Nicotine Replacement Therapy, or NRT, refers to the use of nicotine-containing products that are not cigarettes. These products, such as chewing gum, inhalers, or patches, are said to help you quit smoking. Generally, all of these therapies work by gradually reducing the amount of nicotine you take in. Here are some of the better-known NRT methods and how they work.
Some smokers prefer gum because it gives their mouths something to do. It is also available without a prescription, and is sugarless. Those who are concerned about the possibility that weight gain might accompany their quitting efforts may prefer this method.
Gum comes in at least two different strengths, and if you wish you could chew half a piece as well. The nicotine is absorbed through the mucous membranes of the mouth, so professionals recommend that you not eat or drink for 15-30 minutes before and after chewing a piece.
Another orally-delivered type of NRT, lozenges release a gradual amount of nicotine into your system through your mouth’s mucous membranes. The goal is to ease nicotine cravings gently. The larger the lozenge, the slower the nicotine release. Nicotine-containing lozenges are available over the counter.
Nicotine inhalers work by delivering a nicotine-containing mist into the mouth and throat when the user “puffs” on it. Sources say that less than five percent of the nicotine ends up in your lungs. The inhaler itself is usually a plastic tube, and has about the same amount of nicotine as a cigarette. You need a prescription for a nicotine inhaler.
This is said to be the most popular form of NRT. It looks a bit like a bandage, and adheres to the skin. It delivers a set amount of nicotine slowly and steadily into your bloodstream, which is supposed to relieve cravings. You gradually reduce the amount of nicotine released by the patch.
Concerns and Precautions
It should probably be mentioned that smoking a cigarette while simultaneously using some sort of NRT is a definite no-no. Using multiple forms of NRT at the same time is also not a good idea (don’t chew nicotine gum while wearing a patch, for example). Also, success rates are mixed; there is no guarantee that NRT will work.
Advocates of NRT say it is very effective. NRT gives the smoker some sort of control over his or her nicotine intake, and prevents the stress of going “cold turkey.”
No method of NRT will work against a smoker’s will, however. NRT is considered most effective when it is paired with willpower.