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What Is Nicotine Patch Used For?

The nicotine patch is an over-the-counter medicine that can help people stop smoking. It works by releasing a small amount of nicotine and reducing the effects of nicotine withdrawal. At this time, it is not approved for use in children or adolescents. Some unapproved uses of the nicotine patch include treating Tourette syndrome and managing ulcerative colitis.

An Overview of Uses for the Nicotine Patch

The nicotine patch (Nicoderm® CQ®) is a nonprescription medication used for nicotine replacement therapy. It helps people stop smoking by reducing nicotine withdrawal symptoms, including nicotine craving.
 
Nicotine is a highly addictive drug. Each time you inhale from a cigarette, nicotine rapidly enters the brain, reaching peak levels within 10 seconds. In the brain, it activates brain reward centers, leading to feelings of pleasure. The effects of nicotine disappear quickly, however. If more nicotine does not enter the brain, withdrawal symptoms occur.
 
The symptoms of nicotine withdrawal include:
 
  • Irritability
  • Problems concentrating
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Increased appetite
  • Craving.
 
Withdrawal symptoms may begin within a few hours of the last cigarette, and often intensify over the next few days. Many people continue to smoke to help prevent the uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, and to maintain the feelings of pleasure. Over time, continued nicotine use produces long-term changes in the brain that cause addiction.
 
In addition to the physical nicotine addiction, people may also become addicted to the habits associated with cigarette smoking. Many people find pleasure in the feel, smell, and act of smoking a cigarette. This psychological addiction can make nicotine withdrawal and craving more difficult to overcome.
 
Smoking is associated with many negative health effects, both to the actual smoker and to those around them from secondhand smoke. In fact, cigarette smoking has been shown to harm every organ in the body. Some of the health consequences of smoking include but are not limited to:
 
 
There are many benefits to quitting smoking. It can improve lung function, lower cancer risk, reduce blood pressure, and decrease your chance of developing heart disease.
 
However, quitting smoking is extremely difficult. First and foremost, you must be ready to quit to be successful. However, just being ready to quit is not enough, because of the addictive nature of smoking. Most people need help to succeed, and many people need to try several times before successfully quitting for good.
 
When you are ready to quit, there are a variety of strategies that may help. Nicotine replacement therapy can help reduce physical withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting smoking. You may still crave the act of smoking, however, because of your smoking habit. Behavioral therapy and counseling can help you recognize and overcome these powerful psychological cravings.
 
You can increase your chances of quitting by using a combination of treatment strategies. The nicotine patch is just one of several treatment options to choose from (see Alternatives to Nicoderm CQ).
 
If you have made the decision to quit smoking, you do not have to do it alone. Talk to your healthcare provider about your desire to quit. He or she can help you develop an individual smoking-cessation plan that will give you the best chance at kicking your smoking habit.
 
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