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Geisinger becomes the first member of Risant Health

When you’re thinking about putting down the cigarettes for good, these quit-smoking medications can help.

Quitting smoking is no small feat. But there are so many benefits: Breaking the habit can reduce your cancer risk, lower the risk of a heart attack or stroke, help you breathe better and even save you money.

So when you’re finally ready to take the plunge, you want to find the right tools to increase your chances of success. One tool that can help you quit? Smoking cessation aids.

What are quit-smoking medicines?

“Smoking cessation aids are therapies designed to help you break your nicotine habit,” says Keturah Weaver, pharmacist at Geisinger. “You’ll find prescription and over-the-counter products.” 

Options range from shorter-acting, which work more quickly, to longer-acting products that deliver nicotine to your body over a longer period of time.

You can use them by themselves or with other treatments to help stop smoking. 

How do quit-smoking medicines work?

These different types of medicine help you quit smoking in a few different ways, depending on the method you use.

Nicotine replacement therapy

Many over the counter options use something called nicotine replacement therapy, or NRT, to help you quit. NRT delivers nicotine in small doses without the harmful chemicals found in cigarettes. 

Over-the-counter NRTs come in a few forms, including:

  • Patches
  • Gum
  • Lozenges

Other nicotine replacement therapies are available by prescription only, including nasal spray and an inhaler.

“If you need extra support, you can combine methods — pairing a long-acting method, like a nicotine patch, with a shorter-acting one, like gum,” says Ms. Weaver.

Your starting dose depends on how much and how often you smoke.

For example, if you smoke a pack a day, you’d need to start with a higher dose of the patch that releases more medicine. 

That controlled dose of nicotine decreases over time, usually over a few weeks or months, helping gradually wean you off.

And that’s not all. When you pair NRTs with other methods to help change behaviors, like talk therapy, says Ms. Weaver, “they also improve your chance of long-term success of staying smoke-free.” 

Not sure where to look for NRT products? Most of them are available over the counter at your local pharmacy or store. If you’re not sure which method is right for you, have a conversation with your provider or pharmacist. 

Prescription medications

Two prescription medications, varenicline and bupropion, are approved by the FDA to help you quit smoking. “Both work to block the effects of nicotine on your brain,” Ms. Weaver says. They also help reduce nicotine cravings and lessen symptoms of nicotine withdrawal. That means if you do start smoking again, you won’t feel the same level of enjoyment you did before taking the medicine.

Like with any medication, there is a possibility of side effects. Common side effects of quit-smoking meds can include:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Changes in taste or smell
  • Mood changes
  • Sleep disturbances

Medications to help you quit smoking give you the best chance of long-term success when paired with a smoking cessation program.

Breaking the habit for good 

When you’re ready to quit smoking, have a conversation with your healthcare provider. They can connect you with free resources to start you on your journey to quitting smoking. And if you’re interested in a medication to quit, they can help you find the right one to get (and stay) smoke free.

Next steps:  

Learn about Geisinger Pharmacy
5 things that happen when you quit smoking 
Asthma flare up? Here’s how to manage 

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