What Medications Can Help Me Quit Smoking?

Published: August 30, 2022
Barbara Young
By Barbara Young, PharmD

Tobacco use is the number one preventable cause of death in the United States. Smoking can shorten life expectancy by ten years compared to nonsmokers and is associated with higher rates of cancer, heart disease, and chronic illnesses like lung disease. Additionally, smoking can cause you to age faster by speeding up wrinkle development and hearing and eyesight loss. Currently, in the United States, the smoking rate in adults is about 17%, with the greatest number of smokers between 25 to 64 years of age. Secondhand smoke also has been identified as a risk to those around you, particularly children.

What medications are available to help me quit?
Medications to help you quit smoking include both over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription products. Nicotine replacement therapies partially replace the nicotine previously received from cigarettes and are used to reduce withdrawal symptoms. The dose or amount of these products is gradually tapered over a number of weeks. Your pharmacist can provide guidance about choosing an OTC nicotine replacement product. These products include gum, lozenges, a nasal spray, and a patch that sticks to your skin.

There are also prescription medications available regulate the dopamine in your brain to reduce cravings and symptoms of withdrawal and eliminate the pleasurable feelings you receive from consuming nicotine. These medications include bupropion (Zyban) or varenicline (Chantix). These medications are effective but are not necessarily right for everyone. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about the risks and benefits of using these medications.

What other resources are available that may help me quit smoking?

There are smartphone apps that can give you tips and resources and help you when you relapse such as quitGuide or quitSmart. There are also texting programs that provide motivational support and guidance such as SmokefreeTXT, SmokefreeMOM, and SmokefreeVet. These are also available in Spanish. Visit smokefree.gov for more information on these programs.

 

Are e-cigarettes a good option to help me stop smoking regular cigarettes?

Although e-cigarettes were originally developed as a tool to help quit smoking, they have been found to have health risks associated with use. E-cigarette products contain chemicals and metals which have been found to cause cancer of the mouth, esophagus (the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach), and pancreas. They also may emit toxic chemicals that can damage the lungs. The use of e-cigarettes also has an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Because of these risks, they are not a good choice to substitute for regular tobacco cigarettes.

 

Summary

Your pharmacist can be a great resource to help you quit smoking. Be sure to reach out to them if you have any questions about the risks of smoking, the best strategies to quit, and which medications may be helpful to achieve your goal of improving your health.

 

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