Treatment and Therapies
Medical understanding of the dangers of smoking has increased dramatically in the last few decades. As more and more people decide to stop smoking, scientists and doctors have focused on helping them. Understanding of nicotine addiction1 and withdrawal has also increased considerably in recent years. There are several innovative new treatments for people undergoing nicotine withdrawal and it’s never been easier to give up smoking.
There has been a significant advance in the understanding of brain chemistry and how the brain responds to addictive stimulants like nicotine. Prescription stop smoking medications like Zyban and Champix appear to block certain receptors in the brain that create nicotine cravings, as well as those which create pleasurable sensations in response to nicotine hits from cigarettes.
What is the difference between NRT and Prescription Medications?
NRT (nicotine replacement treatment) is a generic term for a range of products that give users an alternative source of nicotine, allowing them to try and manage nicotine cravings when they quit smoking. NRT products include chewing gum, lozenges, tablets, skin patches and inhalers.
Prescription medications like Zyban and Champix are 100% nicotine free and are designed to simplify the process of giving up smoking. Many patients prefer to simply take their stop smoking tablet at a set time and let the medication do its work. Some studies suggest that (if used for a sufficient length of time) prescription medications may enable over 20% of users to give up smoking at their first attempt.
While there are some restrictions and possible side effects, Champix is considered to be generally safe for most people over the age of 18 who want to stop smoking. You can request a prescription for either medication online at DoktorABC.
Hypnosis for Giving Up Smoking
Hypnosis used to be regarded either as a stage act, or as some form of dangerous mind control. In fact, it’s been used as a useful therapeutic tool for over a hundred years. There are still a lot of misconceptions about using hypnosis to give up smoking, but the basics are very simple.
There is a spectrum of suggestibility that ranges from people who can’t be hypnotised, to people who are highly receptive to hypnotic suggestions. Most of us fall somewhere between these extremes. If you are willing to be hypnotised - and able to work with your hypnotherapist - the chances are that hypnosis can help you to stop smoking2.
There are plenty of hypnotherapists who specialise in hypnosis for patients who want to stop smoking. The good ones will work gently to relax patients and help them to address their anxieties about giving up smoking. The emphasis is on enabling and empowering the patient to give up smoking easily, rather than forcibly breaking the habit.
Nicotine Replacement Therapy
Nicotine replacement therapy is designed to create a gradual, managed transition from being a smoker to being entirely smoke free. The patient uses cigarette substitutes that release nicotine into the body in order to beat cravings. The idea is to gradually reduce usage of the nicotine substitute until the body is completely free of nicotine3.
Nicotine is a poison, a sufficiently large dose will kill you in seconds. Every smoker will have experienced nausea and discomfort when they first started smoking and were building up a tolerance to the drug.
Some smokers who use NRT to beat nicotine cravings will experience discomfort and side effects. Rarely, this may extend to serious health problems.
Nicotine patches are a discrete sticking patch that is placed on the skin, allowing gradual transdermal (through the skin) absorption of nicotine. Patches work to prevent nicotine cravings from occurring, taking the patient’s mind off the need for a cigarette.
The main advantage of nicotine patches is their ease of use, they are also one of the safest forms of NRT. The problem with nicotine patches is that there are doubts about their effectiveness. According to a 2018 scientific study around 80% of users had started smoking again within a year of quitting.
Nicotine Patches Side Effects
Nicotine patches are applied directly to the skin. This is not always comfortable and can result in skin irritation and a dry mouth. If you experience any kind of skin problems when you use patches you should immediately discontinue treatment.
Nicotine gum is basically ordinary chewing gum containing nicotine. The nicotine is absorbed into the body via the soft skin inside the mouth. Nicotine gum is a convenient form of NRT that is available almost anywhere in the UK. If you need more gum you’ll be able to buy it in any shop, newsagents or 24 hour garage.
Nicotine Gum Side Effects
Birth DefectsPregnant women are not recommended to use nicotine gum. A Danish study found an increased risk of fetal abnormalities amongst women who used nicotine gum during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Muscle ControlSome users have complained about nicotine gum causing hiccups. Others have reported a sensation of constricted throat muscles. Accidentally swallowing saliva that contains nicotine can cause irritation and discomfort.
Nicotine inhalers are small devices containing a nicotine plug. The user puffs on the pipe to inhale the nicotine, absorbing it into the body via the soft skin inside the mouth. The advantage of nicotine inhalers is their convenience and ease of use. It’s easy to keep your inhaler in your pocket or bag and it should give you about 400 hits of nicotine before it expires. Inhalers are disposable and are easy to replace. They are generally reckoned to be healthier than e-cigarettes.
Nicotine Inhalers Side Effects
Nicotine inhalers can cause some irritating side effects, including coughing, a runny nose and headaches.
A nicotine lozenge is a flavoured tablet that contains a dose of nicotine. Users suck on the lozenge much like a cough sweet and the nicotine is absorbed through the soft skin of the mouth. Lozenges are convenient, discreet and can be used throughout the day.
Nicotine Lozenges Side EffectsNicotine lozenges can cause nicotine poisoning if they are overused. Some smokers may be tempted to treat lozenges like sweets and take too many. It is very important not to smoke cigarettes while you are using lozenges.
Other side effects may include sore throat, nausea, heartburn, hiccups or irregular heartbeat.
Does NRT Actually Work?
The opinion is divided about the real clinical benefits of the various NRT methods4. It seems likely that cigarette substitutes like nicotine patches are more effective for heavy smokers (people who smoke at least 15 cigarettes a day). Some smokers may be using nicotine replacement therapies unnecessarily.
There are no definitive statistics regarding failure rates for smokers who use NRT to kick the habit, but evidence suggests that most will relapse within 12 months. Whether this is a true failure to beat the addiction or simply a lifestyle choice, is harder to determine.
An increasingly popular alternative to over the counter NRT methods is nicotine antagonist prescription medications designed to influence neurotransmitters in the brain. These may work to suppress nicotine cravings more effectively than nicotine substitutes. With prescription medications, there is no danger of simply exchanging one source of nicotine for another.