We were first introduced to the nicotine patch in the mid-1980s. Studies came out showing that a transdermal patch containing nicotine had helped some smokers by reducing their cravings for nicotine.
Excitement grew over this product as many smokers wanted to quit but had a difficult time doing it cold-turkey. By the mid-1990s, this patch was the go-to product for people who wanted to finally put their smoking days behind them.
It’s no wonder why people were so excited – nicotine and tobacco products are highly addictive. Researchers studied that there are increased risks of lung cancer when using nicotine and tobacco products. So the fact that someone had found a way to reduce the cravings for these products was cause for celebration.
Since the early days of the patch, new companies have popped up year after year with new anti-smoking remedies.
How does the nicotine patch compare to these so-called remedies?
What Is the Nicotine Patch? How This Helpful Patch Aids Smokers in Their Efforts to Quit
The nicotine patch is like an adhesive Band-Aid. You place it on your skin and it delivers a small amount of nicotine to your bloodstream.
Many smokers who have tried to quit cold-turkey found the cravings for cigarettes too overwhelming. They’d quit for a few days or weeks, but they weren’t able to sustain it because the cravings were too strong.
The nicotine patch provides low doses of nicotine to their bloodstream, so they can slowly overcome their addiction.
Since they’re feeding the craving through the patch, they don’t need to smoke as many cigarettes. And as their cravings get weaker, they move on to patches with even less nicotine. Eventually, they’ll be able to cut out their nicotine use completely.
There are some side effects that can result from use that you should be aware of. These include:
How the Nicotine Patch Differs from Other Products That Help People Quit Smoking
The nicotine patch isn’t the only smoking cessation tool available. How does it compare to the other tools on the market?
1. The Patch vs. Magnets
One of the complaints people have when they try to give up smoking is not just the cravings, but how they feel when they get those cravings. They’re irritable and feel like they’re on edge. It’s difficult for them to deal with any sort of stress without wanting to light a cigarette.
Some estimates claim that the patch is only 10%-15% effective. Therefore, using it in conjunction with other tools is a smart way to approach smoking cessation.
One such tool is actually magnets.
People who use magnets placed these on the ear – one inside and one outside. This puts pressure on the ear and is a form of acupressure.
Some people say they’ve seen results fairly quickly, with cravings being reduced within a week. There are still some skeptics of this practice, though.
2. Nicotine Gum, Spray, and Lozenges
Other anti-smoking tools include gum, sprays, and lozenges.
These tools contain a small amount of nicotine, typically around two to four milligrams. People should consume them throughout the day to be effective.
Around 17% of smokers who use gum, sprays, and lozenges alone are able to give up their habit completely.
Researches found that these tools can be used in conjunction with the patch, particularly for those early morning cravings.
3. Does Hypnotherapy Beat the Patch?
Many critics of the patch claim that it’s only effective in the short-term. Before long, people will give in to their cravings or peer pressure and start smoking again.
For long-term results, there are a lot of people who highly recommend hypnotherapy.
You can use it in addition to the nicotine patch or other smoking cessation tools – or it can be used alone.
People who have tried hypnotherapy claim that they’re able to quit cold turkey.
In a 2007 study, patients who quit smoking with the aid of hypnotherapy were more likely to still be non-smokers after six months than people who use patches, gum, or lozenges alone.
4. Do Herbal Remedies Really Work?
There are some people who want to completely eliminate nicotine from their body once and for all. They don’t want to do it by using products that contain nicotine. Instead, they prefer a more natural approach to their smoking cessation efforts. But before doing this, it is necessary to have check-ups with doctors.
Herbal remedies have been on the market for a while to help smokers make the transition into a healthier, non-smoking lifestyle.
Naturopaths highly recommended two herbs, St. John’s Wort and Ginseng.
St. John’s Wort is generally used to help people overcome depression. While it doesn’t help with the addictive aspects of nicotine, it can help with the depression that often arises while trying to overcome an addiction.
If this is a route you’d like to try, it’s recommended that you start taking a daily dose of St. John’s Wort approximately two weeks before you attempt to stop smoking.
Another option is Ginseng. This herb can prevent the release of dopamine. This is what makes people feel calm and happier after they smoke a cigarette. If that dopamine release is prevented, smokers might not feel like lighting up as often.
Unfortunately, at this point, there haven’t been any studies to conclusively prove whether ginseng can help people quit smoking.
These products aren’t only for people who want to do things the “natural way.” Like all of the tools on this list, you can use it in conjunction with others to make your cessation efforts more effective.
5. Should You Consider Prescription Medication?
Still fairly new to the market are prescription anti-smoking medications.
These medications lessen the pleasure that people get when they light up a cigarette. They can also lessen the cravings people have when they cut back on the amount of nicotine they consume each day.
The downside of these medications is that they can lead to some serious side effects, like severe depression, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts.
How to Use the Nicotine Patch to Successfully Quit Smoking
To get the best results from the nicotine patch, you need to make sure you’re using it correctly.
First, make sure to put it on clean, dry skin. You’ll need to put it on a hairless part of your body. The ideal spot is somewhere between your neck and waist. Some people put it on their arm, while others put it on their chest or abdomen.
You’ll need to change the patch each day. It’s best to put the patch in a different place each day – otherwise, you could end up with skin irritation or a rash from the adhesive.
It takes a while for the nicotine to get into your system, so you may need to start your day by applying the patch and chewing some nicotine gum or sucking on a lozenge. This will help with those initial cravings at the start of your day. You can also take vitamins for better results.
You’ll wear the patch for approximately eight weeks.
For the first four weeks, you’ll wear a patch that gives you 15-21 mg of nicotine per day. During the final four weeks, you’ll switch over to a patch with a lower dosage – somewhere between five and 14 mg per day.
Make sure you follow the directions and stick to the eight-week schedule for best results.
Side note: If you smoke more than 10 cigarettes per day, you might need a 10-week patch schedule instead of an eight-week schedule.
Start with the highest dose (21 mg) for the first six weeks. During weeks seven and eight, take the dose down to 14 mg per day. Your dose during the final two weeks should be around 7 mg per day.
Get the Help You Need to Finally Make Smoking a Thing of the Past
Unfortunately, the nicotine patch doesn’t have a 100% long-term success rate.
The Center for Global Tobacco Control, which is a part of the Harvard School of Public Health, published the results of a long-term patch study back in 2012.
The director of the program - Gregory Connolly – said the results were disappointing. They’d hoped to see that this transdermal patch had good long-term results, but the fact was that, in many cases, the patch wasn’t any better than quitting cold-turkey.
That’s not to say that the patch is completely ineffective.
It’s a great starting point for many people.
However, it’s not something that’s going to be 100% effective on its own. It needs to be used in conjunction with other treatments. People should seek the best doctors to know what works best for a case.
That’s why we recommend testing out various options, including the patch. We also recommend that everyone who wants to quit find a good support group.
Whether you want to quit cold-turkey or are using aids like the patch, a good support group will help you every step of the way. They’ll be there for you in good times and bad. They’ll praise you when you overcome obstacles and they’ll pick you up if/when you’ve had a relapse.
Quitting smoking is not an easy task – but it can be done. As long as you use a combination of tools and get the support you need, you can break free from this addiction.