The average smoker tries to quit at least seven times before succeeding. “Many people find quitting so hard because of their body’s physical addiction to nicotine,” said thoracic surgeon Shawn Tittle, MD, medical director of the Cancer Center at Houston Methodist San Jacinto Hospital. “That’s when nicotine replacement therapy, or NRT, can help.”
By replacing cigarettes with alternative sources of low-dose nicotine, you can stop smoking without the worst effects of withdrawal. And studies have found that NRT can increase your chance of quitting by 50 to 70 percent. Tittle suggests talking with your doctor about the NRT options listed below to make the choice that’s best for you:
An over-the-counter option, nicotine patches deliver a small, steady amount of nicotine through the skin, and you can use either a 16-hour or 24-hour patch to alleviate withdrawal symptoms. Some brands offer step-down patches, which have you progress from higher dosages of nicotine to lower dosages over several weeks.
Nicotine gum is a quick-relief, over-the-counter NRT. It’s slowly chewed until the user notices a tingling feeling or peppery taste, at which point the gum is placed between the cheek and gums so the nicotine can be absorbed. Not only is the release of nicotine quicker than patches, but it can also help satisfy the oral urge of smoking.
Available without a prescription, nicotine is slowly absorbed through the mouth as the lozenge dissolves, similar to hard candy. It should take about 20 to 30 minutes for the lozenge to fully dissolve.
A nicotine inhaler is an NRT that can be obtained with a prescription. It looks like a plastic cigarette holder and comes with nicotine cartridges. You can puff the inhaler over a period of 20 minutes or for just a few minutes at a time.
Nicotine nasal spray is another prescription-only NRT. “It immediately relieves withdrawal symptoms by providing nicotine rapidly. Most people are told to use one or two sprays in each nostril once or twice every hour, with at least eight doses per day when first starting,” Tittle said.
Are You a Candidate for Lung Cancer Screening?
We all know that smoking increases your chance of lung cancer. It’s one of the many reasons you’ve tried to quit over the years. As you work with your doctor to successfully beat your nicotine addiction, it’s also a good idea to schedule a lung cancer screening.
The goal of the comprehensive Lung Cancer Screening Program at Houston Methodist San Jacinto Hospital is to help high risk patients receive a diagnosis and treatment plan at an early stage. The program for current and former smokers includes annual low-dose CT scans, consultations with health care providers, access to tobacco cessation programs and referrals to physician specialists if the disease is found.
To find out if you’re a candidate for lung cancer screening, visit houstonmethodist.org/cancer/lung-cancer/screening.
About Houston Methodist San Jacinto Hospital
Houston Methodist San Jacinto Hospital has provided Baytown and East Houston with quality medical care since opening its doors in 1948. The hospital has grown throughout the years with the community, providing comprehensive care at all stages of life. As a health care leader, the hospital is proud to have a fully integrated residency program focused on educating and inspiring future practitioners. Today, Houston Methodist San Jacinto provides some of the most advanced and innovative procedures while never losing focus on compassionate and patient-centered care. Houstonmethodist.org/sanjacinto.