Expert advice

Dr Caroline West: GP

Dr Caroline West combines her role in a busy inner-city general medical practice with presenting, producing and writing for a number of Australian television shows and magazines. ASK ME A QUESTION

Nicotine replacement patches

Friday, January 19, 2007

I am currently smoking about 15 to 20 cigarettes a day. I am desperate to quit. I am not sure if I should use nicotine patches or whether that will just keep the addiction going by putting more nicotine through my system. What do you think? The last time I quit I went cold turkey but I only lasted four days.

Congratulations for moving towards being a non-smoker. I often get asked this exact question about nicotine patches, as people are concerned about putting more drugs through their system after they have quit. While it's true that a little bit of nicotine goes through your system with the patches, it's a drop in the ocean compared to all the nicotine and 4000 other toxic chemicals that have been pumped through your body whilst you were smoking. NRT or nicotine replacement therapies like patches can help you to beat your addiction as opposed to continuing it.

The patches are only used for a few months, and given that they can double your chances of success, they are well worth considering. The patches alone will not "make" you quit, but they are a useful addition, especially when used along with other support like counselling.

Your pharmacist can also help with guiding you through the options with nicotine replacement therapies (NRT). Gum, lozenges and tablets under the tongue are also available. NRT needs to be used for eight to 12 weeks, so follow the recommendations.

While on the whole I think NRT is an excellent addition to the quitting arsenal, it is not for everyone, so check with your pharmacist or doctor about possible precautions (for example certain types of heart disease). Good luck and if you'd like more information on quitting permanently, talk to your GP. The Quitline (phone 13 7848) can provide you with free telephone counselling no matter what stage you are at with the quitting process. The Quitline can also send you a free Quit pack to help you get started.

Answer published 19/1/07.

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