Nicotine, found in cigarettes and chewing tobacco, is one of the most addictive drugs and ties with hardcore drugs like meth and heroin. There are various techniques implemented for quitting nicotine like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Motivational Interviewing, and Mindfulness, but sometimes medication treatments are used to either deter the negative effects of withdrawal or to replace nicotine with a healthier alternative.
Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) operates by stimulating the same pleasure receptors in the brain that nicotine stimulates when the individual smokes cigarettes or chews tobacco. These range from chewing gum and spray to lozenges and transdermal patches. Using multiple NRTs has proven to be more effective than just using one of the methods above and statistics show a 50-70% decrease in nicotine use through cigarettes or chewing tobacco when using these NRTs. Bupropion (Zyban) is a medication that directly prevents the reuptake of norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain and stimulates the release of these pleasure-inducing chemicals. This medication was originally designed to treat depression but has found a better use in decreasing smoking habits.
Varenicline (Chantix) reduces cravings for nicotine, experienced during withdrawal, by stimulating the alpha-4 beta-2 nicotinic receptor that nicotine usually stimulates. The stimulation is not as strong as nicotine, but studies have shown that this medication reduces nicotine cravings more than NRTs and Bupropion. Combining NRTs with medications like Bupropion or Varenicline has been shown to be more effective and increases the chances of full recovery. Often during withdrawal, the user experiences depression and antidepressants are normally used to aid in quitting smoking.
Zyban, or Bupropion, Wellbutrin, or Aplenzin, has the effect of reducing cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Normally, Zyban is taken for one to two weeks before quitting nicotine and consists of two pills a day. This medication is taken for about 7-12 weeks and may be taken longer if the withdrawal symptoms continue. However, this drug should be avoided if the individual has experienced seizures, cirrhosis, bipolar, or anorexia. Nortriptyline is another antidepressant used to decrease withdrawal symptoms but includes adverse side effects like blurry vision, trouble urinating, low blood pressure, and weight fluctuation.
Chantix helps the user quit smoking by reducing the pleasure experienced from nicotine, and this medication reduces withdrawal symptoms. This medication is usually taken for a month before the individual actually quits nicotine, so the body has time to adjust and let the drug take effect. Over the first eight days of usage, the individual is instructed to increase their dosage and to take the medicine after meals. Chantix is usually taken for at least 12 weeks, but some individuals are given another 12 weeks of Chantix if their addiction has not improved.
Other drugs include Clonidine, which stands out for its ability to treat high blood pressure that can come with withdrawal symptoms. Cystine, Naltrexone, and anti-smoking vaccines are being researched for possible uses in nicotine addiction, but have not been approved by the FDA for nicotine treatment. If you or someone you know are struggling with a nicotine addiction, consider seeking treatment at an addiction center. Asana Recovery offers detox, medications, and therapies to treat a variety of addictions. Call 949-438-4504 to learn more about their treatment services.