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Why Use NRTs to Stop Using Nicotine?


Updated April 16, 2011

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Question: Why Use NRTs to Stop Using Nicotine?
Answer: As the addictive ingredient in tobacco, nicotine is what keeps us coming back for more and is what we must break free of when we stop smoking.

With upwards of 5 million human lives lost worldwide to tobacco use each and every year, it is clear that nicotine addiction is a powerful opponent. It alters brain chemistry, and manufacturers manipulate nicotine in tobacco products to increase its addictive properties in an effort to hold on to their customer base.

To make matters worse, most of us have spent decades building up associations with tobacco use as well, making the task of breaking our ties to nicotine even more formidable.

So, Why Use Nicotine to Get Off of Nicotine?

On the surface, it might seem like a bad idea to use nicotine replacement therapy (NRTs), which contain nicotine, to help us recover from nicotine addiction. However, while they are risky if used inappropriately, NRTs can work well when manufacturer's directions are followed carefully.

Nicotine replacement therapy offers some important benefits as a quit aid:

  • NRTs reduce nicotine dependence gradually.
    Nicotine withdrawal is not a pleasant state for anyone, regardless of how much we might want to quit smoking. NRTs allow us to wean ourselves off of nicotine in a controlled way, thereby easing the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal. By the time the course of nicotine replacement therapy is complete, the amount of nicotine taken in on a daily basis is so small that stopping the NRT causes little, if any discomfort.
  • NRTs help us focus attention on the habits associated with smoking.
    Apart from physical recovery from nicotine addiction, we must also begin the work of dealing with the feelings associated with our cigarettes -- the habit side of smoking. For most of us, this is where the real "work" of smoking cessation lies. NRTs let us turn our attention more fully on healing the habits we've built up around nicotine addiction by easing the physical discomforts we feel early on.
  • NRTs are medically-endorsed.

    Because nicotine replacement therapy was developed as a smoking cessation aid, it comes with a medically endorsed treatment plan that recommends support in addition to drug therapy.

    Numerous national and global health organizations, including the American Lung Association, the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society and the World Health Organization support the use of NRTs to stop smoking.

Will I Become Addicted to NRTs?

If you follow the manufacturer's directions carefully and wean yourself off of the NRT used in the time recommended, your risk of addiction is small.

Regardless of what we do in life, most things carry some level of risk. NRTs are no different. Understand the potential for misuse; follow the treatment plan exactly, fortify your quit program with plenty of support, including the advice and help of your doctor, and you'll do just fine.


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