One of the most popular treatments for tobacco addiction is nicotine replacement therapy.

Some (including pills and inhalers) require a prescription, whereas others (including the patch, gum and lozenges) can be purchased over the counter. There are also FDA approved prescriptions medications available,which work by affecting the brain’s neurotransmitters to block cravings.

Nicotine replacement therapies

Brand Names: Commit, Habitrol, Nicoderm CQ, Nicorette, Nicotrol

Administered: Transdermally (patch) or orally (gum, lozenge, or inhaler)

How It Works: Nicotine replacement therapy supplies the body with nicotine at reduced levels, weaning the user off nicotine slowly to reduce withdrawal symptoms.

Common Side Effects: Gum can cause tingling feeling on the tongue, hiccups, upset stomach; lozenge can cause upset stomach, hiccups, flatulence, heartburn, headache (lozenge); patch can cause rash, trouble sleeping; inhaler can cause cough, sore throat, upset stomach

Clinical Benefits: Studies show that when people who are attempting to quit smoking include some kind of nicotine replacement therapy, they can double the chance for success.1

Availability: Patches, gum, and lozenges are over the counter; Inhalers by prescription



Brand Name: Chantix

Administered: Oral tablet

How It Works: Varenicline affects the brain’s neurotransmitters to block the pleasurable effects of nicotine, reducing cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

Clinical Benefits: A recent study shows Varenicline is more effective than nicotine replacement therapy for the cessation of smoking, noting that 56% of patients experienced prolonged abstinence.2

Common Side Effects: Nausea, vomiting, unusual dreams, constipation, drowsiness

Availability: By prescription

The use of medication can be an instrumental part of a substance use disorder treatment plan.

Remember, medications are generally most effective when used in combination with other interventions like behavioral therapy and counseling. 3 Use the information here to talk with your physician or clinician about medication-assisted treatments when you’re deciding upon a comprehensive treatment for recovery from any substance use problem.

1. Stead LF, et al. (2012). Nicotine replacement therapy for smoking cessation. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (11)
2. Ebert, John, et al. (2010). Varenicline for smoking cessation: efficacy, safety, and treatment recommendations Patient Prefer Adherence. 2010; 4: 355–362. Published online 2010 Oct
3. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “Treatment: Medication”
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