Nicotine Patch Dosage
The previous posts discussed quitting methods that essentially rely on willpower to cope with withdrawal symptoms and cravings. But the fact is that the physical symptoms caused by nicotine withdrawal are one of the primary reasons that people return to smoking. Willpower isn't always enough.
Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) was designed to reduce withdrawal symptoms by supplying a relatively safe source of nicotine in measured doses that can be decreased in strength, until the supply of nicotine is completely stopped. This therapy has helped many people successfully stop smoking.
Several types of NRT are now on the market. Nicotine patches, gum, and electronic cigarettes are available without a prescription, while nicotine nasal sprays and inhalers are available through prescription only. This post will examine the nicotine patch so that you can decide if it would help you in your efforts to quit smoking. In later posts, you'll learn about other forms of nicotine replacement therapy.
WHAT IS IT?
The nicotine patch looks like a large adhesive bandage, with an outer rim that sticks to the skin, and an inner area that presses against the skin, slowly releasing nicotine into the body. The patch comes in several different strengths – such as 7, 14, and 21 milligrams – so that smokers can use the strength that is appropriate for both their body weight and the amount of nicotine they are used to getting from cigarettes. (The average cigarette delivers roughly 2 milligrams of nicotine, with some containing less and some containing more.) Kits generally supply a sufficient number of patches to last through the process of quitting.
The patch is intended to be worn either sixteen or twenty-four hours a day, depending on the type chosen, and replaced at the same time each day. By continuously delivering nicotine into the system, it prevents or reduces the withdrawal symptoms that usually result from smoking cessation, making it easier to quit smoking.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
As you learned earlier, the nicotine in cigarettes provides feelings of enjoyment by increasing brain levels of the chemical dopamine – a substance associated with the pleasure system of the brain. As nicotine creates a feeling of pleasure time and time again, it also creates an addiction that causes your brain to punish you when smoking stops. When the supply of tobacco is severed, you experience symptoms such as irritability, frustration, anxiety, restlessness, and insomnia. Many people find these symptoms so distressing that they start smoking cigarettes again despite their desire to quit.
The nicotine patch helps you stop smoking by bringing nicotine into your body via a different delivery system – a safer delivery system that does not provide the tars, carbon monoxide, and other toxic chemicals contained in cigarettes. Because your brain is not starved of nicotine, it produces either no withdrawal symptoms or less severe symptoms, making it easier to quit.
It's important to understand that all NRTs work in different ways, and that the patch is the only NRT that does not simulate the highs and lows of nicotine normally experienced while smoking cigarettes. Instead, throughout the day, it delivers a slow, constant, low level of nicotine.
HOW DO YOU USE IT?
The nicotine patch must be used in combination with cold turkey quitting. You cannot smoke while using the patch, as this can result in an overdose of nicotine. For that reason, your first step in using this technique is to choose a Quit Date, just as you would if you were quitting cold turkey without the help of an NRT.
Next, you must choose the right strength patch. Since the best strength depends on both your body weight and the amount of cigarettes you smoke each day, it would be a good idea to speak to your physician or pharmacist before buying the patch. Also consider whether you want a twenty-four
hour or sixteen-hour patch. If your morning cravings for cigarettes are severe, a twenty-four-hour patch may be your best bet. Be aware, though, that the twenty-four-hour patch can cause sleep disturbances, such as insomnia or unusually vivid dreams. For this mason, some people start with the twenty-four-hour patch and then switch to a sixteen-hour type.
When your Quit Date arrives and you stop smoking, each day, you must place a new patch on a clean, dry, hairless patch of skin between your neck and waist. The upper arm or shoulder is often a good choice, but you can also apply it to your stomach or side. The patch should never be cut into smaller pieces, and must be removed from its wrapper right before application. Of course, each patch should be worn only for the number of hours specified, whether sixteen or twenty-four.
Follow the manufacturer's directions regarding the number of weeks you stay on the patch. With some brands, you use patches at one strength for four weeks, taper down to lower-strength patches for another four weeks, and then stop using the patch entirely. Some brands supply enough patches for ten weeks; some, for a longer period of time. If you think you may need or want to use the patch for longer than six months, be sure to consult a doctor.
Although the nicotine patch can help you quit smoking, it's important to understand that the patch alone will not enable you to give up cigarettes. Smokers are addicted not just to nicotine, but to the entire smoking experience. For that reason, you'll have greatest success using the patch if you anticipate possible problems and have some solutions on hand. Note, too, that because the patch delivers a drug into your system, you'll want to take certain precautions to make the quitting experience as safe as possible. Next post, we'll review some tips to go with nicotine patch. Before that, you can check out Nicotine Patch Dosage.
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