Nicotine Gum for Quitting Smoking

Kathleen Esposito
Reviewed by Terri Forehand RN
Nicotine Gum

Nicotine gum is a popular aid used to help people quit smoking. The small amounts of nicotine in the gum cut down on withdrawal symptoms and help with oral fixation by giving smokers something to do with their mouths. None of the other toxins that are in cigarettes are present in the gum, and it takes a little while for the nicotine to reach the brain, so fewer of the pleasurable effects of the drug are felt.

How to Use Nicotine Gum

Always read the enclosed instructions and speak to a physician to make sure this option is right for you. Here are the basic guidelines for most nicotine gum:

  1. Chew one piece every one to two hours, or when getting the urge to smoke.
  2. Chew for a few seconds, until a tingling sensation is felt or flavor is tasted.
  3. Tuck the gum into the side of the mouth until the flavor disappears.
  4. Repeat this process for about 30 minutes.

Chewing the gum breaks it down. Chew pieces slowly. Chewing too fast will result in nicotine being released into saliva, which can cause a stomachache and more cravings. Do not use more than one piece at a time or one right after another and don't skip the tucking step. When it is tucked away, the nicotine has time to absorb into the blood vessels just under the lining of the oral cavity.

Drinking or eating 15 minutes before or during the chewing will decrease the effectiveness of the gum, as it will interfere with the absorption of the nicotine.

Gradually Decrease Usage

Using on a regular schedule at first may help yield better results. Most people need around 15 pieces a day, and no more than 24 should be used without a doctor's supervision. Gradually decreasing the amount of gum chewed will help the process move along. Trying to reduce the amount of chewing time will also help. Gum should not be used more than three months at a time.

Popular Brands

Some of the most well-known brands are:

  • Nicorette -- The most popular nicotine gum, Nicorette was developed in Sweden in the 1960s. It is available in eight flavors from mint to cinnamon to carrot.
  • Habitrol -- This gum is available in two flavors, fruit and mint. It is marketed as helping reduce cravings as well as weight gain.
  • Nicotrol -- This is essentially a cheaper version of Nicorette, distributed by Johnson & Johnson. It is substantially less expensive but available only in classic and mint flavors.

Generic brands of nicotine gum are also available at most drug stores. Gums are available in 2mg and 4mg. People who smoke less than 25 cigarettes a day should use the 2 mg gum. Those who smoke more than that should start with the 4 mg and work their way down to 2.

Side Effects

As with any medication, side effects are to be expected when using nicotine gum. Serious side effects include seizures, heart rhythm disturbances, and breathing difficulty. Call a doctor immediately if you experience any of those symptoms. Some people may have an allergic reaction to the gum. Allergic reactions can produce itching, swelling, dizziness, rash, or trouble breathing.

Overdoses

Gum should only be used when needed. If you use a gum with too much nicotine, or use other nicotine products with gum, overdose may occur. Symptoms of an overdose include:

  • Cold sweat
  • Confusion
  • Seizures
  • Blurred visions
  • Pounding heart
  • Fainting

Effectiveness

According to WebMd, people using nicotine gum, or a similar nicotine replacement therapy, have twice as much success at quitting as those who simply stop smoking cold turkey. Still, the gum cannot make someone quit smoking, and it is not a permanent solution. It is ultimately up to the individual to stay dedicated to the task and to commit to the process.

Nicotine Gum for Quitting Smoking