Dangers of Nicotine Gum

woman holding package of Nicotine Gum

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 36.5 million smokers in 2015. Many adult smokers want to quit and often turn to nicotine gum to help them kick the habit. Although this method of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is helpful, there are still some precautions that should be taken while using this drug.

Using Nicotine Gum

Nicotine chewing gum is known by the brand names Nicorette, Nicorette DS, and Commit. It is used to help you quit smoking by providing doses of nicotine to help control withdrawal symptoms. Chew Nicorette slowly until you notice a nicotine taste or feel a slight stinging in your mouth. Then, place the gum between your cheek and your gum (parking) so it can be absorbed through the lining of your mouth. Continue the sequence chewing and parking your gum for about 30 minutes.

Dangers

Although nicotine gum can help decrease your cigarette cravings, always use this gum according to instruction to avoid serious harm or injury. Only chew one piece of gum at a time every one to two hours or whenever you have the urge to smoke. Chew your gum slowly and do not chew a new piece too soon after discarding your last one. UpToDate, a clinical decision tool, notes a maximum of 24 pieces of gum should be used in one day for up to six weeks. Your use of nicotine gum should gradually be reduced over the next six week, for a total of three months.

There are certain side effects that occur if too much nicotine is released from the gum. These include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation
  • Hiccups
  • Headaches
  • Mouth irritation
  • Jaw pain

Long-Term Effects

Nicorette is designed to be used as a short-term tobacco cessation aid when you are trying to quit smoking. Using this drug for long periods has been shown to impact health negatively.

Decreased Insulin Sensitivity

In a small study, researchers found using nicotine-containing gum was associated with increased insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia in study participants. Over time, insulin resistance can lead to type 2 diabetes as your pancreatic cells will fail to keep up with your body's increased need for insulin.

Increased Dependence

There are studies that indicate using nicotine gum for extended periods can increase your dependence on the drug. In a 2014 study, 82.8 percent of long-term gum users were more likely to report using the gum because they were addicted to it and were unsuccessful when they attempted to stop using it as compared to only 11.4 percent of long-term e-cigarette users.

A 2009 study in Addiction Behavior noted long-term gum chewers (greater than 3 months) used more gum daily and had higher daily dosages of nicotine as compared to individuals who used the gum less than 3 months. Additionally, 83 percent of long-term nicotine gum users reported they were more likely to continue using this aid because of their addiction to the medication, and they were unable to stop using it as compared to 7 percent individuals who used nicotine containing gum for less than 3 months.

Increased Exposure to Poisons

Findings from a 2009 study in Cancer Research noted that N′-nitrosonornicotine (NNN), a carcinogen present in unburned tobacco and cigarette smoke, was present in the urine of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) users. Researchers noticed the total NNN in the urine of 13 of 34 gum or lozenge users was at one or more times comparable or considerably higher than the levels in their urine before they quit smoking. The presence of this strong carcinogens could be as a result of using NRT products.

Adverse Reactions

Close-up of nicotine gum

Nicotine gum, like all NRT, is a safer alternative to smoking; it's safe because it does not contain as many harmful chemicals when compared to cigarettes. Even though it is available over-the-counter, it is always best to speak with your medical provider about possible side effects and medication interactions before starting this medication. To receive the maximum benefit, always use this drug as prescribed. Do not smoke cigarettes or use other tobacco products while chewing nicotine gum. This could lead to nicotine poisoning. Signs of nicotine toxicity can include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Palpitations
  • Vision changes
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Flushing

If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, call 9-1-1 for help right away.

Non-Prescription Alternatives

There are other non-prescription medication treatments available to help you stop smoking. Group therapy offers the opportunity to learn behavioral techniques to help you kick the habit. You may learn helpful skills such as coping and social skills training, contingency management, self-control as well as cognitive behavioral interventions. Group therapy can also provide you with the opportunity gain support from others also trying to quit.

A Cochrane Review found group therapy sessions were better in helping people stop smoking when compared to self-help and other, less intensive interventions.

A 2011 study also found when chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients participated in an intensive counseling session in combination with using NRT, their cessation rate doubled.

Overcome Dependence

Smoking can be a difficult habit to quit. By using nicotine gum in a safe manner, you can conquer your cravings and live a smoke-free life once and for all.

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Dangers of Nicotine Gum