Dosage, mode of action and side effects


  • Nicotine patches work to help you quit smoking by reducing the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal.
  • In order for nicotine patches to work, you must quit smoking, otherwise you may experience side effects.
  • A dose of nicotine patch of 15 mg to 22 mg is a good starting point for most smokers.
  • Visit Insider’s Health Reference Library for more tips.

There are many products on the market designed to help you quit smoking. One example is the nicotine patch, which is available over the counter at most drugstores and is a cost effective and effortless method of fighting a smoking habit.

Here’s what you need to know about nicotine patches, and how to decide if they’re the right option for you.

Yes, nicotine patches work

Nicotine patches replace cigarettes, cigars, and other products that contain nicotine. They do this by slowly releasing small amounts of nicotine to curb cravings.

It is difficult to quit smoking because nicotine, the active compound found in tobacco, is addictive. It’s because nicotine causes the brain to release dopamine – a feel-good hormone that causes people to feel rushed or buzzing.

The more regularly you smoke, the higher your tolerance and the amount of nicotine you need to reproduce this buzz, increasing your dependence on tobacco. This is why when people stop smoking they feel withdrawal symptoms such as sleep disturbances and irritability.

“Nicotine patches help relieve these withdrawal symptoms,” says Ugo Iroku, MD, a doctor with his own private practice.

A big 2016 study studied the effectiveness of three smoking cessation treatments: the nicotine patches, the prescription drug varenicline, and a combination therapy with the nicotine patch and lozenges. At a six-month checkpoint, 23% of those using the nicotine patch, 24% of those taking varenicline, and 27% of those taking the combination therapy had quit smoking.

After one year, 21% of those using the nicotine patch, 19% of those taking varenicline, and 20% of those using the combination therapy still abstained from smoking.

How do nicotine patches work?

“Nicotine patches are small, self-adhesive patches that release a constant amount of nicotine throughout the day,” explains Iroku. The patch releases nicotine through the skin and into the bloodstream to relieve cravings.

The patches should be replaced daily and their continued use should not exceed eight to 12 weeks without consulting a healthcare practitioner.

To start using nicotine patches, you must stop smoking. Otherwise, you run the risk of overdosing on nicotine. If this happens, “stop using nicotine patches as well as smoking and see a doctor,” says Anis Rehman, MD, assistant professor in the department of internal medicine at Southern Illinois University.

Some symptoms of a nicotine overdose include:

Although the patch provides nicotine to a person’s body throughout the day, its combination with additional nicotine replacement therapies such as gum, nasal spray, and lozenges can improve withdrawal symptoms.

“There are times when a person has increased withdrawal symptoms every now and then during the day,” Iroku explains. “During these times, additional nicotine can be safely obtained, not by reverting to tobacco, but rather by using a number of other nicotine replacement therapies that are available.”

Iroku recommends that those using the patch simultaneously follow smoking cessation advice – a treatment that identifies and acts on the behavioral and psychological aspects of combating nicotine addiction. Ask your doctor for recommendations on providers with this expertise.

Nicotine patch dosage

Even if you have quit smoking, be very careful about the amount of nicotine in the patches you choose. “The starting doses should be similar to the daily nicotine intake you received from smoking tobacco,” Iroku explains.

Most smokers should start with 15 to 22 mg of nicotine per day for four to six weeks. At this point, they can switch to a lower dose with the goal of completely stopping nicotine use by week 10, Iroku explains.

Meanwhile, light smokers – those who smoke less than 10 cigarettes a day – and people under 99 pounds should start with a lower dose of five to 14 mg of nicotine per day for four to six weeks, then cut back. dose for two more weeks. .

Women who are pregnant or who still smoke should not use nicotine patches

Although nicotine patches can help many people quit smoking, they are not recommended for everyone. According to Rehman and Iroku, you should consult a doctor before using nicotine patches if you are:

  • Actively smoke
  • A person with a history of heart disease, heart attack, severe arrhythmia, or high blood pressure
  • Pregnant – although you should not use tobacco products during pregnancy because of their ability to cause birth defects
  • Breastfeeding
  • A person with type 1 diabetes
  • Diagnosed with kidney, liver, overactive thyroid, peptic ulcer or gastroesophageal reflux disease

Insider’s takeaway

Nicotine patches are an effective way to quit smoking. People can use them simultaneously with other options such as nicotine gum or lozenges. The patches should not be used if a person is still smoking, pregnant or breastfeeding.


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