Deciding About Using Medicines To Quit Smoking

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What are the medicines you can use?

Your doctor may prescribe varenicline (Champix) or bupropion (Zyban) to help you cope with cravings for tobacco. These medicines are pills that don't contain nicotine.

You also can use nicotine replacement products. These do contain nicotine. There are many types.

  • Gum and lozenges slowly release nicotine into your mouth.
  • Patches stick to your skin. They slowly release nicotine into your bloodstream.
  • An inhaler has a holder that contains nicotine. You breathe in a puff of nicotine vapour through your mouth and throat.
  • Mouth spray releases a mist that contains nicotine.

What are key points about this decision?

  • Using medicines can double your chances of quitting smoking. They can ease craving and withdrawal symptoms.
  • Getting counselling, along with using medicine, can raise your chances of quitting even more.
  • If you smoke fewer than 5 cigarettes a day, you may not need medicines to help you quit smoking.
  • These medicines have less nicotine than cigarettes. And by itself, nicotine is not nearly as harmful as smoking. The tars, carbon monoxide, and other toxic chemicals in tobacco cause the harmful effects.
  • The side effects of nicotine replacement products depend on the type of product. For example, a patch can make your skin red and itchy. Medicines in pill form can make you sick to your stomach. Or they can cause nausea, dry mouth, and trouble sleeping. For most people, the side effects are not bad enough to make them stop using the products.
  • Warnings. Health Canada and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warn that people who take bupropion or varenicline and who have any serious or unusual changes in mood or behaviour or who feel like hurting themselves or someone else should stop taking the medicine and call a doctor right away. If you already have a mood or behaviour problem, be sure to tell your doctor before you decide to use these medicines.

Why might you choose to use medicines to quit smoking?

  • You have tried on your own to stop smoking, but you were not able to stop.
  • You smoke more than 5 cigarettes a day.
  • You want to increase your chances of quitting smoking.
  • You want to reduce your cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
  • You feel the benefits of medicine outweigh the side effects.

Why might you choose not to use medicine?

  • You want to try quitting on your own by stopping all at once ("cold turkey").
  • You want to cut back slowly on the number of cigarettes you smoke.
  • You smoke fewer than 5 cigarettes a day.
  • You do not like using medicine.
  • You feel the side effects of medicines outweigh the benefits.
  • You are worried about the cost of medicines.

Your decision

Thinking about the facts and your feelings can help you make a decision that is right for you. Be sure you understand the benefits and risks of your options, and think about what else you need to do before you make the decision.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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