Nicotine Addiction Medications

NICOTINE REPLACEMENT PRODUCTS provide nicotine without smoking. This helps to lessen the body's craving for nicotine and to reduce withdrawal symptoms. Replacement products come in several forms: gum, patch, nasal spray, inhaler and lozenge. Nicotine gum, patch and lozenges can be bought over-the-counter. The nasal spray and inhaler (brand name Nicotrol) require a doctor's prescription.

BUPROPION (brand names Zyban or Wellbutrin) is an antidepressant drug that can be used to help some people stop smoking. It is taken as a pill and requires a doctor's prescription. Although it does not contain nicotine, it can help people resist the urge to smoke. Bupropion is often used for 7-12 weeks, beginning 1 or 2 weeks before smoking is stopped. It can be used for smoking cessation maintenance for up to six months. Side effects may include insomnia and dry mouth.

VARENICLINE (Chantix) is the first treatment that specifically targets the brain’s dependence on nicotine by blocking its uptake in the brain and decreasing the “need” for nicotine. Studies show that the drug successfully stimulates dopamine (the brain's pleasure chemical) and blocks nicotine receptors. This reduces nicotine withdrawal symptoms and cravings, helping to prevent a full relapse. The drug also blocks the effects of nicotine if you begin to smoke again.

Chantix is a prescription medication sold in tablet form. It is generally prescribed for 12 weeks. If you quit smoking during that time, your doctor may prescribe Chantix for another 12 weeks to enhance long-term success. Side effects may include nausea, vomiting, gas, headache and insomnia. It is not recommended for people under 18 years of age. There have been some reports of psychological side effects so it is important to be under careful supervision by a doctor when using this medication.

Researchers found Chantix to be more effective than a placebo (a pill that has no physical effect) in helping people quit smoking. In two studies, Chantix helped more people quit smoking than bupropion (Zyban), the only other nicotine-free drug used as a quit-smoking aid.

Foulds J, Steinberg MB, Williams J, et al. "Developments in pharmacotherapy for tobacco dependence: past, present and future."

Please report your experiences with these medications on our nicotine forum.

FDA 101: Smoking Cessation Products
A good discussion of the different smoking cessation products available, differentiating between products that contain nicotine and products that do not.

Updated November 21, 2014