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Comparing Stop-Smoking Medicines

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Topic Overview

Several medicines can help you stop smoking. You can take medicine to reduce your craving for nicotine. You also can use nicotine replacement products to reduce cravings and give you smaller and smaller amounts of nicotine.

Your doctor can help you decide which medicine-or combination of medicines-will work best for you. Most people find that it helps to use more than one at the same time. If you have health problems or are pregnant, you may not be able to use some of these medicines.

Medicines used to stop smoking
  What it is and how it works Pros and cons

Varenicline (Chantix)

 
  • It's a pill that helps reduce the craving for nicotine.
  • It blocks the effects of nicotine if you smoke while taking it. So this makes smoking less pleasurable.
  • You will need a prescription.

Pros:

  • It doubles or triples your chances of quitting.
  • It's easy to use.
  • Some studies show that when people take varenicline, they have a better chance of quitting when they stop smoking a little bit at a time.

Cons:

  • Side effects include nausea, insomnia, abnormal dreams, and feeling very tired.
  • You might not be able to take it if you have certain health conditions, such as kidney disease.
  • There may be a small increase in risk for heart problems (including heart attack).

Bupropion (Zyban)

  • It's a pill that helps reduce the craving for nicotine.
  • You will need a prescription.

Pros:

  • It doubles your chances of quitting.
  • It's easy to use.

Cons:

  • You might not be able to take it if you have certain health problems, such as seizures or an eating disorder, or if you abuse alcohol.
  • Side effects include dry mouth, trouble sleeping, dizziness, upset stomach, and (in rare cases) seizures.

Nicotine patch

  • The patch sticks to your skin to slowly release nicotine into your bloodstream.
  • You don't need a prescription.

Pros:

  • It doubles your chances of quitting.
  • It's easy to use. You put it on once a day.

Cons:

  • Side effects include a rash where you wear the patch, insomnia (if using 24-hour patch), and nausea.

Nicotine gum or lozenge

  • It releases nicotine slowly in your mouth.
  • You don't need a prescription.
  • Heavy smokers do best with the strongest form (4 mg of nicotine).
  • If you are using the patch, adding gum or a lozenge can give you extra help.

Pros:

  • It doubles your chances of quitting.
  • You can use it whenever you have a craving, as long as you don't exceed the daily dose.

Cons:

  • Gum can taste bad (but mint and citrus flavors are available).
  • Gum can cause a tingling feeling on the tongue, nausea, or heartburn.
  • Lozenges can cause upset stomach, heartburn, nausea, or gas.
  • You will need to avoid beverages (especially coffee, juices, and soda pop) for 15 minutes before and after use. If you don't, your body may not absorb the nicotine as well because of the acid in the drinks.

Nicotine inhaler

  • It delivers a puff of nicotine vapor into your mouth and throat.
  • You will need a prescription.
  • If you are using the patch, adding an inhaler can give you extra help.

Pros:

  • It doubles your chances of quitting.
  • You can use it whenever you feel stress, as long as you don't exceed the daily dose.
  • It satisfies the need to have something in your mouth to take the place of a cigarette.

Cons:

  • Side effects include cough, scratchy throat, and upset stomach.
  • It may not be a good choice if you have asthma, allergies, or sinus problems.
  • You'll need to puff often to feel an effect.

Related Information

References

Other Works Consulted

  • Facts and Comparisons eAnswers (2017). Varenicline tartrate oral. Facts and Comparisons eAnswers. http://fco.factsandcomparisons.com/lco/action/doc/retrieve/docid/fc_dfc/5549495. Accessed May 11, 2017.
  • Ebbert J, et al. (2015). Effect of Varenicline on smoking cessation through smoking reduction: A randomized clinical trial. JAMA. 313(7): 687-694. doi: 10.1001/jama.2015.280. Accessed online April 26, 2017.

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Elizabeth T. Russo, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer John Hughes, MD - Psychiatry

Current as ofJune 8, 2017

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