The effectiveness of current anti-smoking aids has been clearly demonstrated: they greatly enhance your chances of butting out! By reducing your cravings and withdrawal symptoms, these products make your journey easier. They help you to feel well physically so you can work on the other aspects of quitting, such as the habit of smoking itself.
Using an anti-smoking aid does not, however, mean that you will never experience cigarette cravings; but their frequency and intensity will be reduced. Remember that a craving only lasts 5 minutes.
You may also experience withdrawal symptoms, such as dizziness, concentration problems, irritability or insomnia. But these, too, will be minimized by the use of an anti-smoking aid.
Nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs) come in many forms. They work by providing the body with some of the nicotine it wants, in turn, decreasing the impact of cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Available without a prescription, NRTs can also be prescribed so that they can be covered by your drug plan. Here’s good news: pharmacists are now authorized to prescribe NRTs following a pharmaceutical consultation.* Ask a member of our pharmacy team about this option.
Oral medications (taken by mouth) known as pharmacological aids can also be prescribed. But these require a medical prescription. Only a doctor can determine whether such products are right for you.
Your pharmacist can advise you on the anti-smoking aid that will best meet your needs, whether it’s a form of NRT or a pharmacological aid.
Here are your options:
Nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs)
- Nicotine patche
Patches contain nicotine, which is evenly released into the bloodstream 24 hours per day. They come in three different doses, normally called “steps.” The starting dose varies according to the user’s smoking habits and is reduced once or twice during the program, which lasts from 8 to 12 weeks. The patch must be changed daily, being sure to vary the area of application in order to prevent skin irritation.
- Chewing gum and lozenges
Gum and lozenges contain nicotine that is released into the mouth and absorbed by its lining. When using these products, it’s very important to carefully follow the instructions. For more information, ask your pharmacist for advice and read the product leaflet. You start with a certain number of pieces of gum or lozenges each day and gradually reduce that number. Some people combine these products with a nicotine patch to better handle “emergency cravings.” Only occasional use is recommended for this purpose.
Designed for people who have a hard time breaking the physical habit of bringing hand to mouth, the inhaler features a two-part mouthpiece in which a nicotine cartridge is inserted. When you inhale or take a puff from the mouthpiece, the nicotine turns into a mist that is absorbed through the lining of your mouth and throat, without actually penetrating your lungs. Each cartridge contains 10 mg of nicotine.
- Mouth spray
Mouth spray is used to release a given amount of nicotine (1 mg) with each spray. The nicotine is then absorbed by the lining of the mouth. It acts faster than gum or lozenges. People using this product find it convenient, since it is discreet and easy to use and carry. To make sure the product is well absorbed by the lining of the mouth, it is best not to inhale as you spray.
Oral prescription medications
- Bupropion (Zyban®)
Bupropion is a medication that helps to reduce cigarette cravings and relieve symptoms of withdrawal.
The therapy begins with 1 pill per day for 3 days. The dose is then increased to 1 pill, twice a day, for the rest of the program, which spans 7 to 12 weeks. In addition, since the effects of buproprion are not immediately felt, you must begin the treatment 7 to 14 days before your set quit day. This ensures that the medication has started to work before you stop smoking.
- Varenicline (Champix®)
Varenicline targets the receptors in the brain that are responsible for the addiction. This product helps to reduce the intensity of cigarette cravings. To be effective, the treatment must be followed for a period of 12 weeks. In addition, the dose must gradually be increased during the first 7 days to reach the maximum dose by day 8.
Here are the recommended doses:
- Day 1 to 3: 0.5 mg, once a day
- Day 4 to 7: 0.5 mg, twice a day
- Day 8 until the end of the treatment: 1 mg, twice a day, according to preference and product tolerance
If you take varenicline, ask your health professional to help you determine a quit date.
Remember that your family pharmacists are medication experts. They can answer all your questions on anti-smoking aids and on quitting smoking in general.
*Certain conditions must be respected. Fees may apply. Ask a member of the pharmacy team for more information. Pharmacists alone are responsible for the practice of pharmacy. They offer related services only on behalf of pharmacist-owners.