Self-Medicating With Over-the-Counter NRT

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Nicotine is the main addictive substance in cigarettes, and it is what keeps most people hooked on smoking.  For this reason, many people choose to use nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) to help them quit smoking.  The concept is that the person quitting should stop smoking altogether when beginning to use NRT, and hopefully stay quit when the treatment is complete.  This is achieved by starting NRT with a dose of nicotine equivalent to the amount that the person would normally smoke in one day, and gradually reduce the amount of nicotine over a period of weeks until it becomes so insignificant that the person doesn’t notice any difference whether they are using the NRT product or not.

The good thing is that some forms of NRT, such as patches and gum amongst others, are typically available over-the-counter, without prescription.  This freedom of choice allows people to decide when they purchase the product and when they start using the product, without the specific need for medical supervision.  If the instructions are followed carefully, including consulting a medical health professional in case of complications, there is usually no issue with the treatment.

The bad thing is that not everyone either reads or adheres to the instructions. This can result in people using the wrong doses at the wrong intervals, smoking while using NRT, and sometimes leads to people continuing to use NRT products for months and perhaps even years after they should have finished the treatment.  A look at the quit smoking internet forums and some feedback I have heard from medical professionals reveals a number of cases of people who have ‘successfully’ quit smoking and yet are still hooked on nicotine.

I must admit that I am not familiar with the percentage statistics of people hooked on NRT after the normal length of treatment, as my information has been purely observational thus far.  I would welcome anybody pointing me at a study of such a phenomenon.  In any case, I’m not suggesting that anything should be done to change the fact that some forms of NRT are available over the counter. What I am suggesting is that if you choose to use NRT when quitting smoking, read the instructions carefully and stick strictly to the instructions.  If in doubt, consult a medical professional before starting treatment.

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