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What is a Nicotine Patch?

Nicotine patches can be used to ween people from smoking.
A nicotine patch can help ease anger and other nicotine withdrawal symptoms.
Article Details
  • Written By: R. Kayne
  • Edited By: L. S. Wynn
  • Last Modified Date: 09 April 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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A nicotine patch is a small plaster patch that adheres to the skin, designed to release varying doses of nicotine into the bloodstream in order to reduce cravings for addicted smokers who are trying to quit. This is a form of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT).

Patches are available in many brands from several different drug companies. Though they vary slightly in properties and dosages they all work basically the same. The idea is that the presence of small doses of nicotine in the body will reduce the severity of cravings experienced when going cold turkey.

One of the benefits of a nicotine patch is in the way it delivers the nicotine to your body. When you smoke, the nicotine is absorbed into the bloodstream very quickly through the lungs. The effect of the nicotine on the brain is almost instant. But within 20-30 minutes, the blood level of nicotine has dropped and your body begins signaling for more. This keeps the smoker in a roller coaster need-feed cycle.

The nicotine patch, however, releases nicotine into the bloodstream at a slow, steady pace, and remains so throughout the day, tapering off at night, deconstructing the feast-or-famine edginess that is a by-product of nicotine addiction. Over a 24-hour period a 21mg nicotine patch, for example, releases into the bloodstream the equivalent of smoking about 20 cigarettes, minus the poisonous gasses and tars.

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Symptoms of nicotine withdrawal include irritability, anxiety, restlessness, anger, and difficulty concentrating. These feelings can be overwhelming during the withdrawal process. A nicotine patch can relive the severity of these symptoms, but it will not completely take away the cravings.

Though a nicotine patch lessens physical cravings, it cannot address all aspects of withdrawal. There are behavioral and psychological triggers associated with smoking. Particular times of the day or certain activities can be kick-off mechanisms that result in cravings.

A disadvantage of using a nicotine patch is that it draws out the withdrawal process because nicotine is still being introduced into the system, albeit in lesser amounts. Depending on the personality type, some smokers prefer to stop cold and endure the more severe symptoms of withdrawal over a shorter period of time, rather than using a patch regiment to lessen the symptoms through an elongated withdrawal process. In any case, a nicotine patch cannot guarantee a smoker will kick the habit. It's simply a tool or aid.

It is absolutely critical that a person wearing a nicotine patch not smoke, as a nicotine overdose can occur causing severe illness or death. Since nicotine stays in the bloodstream for several hours, removing the patch is not a safeguard.

When finished with a nicotine patch proper disposal is necessary. Some nicotine does remain and ingesting the patch could have fatal consequences for a pet or child.

A nicotine patch can be a valuable and effective tool for many smokers trying to quit. Patches deliver differing amounts of nicotine, so the smoker can switch to less-potent patches throughout the withdrawal process. The cost of patches is roughly equal to buying cigarettes.

Consult your doctor to find out which patch regiment is best for you. If you notice a rash, sensitivity, headaches, or any other adverse symptoms, contact your doctor immediately.

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