Using the Nicotine Patch 101

Submitted by SharpHealth Team on Sunday 10th October 2010
In this article
  • How does "the patch" work?
  • What dosage is right for you?
  • Words of caution.

So it’s just dawned on you that smoking is bad for you. Great — welcome back. And now you’ve made the decision to quit? Even better. The problem is, of course, that quitting smoking is difficult — really difficult.

Until now.

Today there are several options available to those willing to try to quit. One option, the nicotine patch, is relatively inexpensive (a bit less than cigarettes, depending on how aggressively they are taxed in your state) and available over-the-counter.

Studies show that the patch can be a very effective quitting tool. In fact, smokers who stop smoking with the help of the patch are twice as likely to remain nonsmokers after a period of six months.

What Is "The Patch"?

The nicotine patch (available from several different manufacturers) is a gradual transdermal (through the skin) method of weaning the body from nicotine. It displaces the physical craving for nicotine (responsible for most of the discomfort involved in quitting), while slowly helping you to displace the psychological craving to reach for a cigarette.

What Will the Patch Do?

When used properly, the patch can get you through the part of smoking cessation where most people fail–the beginning. With the physical craving for nicotine lessened, you only have to fight the habit of smoking.

How Do I Use It?

The nice thing about the transdermal patch is that it’s pretty easy to use. Basically, you wake up, you slap it on (preferably on a hairless place, like the inside of your arm), you rub it into place and then you go about your business. That’s it.

The key is choosing the right dosage for your level of addiction. Most transdermal patch products come in three dosage levels. NicoDerm CQ®, the most popular brand of transdermal patch, begins its "Step One" patch with 21 milligrams of nicotine released over 24 hours. After wearing a patch for 18-24 hours, you replace it with a fresh one. As you progress through the "system," you lower your dosage by switching to successively lower-dosaged patches.

What Dosage Should You Start With?

If you smoke a half pack or more per day:
For six weeks use "Step One," a patch containing 21 milligrams of time-released nicotine. Then switch to "Step Two," a patch with 14 milligrams. Use that for two weeks, followed by "Step Three," a seven-milligram patch used for another two weeks.

If you smoke less than half a pack per day:
Start with Step Two for six weeks and move down to Step Three for a final two weeks.

Words of Caution

Some people think that if you smoke more than a pack a day, you require more that one patch at a time. Not so. One should never apply more than one 21 milligram patch at a time.

Don’t smoke and use the patch. This can lead to nicotine overdose, a condition often denoted by unSharp symptoms like dizziness, upset stomach and headache.

While it is perfectly safe to do so, sleeping with the patch on can produce odd or disturbing dreams. For this reason manufacturers suggest that consumers remove the patch at bedtime and replace it with a new patch within a few minutes of waking up the following morning. However, if your usual smoking routine includes waking up at night to have a cigarette, you might want to try sleeping with the patch on at first.

Completely Unsanctioned, but Helpful Hints

Separation anxiety. Stay on the patch as long as you feel you need it. Transdermal nicotine is not "good" for you but at least it does not contain the tar and additives that smoking does, nor does it hurt your lungs. Let’s face it: it’s a battle to stop and whatever it takes should be in order.

Gummy stuff all over. Like "self-adhesive bandages," patches can leave unattractive outlines that let the world know you’ve had something sticky there. For this reason, try wearing the patch on a place that’s not easily seen (yet still hairless), like your side or a hairless part of your back.

Red and bumpy. In addition to being a stimulant, nicotine is also an irritant. Because it is applied directly to the skin, many people find that the patch causes redness. For this reason, it is advised that you trade off arms or other areas where you apply the patch. This allows the skin to breathe between application. If redness or bumpiness persists, see your physician.

Be a social non-smoker. So you’re not ready to stop smoking, but you’re on a non-smoking flight to Australia, or you have a hot date with some woman who abhors smokers, or an all-day conference you won’t be able to duck out of? Go ahead and wear the patch as needed, but remember that you should take the patch off as soon or as close to smoking time as possible.

While there are many patches out there, the most popular brand remains the NicoDerm CQ® Patch. For a special online drugstore price of $45.99, you can pick up a two-week supply of Step One NicoDerm CQ® by following this LINK.

This article last updated on Sunday 10th October 2010
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