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Quitting Smoking With Transdermal Patch

Nicotine patches are known generically as the nicotine transdermal system. This method has been available in the United States by prescription since 1992, and over-the-counter (OTC) since July 1996.

They are small, self-adhesive patches that you stick on your skin so that nicotine can enter your bloodstream at a steady rate all day. When you smoke or use other nicotine replacement therapies, you get a "spike" of high nicotine level in your blood, which then lowers until you feel the need to take another dose and top up your nicotine levels. The patch just keeps you at a steady level all the time and gets you accustomed to that without expecting to have occasional high levels. Patches come in different strengths, and you go from the strongest one you need to the weakest available, and then stop using them altogether.

The advantages of nicotine patches are that they provide you with a steady supply of nicotine without your having to think about it; they work in any situation (although you can't wear them in swimming pools or while bathing, but most of us don't feel particularly tempted to smoke then, anyway); and they provide a strong deterrent to smoking because if you smoke while you are wearing one or for hours after taking one off, you could suffer symptoms of nicotine overdose, such as death.

The disadvantages of nicotine patches are that they are relatively expensive; they can irritate the skin on which they are placed; they cause you to have weird dreams and not sleep very well if you wear them after you go to bed; if you don't wear them after you go to bed it can be a bit rough in the morning before you get a patch on and it starts working; and, if you are dumb and you smoke while you are wearing a patch or shortly after removing one, you could suffer symptoms of nicotine overdose, such as death.

Some facts about the patch:

  • The process of using the nicotine patches takes from eight to 12 weeks. Patches come in 21 mg, 14 mg and 7 mg doses.

  • Each day, a new patch (it looks like a big bandage) is applied to a different area of dry, clean, non-hairy skin and left on the body for the amount of time recommended in the product's labelling. A patch should not be used for more than 24 hours.

  • An alternate skin site must be used the next day, and skin sites should not be re-used for at least a week.

  • When a patch is first applied to the skin, people commonly experience a mild itching, burning, or tingling at the site of the patch. These symptoms usually disappear within an hour.

  • After removing the patch, the skin site might stay red for up to a day. If your skin develops a rash or becomes swollen or very red, your doctor should be consulted.

  • Using the nicotine patch allows the tobacco user to overcome their behavioural and psychological habits without having to experience the complications of nicotine withdrawal at the same time. They should be used in conjunction with behavioural and psychological strategies to reduce or quit your tobacco use.

  • The nicotine patch is not a good choice for those people with skin problems or allergies to adhesive tape.

  • The cost of the nicotine patches can range from $3 to $5 per day.

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Updated February 2019