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If you’ve ever tried to quit smoking, you’ve probably seen the plethora of stop-smoking aids out there. There are patches, gums, lozenges, nasal sprays, and inhalers, all of which are used for something called nicotine replacement therapy. Nicotine replacement therapy provides people with low doses of nicotine, to help cut down on cravings and reduce the symptoms of withdrawal. They don’t contain many of the harmful substances found in cigarettes, and you don’t have to worry about the toxic chemicals that are produced when you burn tobacco. We know that these products can help people stop smoking, but how long can you use them? Can they replace smoking indefinitely?

First, you should know that the more you smoke, the higher a dose of nicotine you’ll need from replacements to start out with. It’s also important not to continue smoking while using them, because that could lead to dangerously high levels of toxins in your body. Nicotine replacements may not be safe for women who are pregnant, as some research shows that it can cause a faster heart rate in the unborn child. It shouldn’t be used by people who have diabetes, heart disease, asthma, or stomach ulcers, have had a recent heart attack, have high blood pressure that is not controlled with medicine, a history of irregular heartbeat, or have been prescribed medication to help you quit smoking.

So, if you do think nicotine replacement is right for you, how long do you use it? The FDA recommends that we follow the instructions on the Drug Facts Label (DFL) and read the users’ guide on over the counter products. Generally, the manufacturers suggest that you use the product for a full 12 weeks to get the best results. However, if you feel like you need to use it longer than that, it is considered safe for most people, although you should talk to your doctor first to determine any possible risks.

Taking the brand Nicorette as an example, for the lozenges, in the first six weeks you take one piece every one to two hours, or about nine pieces a day. At seven to nine weeks, you’ll take one piece every two to four hours. After that, you’ll take one every four to eight hours. The idea is to slowly reduce the amount of nicotine in your body, and the amount you need to feel like you did while you were still smoking, until you get to the point where you can stop completely.

The takeaway here is that you should always pay close attention to the instructions, talk to you doctor, and figure out what works best for you. You shouldn’t have to – or even want to – use any of the nicotine replacement therapies for much longer than 12 weeks, because if they’ve done their job you’ll no longer feel such intense cravings.

If you or a loved one need help with quitting drugs or alcohol, consider Asana Recovery. We offer medical detox, along with both residential and outpatient programs, and you’ll be supervised by a highly trained staff of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists. Call us any time at (949) 438-4504 to get started.