World No Tobacco Day 2020: All you need to know about nicotine replacement therapy
NRT includes the administration of controlled amounts of nicotine in the body through various ways to help manage the withdrawal symptoms.
Tobacco use is considered to be one of the leading preventable causes of mortality in the world. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), nearly eight million people in the world die each year of tobacco use.
On May 31, the WHO observes World No Tobacco Day to spread awareness about the harmful effects of tobacco and to discourage people from using tobacco products.
If you are trying to quit smoking, today is as good as any to begin the process. Nicotine replacement therapy is one of the ways you could quit and here's all you need to know about it.
Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT)
Nicotine replacement therapy is one of the most common methods that can be employed to quit smoking or tobacco use. NRT includes administration of controlled amounts of nicotine in the body through various ways to help manage the withdrawal symptoms. The different forms of NRT include:
Over the counter NRTs
- Nicotine patches: Nicotine patches have to be applied on the skin. They steadily release small amounts of nicotine into your body. Depending on your need, you can either use a 16-hour (light and moderate smokers) or a 24-hour patch.
- Lozenges: Just put the lozenge in your mouth and it will keep on releasing small amounts of nicotine as it dissolves.
- Gum: Nicotine gum releases nicotine as you chew on it. Once you start feeling a tingling sensation, just put the gum between your cheek and gum. Repeat the cycle for 20-30 minutes. Acidic drinks (coffee, beer, soda) may interfere with the action of nicotine gum and hence experts suggest that you do not drink them 15 minutes before using the gum or while you are using it.
- Tablets: Nicotine tablets have to be kept under the tongue and they slowly dissolve themselves to give you a specific amount of nicotine.
All these NRTs come in various strengths of nicotine and you should talk to your doctor to know the right strength for you. Lozenges and gum are considered to be the best options for those trying to quit smokeless tobacco since it matches the consumption method.
Prescription based NRTs
- Inhaler: These have a nicotine cartridge that helps you inhale nicotine through the mouthpiece.
- Nasal spray: These are pump bottles that you can use to spray nicotine into your nose.
Why nicotine replacement
While regular use of tobacco is perceived to be a personal choice, experts suggest that that is not the case.
Nicotine, the main active compound present in tobacco, causes a person to become addicted to tobacco. When a person smokes or takes tobacco in any form, nicotine quickly reaches the brain through the circulatory system and stimulates the release of various neurotransmitters including dopamine, glutamate and GABA. Dopamine is the pleasure hormone that makes you feel good. Glutamate promotes the release of more dopamine and GABA. GABA suppresses dopamine release. But, regular use of tobacco may cause the suppression function to become desensitized, increasing the effect of nicotine.
This is why discontinuing nicotine presents with withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
However, NRTs alone won’t help. You also may need a solid program that helps you deal with other psychological effects of quitting tobacco. This would likely include things like working out, avoiding triggers, and trying relaxation techniques.
For more information, read our article on How to quit smoking.
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