How Does the Nicotine Patch Work?

Written by jessica saras
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How Does the Nicotine Patch Work?
(Mary R. Vogt)

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How Does the Nicotine Patch Work?

Practically everyone is aware of the risks associated with smoking. In an effort to escape these threats, millions of people attempt to quit smoking each year. One of them most common methods used to help kick the habit is the nicotine patch. When applied on the skin, the patch delivers nicotine into the user's body. Generally, there are three types of patches that can be used, each providing a different dosing of nicotine (21 mg, 14 mg and 7 mg). Because the patch is designed to slowly curb a person's craving for nicotine, the user starts with a patch that contains more nicotine and then gradually moves to a smaller dosage.

How the Patch Helps You Quit

In order to select the appropriate patch type, it is important to first consider the amount of cigarettes you smoke each day. One cigarette delivers about one milligram of nicotine, so someone who smokes 30 cigarettes a day will crave less nicotine than someone who only smokes five, for example. Once the appropriate strength is selected, you will wear the patch for about six weeks (Step 1) before moving to the lower strength patch, which is usually worn for about two weeks (Step 2). Depending upon your previous smoking history, a third and final step may also be required. For example, if Joe smokes 20 cigarettes per day, then he should begin with the 21 mg patch. After wearing this patch for six weeks, he can move down to the 14 mg patch. The 14 mg patch will be worn for about two weeks, at which time he can finally move to the 7 mg patch. And after another two weeks, he can remove it completely, as his body should no longer crave nicotine now and he should not want to smoke a cigarette.

Warnings and Precautions

Of course, in order for the nicotine patch to work, you must truly want to quit smoking. Although patches can help you stop, they are not magic--you still need motivation and willpower. It is also important to carefully follow the directions that come with the patch. For example, you should not smoke while you're wearing the patch--this not only defeats the purpose of wearing it, but it also can lead to nicotine overdose. Additionally, you should apply a fresh patch each day--never reuse the same one. Because the nicotine is steadily delivered to your body throughout the day, you'll also want to keep the patch on for the entire day (16 to 24 hours). Although you can sleep with the patch on, one of the potential side effects of the nicotine patch is nightmares, so you may want to remove it before bed. Other side effects include headache, upset stomach, itching and burning at the patch site, vomiting and diarrhoea. While these side effects may be uncomfortable, they should not be severe and should subside within a few days of wearing the patch.

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