Nicotine replacement


Type of medication Brand name
Nicotine patch/transdermal nicotine Habitrol


NicoDerm CQ



Nicotine gum Nicorette
Nicotine nasal spray Nicotrol NS
Nicotine inhaler Nicotrol Inhaler


To help people stop smoking. These products work best as part of a program that also includes education, counseling, and/or psychological support.


These products provide nicotine without the cigarette, and help to wean your body off of nicotine. The typical effects of withdrawal are minimized as your body adjusts to not smoking and progressively lower doses of nicotine, until the use of the nicotine replacement product is stopped completely.

Nicotine patch: releases nicotine through your skin and into your bloodstream.

Nicotine gum: is chewed slowly, and then stored between the gum and cheek so that the nicotine can be absorbed through the lining of your mouth and into your bloodstream.

Nicotine nasal spray: small doses of nicotine are sprayed into your nasal passages, and absorbed into your bloodstream.

Nicotine inhaler: nicotine is inhaled through the mouth and is absorbed in the mouth and throat, but not in the lungs.


Do not smoke

If you smoke while using a nicotine replacement product, nicotine can build up to toxic levels.

See your doctor

Patches and gums can be purchased over the counter, but the nasal spray and inhaler require a prescription. Your doctor will help you determine the appropriate dosage. Also, your doctor can prescribe additional smoking cessation aids and can refer you to a counselor, support group, or other services that may help you to quit smoking. People who combine several quitting strategies often have the most success.

Don't overuse these products

Nicotine patch: do not use for longer than 12 weeks.

Nicotine gum: do not chew more than 24 pieces a day, and do not use for longer than 6 months.

Nicotine nasal spray: do not use for longer than 3 months.

Nicotine inhaler: do not use for longer than 6 months.

Don't use during pregnancy or when breastfeeding

Nicotine, regardless of the source, is potentially dangerous during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Therefore, talk to your doctor about other means of quitting smoking if you are presently or will soon be pregnant or breastfeeding.

Be careful around children

Children can be seriously harmed by any amount of nicotine. Keep these products, including used patches, away from children.

Use with adolescents and older adults

Nicotine replacement products are believed to be safe for adolescents and older adults. People with dentures, though, should avoid using nicotine gums.

Manage your medications

Tell your doctor about all the medications you take; some should not be taken when you are quitting smoking with nicotine replacement products, while others may require a different dosage level. The following are especially important for your doctor to know about:

  • Bronchodilators (Aminophylline, Oxtriphylline Theophylline)
  • Beta-adrenergic blocking agents (with nasal spray only)
  • Insulin
  • Prazosin (Minipress)
  • Propoxyphene (Cotanal-65, Darvon)
  • Isoproterenol (Isuprel, Medihaler-Iso)
  • Phenylephrine (Alconefrin, Doktors, Duration, Neo-Synephrine, Nostril, Rhinall, Vicks Sinex)
  • Tricyclic antidepressants (with inhaler only)
  • Nasal decongestants (nasal spray only)
  • Foods and medications containing caffeine

Be cautious with certain medical conditions

The presence of other medical conditions may affect the use of nicotine replacement products. Tell your doctor if you have any other medical problems, especially:

  • Allergies (with nasal spray only)
  • Asthma or other breathing problems (with inhaler and nasal spray only)
  • Common cold or a stuffy nose (with nasal spray only)
  • Dental problems (with gum only)
  • Type 1 Diabetes
  • Heart or blood vessel disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Inflammation of mouth, throat or esophagus (with gum only)
  • Skin irritation or disorder (with patch only)
  • Liver disease
  • Nose polyps (with nasal spray only)
  • Overactive thyroid
  • Pheochromocytoma
  • Sinus problems (with nasal spray only)
  • Stomach ulcer
  • Stroke, recent
  • Temporomandibular joint disorder (with gum only)


Nicotine patch:

  • Nicotine patch products vary in strength, number of patches, and time they should be worn. Talk with your doctor about the specific dosage and strength of nicotine patch that is appropriate for you, and how to taper off the product.
  • Read the instructions that come with your specific patch to learn how and where to apply your patch.
  • Keep the patch on even when you are showering, bathing, or swimming.
  • Nicotine patches should be removed from the skin during strenuous exercise. If a patch is left on, too much nicotine may pass through your skin into your bloodstream.
  • If you are using a 24-hour patch and begin having unusual dreams or disturbed sleep, you may take the patch off before going to bed and put a new one on when you wake up in the morning.
  • Mild itching, burning, or tingling may occur when the patch is first applied, and should go away within 24 hours. After a patch is removed, the skin underneath it may be red. It should not remain red for more than a day. If you get a skin rash from the patch, or if the skin becomes swollen or very red, call your doctor. Do not put on a new patch.

Nicotine gum:

  • Read the instructions that come with the nicotine gum to learn how to use it properly.
  • The proper dosage differs for each person. Talk with your doctor to determine the appropriate dosage and weaning schedule for you.
  • Do not drink acidic beverages, such as citrus fruit juices, coffee, soft drinks, or tea within 15 minutes before or after, or while you are chewing nicotine gum. Acid, as well as caffeine can interfere with nicotine absorption.
  • Carry nicotine gum with you at all times in case you feel the sudden urge to smoke.

Nicotine nasal spray and inhaler:

  • Read the instructions that come with the nasal spray to learn how to use it properly.
  • The proper dosage differs for each person. Talk with your doctor to determine the appropriate dosage and weaning schedule for you.
  • For the nasal spray only: during the first week of use, you may have a hot, peppery feeling in the back of your throat or nose; coughing; runny nose; sneezing; or watery eyes. Do not stop using the nasal spray at this point; if you continue to use it regularly, your body will adjust to these effects. However, if these effects do not lessen after one week, check with your doctor.
  • For the inhaler only: the nicotine inhaler should be used at or above room temperature. Cold temperatures decrease the amount of nicotine you inhale.

Possible side effects:

The side effects listed here have been reported for at least one of the nicotine products, not necessarily all of them. However, since many of the effects of nicotine products are similar, it is possible that these side affects may occur with any one of these medicines, although they may be more common with some than with others.

Contact your doctor as soon as possible if any of the following side effects occur:

These effects are considered more common:

  • Feelings of dependence
  • Injury or irritation to the mouth, teeth, or dental work (with gum only)
  • Swelling of gums, mouth, or tongue
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Tingling in arms, legs, hands, or feet

These effects are considered less common:

  • Burning, tingling, or prickly sensation in nose, mouth, or head
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Dizziness
  • Dryness or pain in throat
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Fever and/or chills
  • Severe or worsening headache
  • High blood pressure
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Nasal blister or sore
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Numbness of nose or mouth
  • Trouble breathing, or wheezing
  • Skin rash, itching, or hives

Symptoms of a nicotine overdose (the symptoms will probably occur in this order); contact your doctor immediately:

  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Increased watering of the mouth (severe)
  • Abdominal or stomach pain (severe)
  • Diarrhea (severe)
  • Pale skin
  • Cold sweat
  • Headache (severe)
  • Dizziness (severe)
  • Disturbed hearing and vision
  • Drooling
  • Tremor
  • Confusion
  • Weakness (severe)
  • Extreme exhaustion
  • Fainting
  • Low blood pressure
  • Difficulty in breathing (severe)
  • Fast, weak, or irregular heartbeat
  • Convulsions/seizures

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