Some Common Myths About Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)
You may have heard that nicotine replacement therapy doesn’t work, or worse, that it can keep you addicted to smoking. These ill-informed myths abound despite the fact that NRT can double your chances of quitting smoking for good. We decided to bust these myths once and for all, so you can know the real truth behind all the myths around NRT.
Myth #1: Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) Won’t Help Me Quit Smoking
Nicotine replacement therapy can DOUBLE your chances of quitting
Truth: Not only does nicotine replacement therapy work, but it also doubles your chances of quitting smoking for good. The likelihood of staying smoke-free for more than six months is increased when a smoker uses NRT according to the directions, inadequate amounts and for a sufficient duration of time.
Myth #2: Isn’t quitting really about willpower?
Physical addiction to nicotine can undermine willpower
Truth: Willpower and determination are much needed when it comes to quitting smoking. However physical addiction to nicotine can undermine willpower because nicotine actually changes your brain chemistry to make you crave it more. By distorting your motivation, this complex physical addiction can make you give an unhealthy priority to cigarettes. Using nicotine replacement therapy for a limited duration of time to rebalance brain chemistry, which can increase your odds of quitting, is not a sign of weakness. A lot of people think that it’s better to quit cold turkey than to use NRT, but it’s important to remember that there is no single best approach that works for everybody when it comes to quitting smoking. The best approach is the one that works for you. Research has shown that a combination of nicotine replacement therapy and behavioural counselling is an effective way to quit smoking. Combining NRT with intensive behavioural support has been shown to increase successful quit rates than willpower alone.
Myth #3: The nicotine in NRT is the same as the nicotine in cigarettes, so if I use NRT I will just be replacing one addiction with another
NRT products are very different from cigarettes
Truth: Nicotine replacement therapy products are very different from cigarettes. NRT products contain a regulated amount of nicotine that is much lesser than the nicotine in cigarettes and it is delivered more slowly. Breathing in smoke through the lungs when you light up a cigarette, gives the brain a rush of nicotine within 10 seconds of each inhalation, whereas NRT releases nicotine more slowly through the skin or the lining of the mouth. What’s more, NRT products have a much lower risk of addiction compared to cigarettes. Using NRT is not trading one nicotine addiction for another, because the likelihood of long term dependence on NRT is very low.
It’s important to remember that it’s not the nicotine that can kill you, it’s the cigarettes. Cigarette smoke contains more than 7000 chemicals including over 60 chemicals that can cause cancer. Nicotine is the addictive substance in tobacco, so using NRT can help break your dependence on tobacco. The health effects of nicotine alone are negligible, compared to smoking.
Myth #4: If I use NRT, I won’t have any cravings or withdrawal symptoms
NRT helps cope with physical withdrawal symptoms
Truth: NRT reduces the withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting, but it may not completely eliminate them. The symptoms that NRT helps the most with include cravings, anger, frustration, irritability, hunger, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, restlessness and insomnia. The best approach is to use NRT along with behavioural counselling, which will also help you deal with the emotional and psychological aspects of quitting.
Myth #5: I’ve heard that nicotine gum tastes quite bad, so I may not be able to stick to NRT
Truth: The taste of nicotine gum can be a challenge if you think of it as a regular gum and don’t use it the right way. For starters, nicotine gum cannot be chewed the way you would chew regular gum. Instead, for nicotine gum, you use a method called ‘chew and park’: First, chew Nicotex gum slowly until you can taste the nicotine, or feel a tingling, peppery sensation in your mouth. Then, stop chewing and park the gum between your cheek and gum. After about a minute when the tingling reduces, start chewing again and repeat the chew and park method, until the tingling fades completely. Scores of people who’ve used NRT to quit smoking for good swear by this method. What’s more, with products like Nicotex, you now get multiple flavour options like mint, cinnamon, paan and fruit mint which will further help manage the taste. It also helps to think of nicotine gum as a therapeutic gum, that’s designed to help you quit smoking and not as an entertainment gum.
Myth #6: NRT is too expensive
The cost of using NRT is less than the cost of cigarettes over time!
Truth: Over time, the cost of using NRT is less than the cost of cigarettes (Savings Calculator). One Nicotex gum costs approximately Rs. 8.6, whereas the average cost of a single cigarette is between Rs. 10-15. What’s more, cigarettes are consumed over many years, whereas NRT is typically used for a limited time. The recommended time period for Nicotex therapy is 3 months, smoking, on the other hand, is a lifelong addiction.
Myth #7: NRT cannot be used by everyone
Most people can use NRT under a doctor’s guidance
Truth: Most people can use NRT, under a doctor's guidance. Generally, NRT can be used by people with diabetes or high blood pressure. If you have any of these conditions or if you’re pregnant or planning a baby, consult your doctor to determine if NRT is the right choice for your quit plan.
Myth #8: If I use one NRT product, I cannot use others
Truth: NRT products can be used alone or in combination. For example, you can use long-acting NRT like the nicotine patch, with short-acting NRT such as the gum. For some people, combining both long-acting and short-acting NRT works effectively to combat urgent cravings and handle withdrawal symptoms. Talk to your doctor about what option is the best for you.
Myth #9: NRT causes cancer
NRT does not cause cancer or heart disease
Truth: Studies show that NRT is a safe alternative to cigarettes for people looking to quit smoking and that NRT does not cause cancer or heart attack, even for people who have already had heart attacks or have heart disease. Nicotine is not a dangerous substance in cigarettes. Cigarette smoke contains 7000 other harmful chemicals and it is these chemicals, not nicotine, that is responsible for heart attacks, cancer and lung disease. In reality, the risks of smoking cigarettes far outweigh than the risks associated with NRT.
Myth #10: Long term use of NRT is not safe
NRT does not present any known health risk or create addiction
Truth: NRT safety profiles have been established over 30 years of worldwide clinical use1. Studies show that long term use of NRT does not present any known health risk, nor does it create a dependence on NRT products. Most NRT product labels state that NRT products need to be used for 8-12 weeks. For some smokers this is enough time to stop smoking for good, others don’t even need to use NRT for that long to stop smoking. Yet others may need to use NRT for several months, or even years, to stay off cigarettes. It’s important to remember that using NRT even for a very long time is much less harmful to your health than smoking for the same amount of time.
There is no quick fix when it comes to quitting, it is a tough and long process. It helps to think of NRT in the context of medication for chronic diseases like asthma, diabetes or heart disease where you need to continue medication repeatedly and over a period of time. Just as an asthma medication that helped an asthma attack in the past is likely to be helpful again, NRT is likely to help a smoker quit again if it was helpful before. NRT can help make the quitting process easier if you use it the right way and stay committed to the quitting process.