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Medications to Help You Quit

When you quit smoking, you may feel strange at first. You may feel dull, tense, and not yourself. These are signs that your body is getting used to life without nicotine. It usually only lasts 1 or 2 weeks.

Many people just can't handle how they feel after they quit. They start smoking again to feel better. Maybe this has happened to you. Most people slip up in the first week after quitting. This is when feelings of withdrawal are strongest.

The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has approved medicines to reduce withdrawal symptoms and the urge to smoke. These FDA-approved medicines can help with feelings of withdrawal:

  • Nicotine gum
  • Nicotine inhaler
  • Nicotine tablet
  • Nicotine nose spray
  • Nicotine skin patch
  • Bupropion pills
  • Varenicline pills

Using these medicines can double your chances of quitting for good. Ask your doctor for help. But remember: Medicine alone can't do all the work. It can help with cravings and withdrawal, but quitting will still be hard at times.

Medicines with nicotine

Nicotine cessation products—also called nicotine replacement therapy (NRT)—have a little bit of nicotine but not the hundreds of other harmful chemicals that are in cigarettes. NRT helps you handle the physical symptoms of quitting by giving you much less nicotine than a cigarette. This satisfies your nicotine craving and lessens your urge to smoke. You can buy some NRT medicines without a prescription from your doctor. These include a skin patch, gum, or lozenges with nicotine. Nicotine inhalers and nose sprays are available only by prescription. Also see Myths about NRT (PDF).

Medicines without nicotine

Some medicines that help withdrawal symptoms and nicotine cravings don’t have any nicotine. They help by reducing symptoms and smoking urges. A prescription is needed for these kinds of medicines. See your doctor to talk about your medication plan and to get a prescription.

For more information about current medications used by smokers who are trying to quit, visit the Medication Guide.

Keep in mind…

Medications alone can’t do all the work. They can help with cravings and withdrawal, but they won’t completely stop withdrawal symptoms. Even if you use medication to help you stop smoking, quitting may still be hard at times. Many people find it helps to take medication and change their habits at the same time. For example, you can keep healthy snacks handy to beat cravings, limit time with smokers, and join a smoking cessation program. For other tips on how to stay focused on quitting, visit our Benefits of Quitting section, our Talk to an Expert page, and the Quit Guide.

Talk to your doctor about getting help to quit

It is important to tell your doctor when you are ready to quit—especially if you are pregnant, thinking about becoming pregnant, or have a serious medical condition. Your doctor can help you connect with the right resources to make your quit attempt work. Remember—quitting "cold turkey" isn’t your only choice.

Make sure to let your doctor or pharmacist know what medications you are taking. Nicotine changes how some drugs work. Your doctor may need to change some of your medications after you quit. If you want to learn more about medications before you go to your doctor, read the summaries above and see the Medication Guide.


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