Thinking about quitting tobacco? Your buddies say using nicotine replacement therapies (NRT) helped them quit, but you’re not so sure. If tobacco use is causing health concerns that could be impacting your readiness (like shortness of breath or coughing) or you want to finally get rid of the designated tobacco use area (DTUA) visits, NRT might be a solution.
Tell me more about nicotine
Nicotine is a chemical found naturally in the tobacco plant and in tobacco products. It is highly addictive and is what keeps you wanting to use products made from tobacco like cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, cigars and e-cigarettes (including JUULs). While vapes don’t contain parts of the tobacco plant itself, most contain nicotine that is man-made or has been taken from the tobacco plant.
The amount of nicotine found in each product varies by product type and manufacturer. That’s because some products also have additives that increase the amount of nicotine you absorb, which adds to the addiction.
If nicotine is so addictive, how can it help me quit tobacco?
NRT, in the form of a patch, gum, lozenge, spray or inhaler, provides a certain amount of nicotine at a time. It eases the cravings and symptoms of withdrawal, such as irritability, anger, hunger, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, restlessness and insomnia. The amount of NRT you use is based on how much tobacco you use and what your cravings are like, and you use less and less over time so you can quit comfortably.
Aren’t I replacing one cancer-causing product with another?
It might seem like that, but that’s not the case. Tobacco products contains thousands of chemicals, many of which are known to cause cancer or have harmful health effects. NRT does not have those same harmful chemicals that are found in cigarettes and many other tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.
Should I give it a try?
Multiple studies have demonstrated that for most people who use tobacco, NRT increases the chances of quitting when used according to your health care provider’s directions. Also, you may be able to get NRT at no cost if you are a non-Medicare eligible TRICARE beneficiary (this includes all active duty Service members) in the U.S. age 18 and older. NRT is also available overseas and in U.S. territories for active duty Service members and their families enrolled in TRICARE Prime Overseas.
How do I start?
Talk to your health care provider. NRT is one of several tobacco cessation products that can be prescribed to help you quit tobacco so it’s important to discuss all your options first.
Remember that combining NRT with quit techniques and support like counseling, texting or an app sets you up for success. Make a quit plan and talk to your health care provider about NRT and/or medications.