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How NRT works

How Nicotine Replacement Therapy Works

Cigarettes contain a natural substance called nicotine, which is addictive. When you smoke, the nicotine in a cigarette enters your blood and is carried to your brain. There it causes a chemical reaction that can lead to feelings of pleasure, relaxation and satisfaction. These feelings are only temporary, but over time the brain changes and begins to expect them.

How NRT works

This works a bit like hunger. The longer you go without food, the more signals your brain sends to your body to tell it you are hungry and need to eat. It is the same with smoking.  The longer you go without a cigarette, the more signals your brain sends to your body telling it you need to smoke.

This is what causes temptation when you try to give up. Most smokers will find it difficult to ignore the temptation to smoke. Just as your natural reaction to hunger is to eat, your natural reaction to lack of nicotine is to smoke.

One way to overcome the body’s need for nicotine is to stop smoking but continue to supply your body with a small amount of nicotine. As your body adapts to having less nicotine, you will experience temptation less often. Eventually you can completely stop supplying your body with nicotine. This is the idea behind a type of treatment called Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT).

With Nicotine Replacement Therapy, nicotine can be taken in four ways:

  • Patches: These look like large adhesive bandages, and are stuck onto the skin in the same way. The sticky side of the patch contains a layer of nicotine. While you are wearing the patch, the nicotine passes through the skin into your blood
  • Gum: This looks like chewing gum, but also contains nicotine. As you chew the gum and hold it in your mouth, the nicotine passes through the skin inside your mouth into your blood.
  • Lozenges: These work like the gum, but you allow them to dissolve in your mouth instead of chewing them.
  • Inhalator: This is a device which looks similar to a cigarette. You load it with a cartridge containing nicotine and suck air through it. Once the nicotine is in your mouth, it is absorbed into the blood in the same way as it is for the gum and lozenges. Inhalators are available with a prescription only.

The way you get nicotine from Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) products like NicoDermCQ® differs from the way you get it from cigarettes. When you puff on a cigarette you get a rush of nicotine to the brain. You don’t get the same rush from NRT – instead it delivers nicotine to your brain in smaller amounts and in a steady stream. This reduces the symptoms you experience from lack of nicotine and makes it easier for you to use your willpower to stop smoking.

Each form of NRT comes in different strengths. The strength you begin with depends on how much you smoke or when you usually smoke your first cigarette. After you have been successful using the initial dose for a while, you can usually switch to a lower dose. Eventually you can stop using NRT altogether.

Using NRT means that you continue to take nicotine for a while after you stop smoking. But this is safer than continuing to smoke. Nicotine is addictive but it is the other ingredients in cigarettes that cause the most harm to your body.

NRT will help you overcome your addiction to nicotine. You are twice as likely to quit successfully if you use it. But you can double your chances of success again if you combine it with a behavioral support program (BSP) like NicoDermCQ®.  The BSP will help you learn how to give up your smoking habit and encourage you to keep using your NRT. Together with your willpower, they can help you achieve a smoke-free life.

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