Most smokers want to quit and often try on a regular basis to be smokefree. Most smokers however, will relapse…

Relapse occurs for a range of reasons, including experiencing strong cravings and withdrawal soon after quitting.

With the right information and support, and with the use of quitting medications, a smokefree lifestyle is achievable.

The quitting medications can double to triple your chance of quitting success!

So what are the quitting medications?

There are a range of quitting medications currently on the market to help smokers quit. They include over the counter, as well as prescription medications.

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT)

Therapeutic nicotine or NRT as it’s more commonly known, deliver a safe level of nicotine into the body which helps to reduce cravings and withdrawal.

Currently there are a range of NRT products available over the counter. They include:

  • patches (12 weeks’ supply of patches are available on the PBS per year)
  • gum (2mg and 4mg gum available on the PBS per year)
  • inhalator
  • lozenges (2mg and 4mg lozenges available on the PBS per year)
  • mouth spray

For any of these products to be successful however, they must be used correctly and for a suitable length of time. A minimum of 8 – 10 weeks is encouraged with 12 weeks (or longer) highly recommended.

Some smokers are not ready to give up the cigarettes immediately, and are encouraged to try the Pre-Quit Method.

The Pre-Quit patches are used for the first 2 weeks and during this time, smokers are encouraged to cut down the number they smoke. At the two week mark, they are encouraged to quit cold turkey continuing to use the patches (for as long as they need), to help them cope with cravings and withdrawal.

This method increases quitting success, compared to standard therapy.

Another option is the Cut Down then Stop Method which works by slowly cutting down the number of cigarettes smoked, and replacing them with nicotine gum, lozenge or the inhalator.

Combination therapy is also encouraged for ALL smokers to help increase quitting success. This method includes combining the use of the patch with the gum (or one of the other oral products), to help reduce cravings during peak times.

Some important information about NRT

NRT products DO NOT contain the many dangerous chemicals found in cigarettes.

Did you know for example, that there are 7000 poisons in cigarettes, 69 of them which are known to cause cancer?

The take home message is that using nicotine replacement therapy, is always safer than continuing to smoke.

If you are interested in giving NRT a try, have a chat to your pharmacist or doctor.

Prescription medications

Also available to help smokers quit are two prescription medications.

The first one is bupropion, which is commonly known as Zyban. Generic brands are also available.

The second prescription medication is Varenicline, commonly known as Champix. This medication also reduces cravings and withdrawal, as well as the pleasurable effects of smoking – cigarettes no longer taste good.

Varenicline can be used with other medications, and is very effective in helping smokers quit.

Speak to your doctor for further information about these products, including their side effects and suitability.

Also available on the PBS…

The two prescription medications higlighted above are also available on the PBS (Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme). Champix is available on the PBS for up to 24 weeks per year. If you relapse, you can access a second course of treatment after 6 months.

The nicotine patches, gum and lozenges are also available on the PBS. Speak to your doctor for further details about these products.

During a 12 month period, you can access all 5 quitting products on the PBS. That is, the nicotine patches, gum or lozenge, as well as the two prescription medications (bupropion and Champix).

Remember to seek support

When quitting, seeking support and advice can also help. If you use the products in combination with counselling/ongoing support, this will further increase your chances of success.

The type of support can vary from individual support, such as having a chat with your local doctor, health professional or support worker/counsellor, to group support, such as attending a group quit course, or local smoking cessation program.

For the cost of a local call, the Quitline (13 7848) can also be accessed. The Quitline can provide you with tailored advice and support that is anonymous (if you wish), and confidential.

Quitting is difficult but it is also achievable. With the right strategies, support and with the use of quitting medications, you too can enjoy a smokefree life.

We hope you enjoyed this post and until next time, wish you all great health and wellbeing.

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The information for this post was sourced from the following references:

Scollo, MM & Winstanley, MH (2019). Tobacco in Australia: Facts and issues. 4th edn. Melbourne: Cancer Council Victoria.

US Surgeon General’s Report (2015). Let’s make the next generation tobacco-free. Your guide to the 50th Anniversary Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Zwar N, Richmond R, Borland R, Peters M, Litt J, Bell J, Caldwell B. & Ferretter I (2014). Supporting smoking cessation: a guide for health professionals. Melbourne: The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners.