Exploring the Different Types of Smoking Cessation Aids
April 20, 2023
Smoking is a major public health concern affecting millions of people around the world.
It poses a health risk not only to smokers but also to the people around them. Health Canada’s 2020 Canadian Tobacco and Nicotine Survey shows that 10% of Canadians over the age of 15 smoke cigarettes, a significant drop from the 24% recorded in 2000. Still, 1 in 10 Canadians are at high risk of smoking-associated diseases like cancer, heart disease, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Tried Going Cold Turkey?
While many people are able to quit smoking by going ‘cold turkey’, others need extra help to give up the habit. Nicotine, the primary addictive substance in tobacco products makes quitting smoking a challenge. In the quest to avoid smoking cigarettes, some people opt for vaping and e-cigarettes. Although these contain less harmful chemicals and do not produce carbon monoxide, the presence of nicotine in some of these cigarette alternatives can continue the addiction.
Fortunately, there are several different smoking cessation medications available to help individuals overcome nicotine addiction and quit smoking for good. These medications act by either releasing small amounts of nicotine into the bloodstream, to reduce the withdrawal symptoms, or work with the brain to reduce the pleasure sensation derived from smoking. In this article, we explore two classes of smoking cessation medications.
Nicotine Replacement Therapy
Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) offers long and short-acting formulations that help to reduce a person’s nicotine cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
Patches are one of the most popular long-acting NRTs. They are placed on top of the skin and a steady dose of nicotine is absorbed through the skin, into the bloodstream. The patches come in different strengths, and the dose is gradually reduced over time to wean the user off nicotine.
This is like chewing gum, but when used in a ‘chew and park’ technique, delivers nicotine into the body. The gum comes in different strengths and flavours. The user chews the gum whenever they feel the urge to smoke.
Similar to nicotine gum, lozenges are not chewed but are designed to dissolve slowly in the mouth, releasing nicotine into the body. They are also available in different flavours and strengths.
These devices deliver a small amount of nicotine into the lungs. They are designed to mimic the act of smoking, making them a popular choice for people who miss the physical sensation of smoking.
These are non-nicotine medications available to help a smoker quit. Whenever you smoke, the body releases chemicals which give the ‘feel good’ feelings associated with smoking; encouraging you to smoke again. These medications affect the chemical levels in the brain, helping it to reduce tobacco cravings, the pleasure derived from smoking or the withdrawal symptoms.
Although this medication is used to treat depression, it has also shown to be effective for people wanting to quit smoking. Bupropion affects the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain by blocking nicotine receptors in the brain. Through these, bupropion can reduce the severity of nicotine cravings and withdrawal symptoms, making it easier for people to quit smoking. Bupropion may have side effects and should only be used under the guidance of a health-care professional.
This medication binds to nicotine receptors in the brain, reducing the release of dopamine, which in turn makes smoking less pleasurable. Varenicline also activates the nicotine receptors to a lesser degree than nicotine would, helping to reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Like any medication, varenicline may have side effects and should only be used under the guidance of a health-care professional.
What About E-cigarettes?
E-cigarettes, also known as vaping, have become increasingly popular as an alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes. They are not recommended smoking cessation therapy and often result in issues with chronic use.
How We Can Help?
Smoking cessation medications can be an effective tool if you’re looking to quit smoking. Whichever method you choose to adopt, it should be done under the guidance of a health-care professional. That’s where our team can help. Arrange for an in-person or virtual consultation with one of our pharmacists. We’ll review the various smoking cessation products we have available and guide you on what option would work best for your lifestyle. We’ll be with you every step of the way. Book your appointment now.
Sources: Health Canada, Asthma Canada, Public
The content on this website is for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician with any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment, and before undertaking a new health-care regimen.