine patch, and to stay in touch during the process. If anyone could simply stop smoking, nicotine patches and other ‘remedies’ won’t be needed. Sadly, nicotine addiction is a medical condition wherein your body craves a substance. So weaning yourself away from the substance by getting less and less of it is key to your decision to stop smoking. In this case, nicotine patches help a great deal in dealing with the withdrawal symptoms.
✴ Do not smoke or use other nicotine/tobacco products while wearing and after removing the patch. Nicotine continues to be absorbed through the skin for several hours after the patch is removed.
On the whole, Nicotine patches work but you have to want to give up. Without a strong desire to quit on your part, patches will not work. Secondly, it’s not nicotine that is harmful to your health, it is the tar and smoke you are taking in that does the most harm and having a patch on your arm makes it easier to cut down on nicotine until you are able to cut it out completely.