For many years, mass media and public health programs have been highlighting the risk factors of smoking for chronic conditions like stroke, heart disease, and lung cancer. To help smokers quit and live healthier lives, our previous article on the 10 Tips on How to Quit Smoking highlights the importance of doing nicotine replacement therapy (NRT).
NRT products serve as cessation aids since they can release low levels of nicotine without the dangerous chemicals and tar found in cigarettes. With the wide range of NRT products in the market, here are four tips for picking the best NRT that matches your lifestyle and needs.
1. Factor in existing medical conditions
It is essential to assess whether you have any existing medical conditions that may interfere with your use of a certain product. To illustrate, PubMed published research comparing nicotine gum doses and found that nausea, dyspepsia, throat irritation, and hiccups were more frequent with the use of 6mg than 4mg nicotine gum. It is therefore not recommended for individuals already experiencing digestive or gastrointestinal problems to use nicotine gum as NRT, as it can otherwise exacerbate symptoms.
For nicotine inhalers and nasal sprays, you have to factor in breathing conditions like asthma since the products can irritate your throat or sinuses, especially during the early stages of use. Meanwhile, patients with dermatological conditions like eczema and psoriasis can instead opt for oral nicotine products, since transdermal nicotine patches can sometimes cause skin irritation.
2. Check your diet and physical activity
Even if you have no preexisting health conditions, diet and physical activity must be taken into account when choosing your preferred NRT product. It’s advised to avoid coffee or carbonated drinks before or during the use of nicotine gum. These acidic beverages can lower oral pH levels, therefore causing nicotine to ionize and reducing the overall nicotine absorption.
If you opt for nicotine patches, then you have to coordinate their use and placement with your workout schedule. These patches remain effective when doing mild to moderate exercise, but it is recommended that you remove the patch at least two hours before more strenuous activities like swimming, running, biking, and competitive sports.
3. Consider convenience and ease of use
While most NRT products are accessible without a prescription, the oral product route is still the most viable in terms of convenience and ease of use. Nicotine gums, lozenges, and pouches are all discreet alternatives that can provide you with your nicotine fix anytime, anywhere. There is also a variety of menthol and fruit-based flavors you can choose from.
However, these oral products can differ in terms of nicotine release speed and delivery. A Prilla blog post found that nicotine pouches provide the fastest release of nicotine after placing the product under the upper lip. This is compared to nicotine gum, which you must keep chewing until you experience a tingling sensation, or the lozenge that you have to dissolve in your mouth for nicotine absorption. Nevertheless, these oral products are perfect for immediate daily relief, with a moderate nicotine longevity of about 30 to 60 minutes.
4. Look into combining NRT products
The range of fast-acting and long-lasting NRT products offers combination therapy options. This is particularly helpful for individuals at risk of slip-ups or struggling with withdrawal symptoms. The findings of a study on smoking cessation in BMC Public Health explained that abstinence rates were higher among the group that combined a nicotine patch with gum, compared to those who used a nicotine patch alone. The combined NRT group was also more likely to quit smoking. Combined therapy also gives more flexibility in the gradual lowering of the nicotine dose when you decide to stop NRT altogether.
As always, it is best to conduct extensive research and consult with your physician when deciding to do NRT. Being mindful of packaging, labels, and user manuals will also provide you with more comprehensive information on whether a specific NRT product is a suitable choice for you.