Health x Wellness

Nicotine Replacement Therapy for a tobacco-free life

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Nicotine Replacement Therapy is a medically approved way to take nicotine through means other than tobacco. It delivers smaller, controlled quantities through gum, patch, or lozenges.

There are many reasons to go tobacco-free. It can be about reclaiming and rebuilding your health, or finding reasons to live longer to witness key milestones in your child’s life. Perhaps it is about proving to yourself that you can overcome a challenge, or that you want to replace smoking as a habit to save money.

Regardless of big or small reasons, the decision to quit smoking and go tobacco-free can be challenging. Trying to quit can take many tries. Research has shown that it helps to activate your family and friends network for support.

In fact, there are quite a number of things you can do to make your attempt successful. These include:

  • Set goals & rewards together: Establish a series of goals and associated rewards along the journey. Remember to ensure that the rewards are personally meaningful to you.
  • Fill up the free time with more family bonding: Fill up your free time with meaningful activities such as picking up a hobby or exercising with your family, loved ones and friends
  • Explore your quitting tools and options: Consider trying Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT).
  • Be open to asking for help and receiving support: Rely on your friends or family for the occasional boost of encouragement, especially when withdrawals symptoms come kicking in

We discuss with Dr. Paranchothy Premila MD, Medical Affairs Director for Johnson & Johnson Singapore about NRT, how does it work and what are some steps to take in order to quit smoking.

the Active Age (AA): What are the steps a smoker can take to quit smoking?

Dr. Paranchothy Premila MD (PP): The quitting journey is different for every individual and it is important to find an approach that works best for you. For a start, here are some steps that smokers can follow to serve as a guide.

Set a date (to stop) after you’ve decided to quit. Intentionally setting a date will allow you to prepare to stop smoking mentally. Take a look at your calendar and be strategic about when it would be a good time to quit, preferably a period without too many temptations like celebrations and stressors.

Put it in writing. Make goals and a list of reasons you want to stop smoking and display it somewhere easily visible. This record can help you through the tough times when your resolve weakens.

Nicotine Replacement Therapy

Identify (your) triggers. Strengthen your willpower by limiting or skipping triggers you commonly associate with smoking, such as drinking alcohol, coffee, or tea. If that’s the case, try drinking less when you first quit.

Reward yourself. Once you hit a milestone on your list of goals, treat yourself! Make these rewards meaningful so that they can be something to look forward to on an otherwise arduous quitting journey.

If you need to, pick yourself back up. Don’t fall at the first hurdle – quitting is hard and often takes more than one try. However, persistence will help you succeed, despite the occasional relapse.

AA: What are some tips to help a person trying to quit?

PP: Surround yourself with support. Quitting can feel lonely, but it doesn’t have to be! Consider telling at least one friend, family or even co-worker. People understand that quitting is a real challenge and requires a lot of willpower, so surround yourself with their positive affirmation!

Keep busy. Whenever you feel the urge to smoke, resist it by keeping busy. Make a list of five-minute strategies of things to do when craving hits, like drinking water or calling a friend. Additionally, keep your hands and mouth busy by making sure you have things like candy or squeeze toys on hand.

Rely on expert help and tools. Use the help you have available to give up smoking – consult your pharmacist for more information on Nicotine Replacement Therapy tools or seek advice on quitting.

AA: What is NRT and are there any interesting studies or research that supports using NRT as a tool?

PP: NRT is Nicotine Replacement Therapy, an established and effective treatment for smoking (Tobacco) dependence. NRT aims to deliver nicotine with the intent to replace the nicotine obtained from tobacco products. NRT seeks to reduce the severity of nicotine withdrawal symptoms, allowing the tobacco users to focus on the psychosocial aspects of quitting tobacco use.

NRT was first used in 1978, and over the next 4 decades, it is one of the most extensively studied smoking cessation methods. More than 200 clinical trials with over 64,000 subjects had been done on various formats of NRTs worldwide establishing its efficacy and safety.

AA: How do the chewing gum and the transdermal patch work, in relation to NRT?

PP: Nicotine gum is a fast-release format while nicotine patch is a slow-release format of NRT. The mechanism of both formats is the same and their use differs based on how heavy the smoker is and the severity of the withdrawal symptoms, apart from consumer’s preference.

Nicotine Replacement Therapy

Both these formats are equally effective in the treatment of tobacco dependence. In the case of heavy smokers and those who had relapsed after using any NRT format, nicotine gum and patch can be used as combination therapy to increase the success rate.

AA: Some people think that taking nicotine to quit smoking simply replaces the addiction of one substance for another. How would you address this thinking?

PP: Using NRT is not trading one nicotine addiction for another because the likelihood of long-term dependence on NRT is low.

On top of this, the nicotine present in NRT products reaches the brain much more slowly than when smoking a cigarette, making NRT considerably less addictive.

Also, NRT is a short-course therapy for a recommended duration of 12-16 weeks during which the NRT product is used lesser as time goes by till the individual is completely off the therapy.

AA: Is NRT approved for use in Singapore, and is it only through a doctor’s recommendation?

PP: Yes, NRT is one of the approved and recommended methods in Clinical Practice Guidelines for Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence, issued by Health Promotion Board, Ministry of Health, Singapore.

Currently, NRT products like Gum and Patch are available at all retail pharmacies in Singapore and can be obtained through a pharmacist without a Doctor’s prescription.

However, for first-time users, we recommend seeking advice from doctors or pharmacists before using.

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash and by Egor Myznik on Unsplash and from the Nicorette website.