Quitting is easier with some help. Learn about medications that can help you deal with the challenges of quitting—like withdrawal and cravings—and become smokefree.
Medications can make it easier to quit smoking by reducing cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
Many former smokers find that using these medications for a couple of months helped them quit. But they are just one type of tool, not a magic bullet. Follow instructions carefully to get the most benefit.
What medications and NRT products are available?
There are 7 FDA approved medications (5 NRT products: patch, lozenge, gum, nasal spray, and inhaler; and 2 prescription medications: Bupropion and Varenicline). Your pharmacist or doctor can help you choose which is best for you.
Nicotine Replacement Therapy
NRT works by giving you a small, controlled amount of nicotine, which is the main addictive substance in cigarettes and other tobacco products. NRT doesn't have any of the other dangerous chemicals found in cigarettes. This small amount of nicotine helps satisfy cravings for nicotine and reduces your urge to smoke. Some smokers have mild to moderate side effects. However, research shows that NRT is safe and works. NRT is available over the counter and by prescription.
Non-Nicotine Prescription Medications
There are two common prescription medications that help smokers quit: Bupropion SR and Varenicline. You'll need a prescription from your doctor to get these medications. Many insurance plans cover quit smoking medications. Check with your insurance plan to see if you are covered.
Bupropion SR (e.g., Wellbutrin), is a medicine without nicotine. It may help with withdrawal symptoms and the urge to smoke. This medicine may not be right for pregnant women, people who have seizures, people who have eating disorders, or heavy alcohol users.
You may have heard about a recall of varenicline. If you are currently using varenicline and have concerns, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about what is best for you. Visit FDA’s webpage for more information about the recall.
Varenicline (e.g., Chantix) does not have nicotine. This drug may help you quit by improving withdrawal symptoms and making nicotine from cigarettes less effective if you start smoking again. This medicine may not be right for people with kidney problems and women who are pregnant‚ planning to become pregnant‚ or are breastfeeding.
Ask your doctor‚ dentist‚ or pharmacist if these medicines are right for you. Always use them as prescribed or as listed on the packaging.
For some smokers, doctors may suggest two NRTs or combining an NRT with a prescription medication. For example, your doctor may tell you to combine a long acting NRT, like the patch, with a short-acting NRT, like nicotine gum, when you need extra help to control cravings.
Learn more about what NRT products or medications might be right for you.
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Under the direction of a doctor, NRT can be safely used by people with diabetes or high blood pressure, and does not increase the risk of heart attacks. It is also important to note that the nicotine in NRT is at a level that is unlikely to interact with other medications. Talk to your doctor to learn if NRT is the right choice for your quit plan.
Under the Affordable Care Act, many of these treatments must be covered by insurance. For many smokers, this includes counseling and medication at no cost. For details about Medicare and Medicaid, please visit the external websites. You can also talk to your insurance provider about your benefits.