How Does Nicotine Gum Work?

Get the best results from nicotine gum therapy

Man holding packet of nicotine gum
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Nicotine gum is a form of therapeutic nicotine that is designed to help ex-smokers gradually reduce the amount of nicotine they are used to receiving on a daily basis from cigarettes.

Used as a chewing gum, nicotine gum comes in two strengths: 2mg for people who smoke less than 25 cigarettes a day, and 4mg for those who smoke 25 or more cigarettes a day.

Don't eat or drink for 15 minutes before chewing nicotine gum, as the absorption of nicotine could be reduced, especially if acidic foods/drinks are consumed.

Nicotine gum is sugar-free and should not be swallowed.

Nicotine Gum Brands and Flavors

Nicotine gum is an over-the-counter medication. A doctor's prescription is not needed.

Nicotine gum is marketed under several brand names, including Nicorette, Habitrol, Nicotrol and Nicotinell, along with a variety of store-branded nicotine gum products.

Nicotine gum comes in the 2mg and 4mg strengths, and all brands offer a mint-flavored gum and a fruit-flavored gum. Additionally, Nicorette has Icy Mint and Cinnamon Surge flavors.

Medicinally, there are no differences between brands, but consumers might prefer the taste of one over another.

How to Use Nicotine Gum

Nicotine gum should be chewed slowly until a mild tingling sensation is felt and then rest (park) it between the cheek and gum. When the tingling stops, bring the gum out and chew slowly, parking it again once the tingling sensation returns. Continue this until all of the nicotine is released from the gum—approximately 30 minutes.

Do not chew nicotine gum fast, don't chew more than one piece at a time, and don't chew it more often than recommended.

Length of Nicotine Gum Therapy

Once the strength of gum is chosen, follow this schedule for chewing gum to reduce nicotine cravings:

  • Weeks 1 to 6, chew one piece every 1 to 2 hours.
  • Weeks 7 to 9, chew one piece every 2 to 4 hours.
  • Weeks 10 to 12, chew one piece every 4 to 8 hours.

Tips for Reducing Nicotine Gum Usage

  • Decrease the amount of time the gum is chewed. If you chew it for 30 minutes, drop down to 20 minutes, then 15, then 10, etc.
  • Replace one piece of nicotine gum each day with regular, sugarless gum.
  • If you use 4mg gum, switch to 2mg gum.

Nicotine gum therapy should be completed within three months. If you have trouble stopping nicotine gum therapy, consult your doctor.

Side Effects and Special Precautions for Nicotine Gum

Side effects commonly associated with nicotine gum therapy include:

  • Mouth ulcers
  • Jaw muscle aches
  • Nausea
  • Headaches/dizziness

Contact a doctor immediately if any of the following occurs:

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Seizures
  • Breathing problems
  • Symptoms of nicotine overdose (see below)

See a doctor before using nicotine gum if you have:

  • A heart condition or heart disease
  • Uncontrolled high blood pressure
  • Dental condition or disorder
  • Overactive thyroid
  • You are pregnant or plan to get pregnant—nicotine may harm the fetus

    Tell your doctor about all prescription and non-prescription medications you're using before starting nicotine gum therapy.

    Signs and Symptoms of Nicotine Overdose

    Do not smoke or use any other nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) while using nicotine gum, because you run the risk of experiencing a nicotine overdose.

    Signs and symptoms of a nicotine overdose may include:

    If you suspect you've had an overdose of nicotine, stop using the nicotine gum or lozenge and call your doctor immediately.

    Keep Nicotine Gum Away from Children and Pets

    Nicotine is poisonous, and nicotine gum may contain enough nicotine to harm children or pets. Store in a safe place and contact Poison Control services in your area in case of an overdose.

    A Word about Nicotine Gum Addiction

    Nicotine gum is used on an as-needed basis, and because of this, the potential to abuse this particular quit aid is significant.

    Please remember that nicotine gum is a serious medication that must be used exactly as directed by the manufacturer. If you choose to use nicotine gum to help you quit smoking, carefully wean yourself off of it in the amount of time suggested.

    Find out more about what to do if you're addicted to nicotine gum.

    Success Quitting with Nicotine Gum

    While nicotine gum can help you quit smoking, remember that it is a quit aid, not a miracle worker. The recipe for success with smoking cessation lies within you, not a product.

    Develop your will and determination to quit smoking one simple day at a time and be patient with yourself.

    Time, patience and support will help you win this race. Believe that, believe in yourself, and be willing to do the work it takes to quit for as long as it takes. Do this and you'll find that you can quit smoking, just as others have.

    Sources

    Nicotine Gum. National Institutes of Health. 2011.

    NICORETTE (nicotine) lozenge. U.S. National Library of Medicine. January 2011.

    Nicorette Gum. GlaxoSmithKline. January 2011.

    Frequently Asked Questions About Nicorette. GlaxoSmithKline. January 2011.

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