Medications to help you Quit the Smoking Habit.

By: Thomas Hunter

As anyone who has tried before knows, quitting an addictive behavior like smoking is a very difficult process. Along with support groups and behavior modification techniques, the U.S. FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has approved six medications to aid in your quest to quit smoking. These medications help you break your addiction to nicotine and transition more smoothly into a smoke-free life.

The majority of medications to help quit smoking fall into the category of nicotine replacement therapy. These include medications available over the counter in the form of a nicotine patch (also prescription-only, depending on brand), nicotine lozenge, or nicotine gum. Nicotine inhalers and nicotine nasal sprays are available by prescription.

If you would prefer to use a non-nicotine replacement medication, you have several options. Bupropion SR is an anti-depressant prescribed by a doctor. Many people have also found that alternative medicine helps them with the painful process of withdrawal. No matter which medication you choose, if any, be sure to consult with your doctor before beginning or stopping treatment.

· Nicotine patch. A smoker wears a new patch daily on his or her upper body for eight weeks or longer. The patch passes nicotine into your system by transferring it from your skin into your bloodstream. Name brands Nicoderm CQ and Nicotrol are available over-the-counter, while Habitrol is prescription only. If, after the first week of treatment, you have still not quit smoking entirely, speak to your doctor about adjusting the dosage or using additional medication.

· Nicotine lozenge. Lozenges dissolve in your mouth and passes nicotine into your bloodstream through the lining of your mouth. Doses are set at two milligrams for regular smokers and four milligrams for heavy smokers, and are recommended to be taken every couple hours for six weeks. After that point, you can decrease the number of doses through the following six weeks. The brand name Commit lozenge is available over-the-counter.

· Nicotine gum. Like the lozenges, nicotine gum delivers nicotine through the mouth’s lining. Doses vary between two- and four-milligrams; most users chew between 10 and 15 pieces daily. Nicotine gum should be used for a one- to three-month period, and is not recommended for longer than six months. Probably the best-known brand name, Nicorette, is available over-the-counter.

· Nicotine inhaler. An inhaler works to satisfy smoking urges, as well as strictly nicotine cravings. Looking similar to a cigarette holder, the inhaler gives you a chance to puff, which causes it to give off nicotine vapors. The vapors are absorbed by the mouth lining and delivered to the bloodstream and, eventually, the brain. The brand name Nicotrol inhaler is available via prescription.

· Nicotine nasal spray. The nasal spray delivers its effects more quickly than either the gum or the patch. Nicotine is sprayed directly into the nostrils. After being absorbed by nasal membranes, the nicotine is passed into the veins and to the heart and brain. Known as brand name Nicotrol NS, nasal spray is typically prescribed for three-month periods, to be used for a maximum of six months.

· Bupropion SR. Bupropion SR does not contain nicotine. Rather, this antidepressant increase dopamine levels in the brain, which is the chemical that is boosted by nicotine. Bupropion’s side effects include dry mouth, headaches, and sleep disturbance. Known as brand name Zyban, bupropion must be prescribed by a doctor and shouldn’t be given to patients with a history of seizures or serious head trauma. Other antidepressants such as nortriptyline may be an alternative option.

· Alternative medicine. Although alternative medicine exists in many forms, the ones used most often for quitting smoking are behavior therapy and relaxation techniques. In behavior therapy, a therapist helps you understand why you smoke, develop coping skills, and thereby change your behaviors and thoughts. Relaxation techniques or meditation focus on reducing stress.

Using a medication to quit smoking makes you twice as likely to quit successfully. The most successful form of treatment of all is the use of therapy or counseling in conjunction with medication. If you are thinking about quitting, find out as much as possible about all the quitting aids available to you through this website and others, and consult with your health services provider.

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