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Steps to Help You Quit Smoking

QuitAdvisorMD’s patient site is meant to help smokers understand the process of quitting smoking better and to provide resources to help them. When trying to quit smoking or make other healthy changes in your life, your path to change usually includes several steps along the way. The QuitAdvisorMD patient site is organized to help you with appropriate information organized by where you are in the process.

About Medications

For many people, medication may help them quit smoking. Your doctor may prescribe medication for you, and the information here can give you a general understanding of it. We've also provided printable fact sheets about common medications used to help quit smoking.

All of these medicines have been shown to be useful for helping smokers quit. There is no one best medicine for all smokers. Always read the instructions on the package carefully and talk with your doctor or pharmacist if you have questions. Dosing information provided in descriptions of these products is intended only to illustrate typical use of these medications. Individual dosing for prescription medications must be determined by a physician. If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have a severe medical problem, talk with your doctor before starting any new medication.

 Patient HandoutPrintable Handouts
First-Line Medications: Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)
These medications are called "first-line" because many smokers use these when they first try to quit. If the first-line medications don't work, they might try a "second-line" medication instead.
Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) helps smokers quit by reducing their craving sensations. These craving sensations happen when the body goes through withdrawal from the nicotine in tobacco. NRT products provide controlled amounts of nicotine. Individuals reduce their use of NRT products over time, allowing their bodies to gradually adjust to increasingly lower nicotine levels.
Nicotine PatchesOver-the-CounterThe nicotine patch is placed on the skin and supplies a small and steady amount of nicotine to the body. Nicotine patches contain varied amounts of nicotine (21 mg, 14 mg, or 7 mg, for example) and the user reduces the dose over time. Drug Fact Sheet  Download PDF (94 KB)
Nicotine GumOver-the-CounterNicotine gum is chewed to release nicotine that is absorbed through tissue inside the mouth. The user chews the gum until it produces a tingling feeling, then places (parks) it between the cheek and gum tissue. Nicotine gums have varied amounts of nicotine (typically 2 mg or 4 mg) to allow users to reduce the amount of nicotine in their bodies. Drug Fact Sheet  Download PDF (93 KB)
Nicotine LozengesOver-the-CounterNicotine lozenges look like hard candy and are placed in the mouth to dissolve slowly. The nicotine lozenge (typically a 2 mg or 4 mg dose of nicotine) releases nicotine as it slowly dissolves in the mouth. Drug Fact Sheet  Download PDF (91 KB)
Nicotine InhalerPrescriptionA nicotine inhaler is a cartridge attached to a mouthpiece. Inhaling through the mouthpiece delivers a specific amount of nicotine to the user.    
Nicotine Nasal SprayPrescriptionNicotine nasal spray is a pump bottle containing nicotine, which is inserted into the nose and sprayed. Nicotine nasal spray can be used for fast craving control, especially for heavy smokers.    
First-Line Medications: Other
BupropionPrescriptionBupropion, also known as Zyban®, helps to reduce nicotine withdrawal symptoms and the urge to smoke. Bupropion can be used safely with nicotine replacement products. Drug Fact Sheet  Download PDF (87 KB)
VareniclinePrescriptionVarenicline, also known as Chantix®, is a prescription medication that eases nicotine withdrawal symptoms and blocks the effects of nicotine from cigarettes if the user starts smoking again. Drug Fact Sheet  Download PDF (83 KB)
Second-Line Medications
Nortriptyline Prescription Nortriptyline, also known as Aventyl®, is generally prescribed to treat depression; however nortriptyline has been prescribed to assist with smoking cessation when the first-line medications do not work. The use of nortriptyline for smoking cessation has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).    
Clonidine Prescription Clonidine, also known as Catapres®, is generally prescribed to treat high blood pressure; however clonidine may reduce tobacco withdrawal symptoms when first-line medications do not work. The use of clonidine for smoking cessation has not been approved by the FDA.    

References: Information in the medication guide and fact sheets is from a variety of sources, such as product information guides; manufacturers' Web sites, medical Web sites, and articles in the medical literature, including Corelli RL & Hudman KS. Pharmacologic interventions for smoking cessation, Crit Care Nurs Clin N Am 2006;18, 39–51. has been developed by Silverchair and the University of Virginia Department of Family Medicine
with funding from the National Institute of Drug Abuse. ©2009 Silverchair. All rights reserved.