When attempting to quit smoking, the ‘habit’ of having a cigarette is often harder to get over than the actual nicotine addiction. In 1998, the FDA approved the nicotine inhaler for use, with the hopes that this type of nicotine replacement therapy could ease both the physical nicotine withdrawal symptoms and the psychological habit of smoking.
Nicotine Inhaler: How They Work
Nicotine inhalers are available only by prescription. The design of it is very basic, with a cartridge that contains nicotine that plugs into a plastic mouthpiece. When cravings for a cigarette occur, the inhaler is used much like a cigarette would be. The instructions state to either inhale deeply into the back of the throat or take short puffs off of the inhaler. As air passes through the inhaler, it releases nicotine vapor. Each cartridge is designed to work for about 20 minutes of steady puffing.
These cartridges provide the user with less nicotine than a cigarette, but still, give an adequate amount to quell cravings. Up to 16 cartridges maximum should be used daily for 12 weeks. Over the next 12 weeks, fewer cartridges should be used, allowing a slow step-down in the amount of nicotine the body is accustomed to. As an end goal, the user should lower their intake until no cartridges are used at all, ending the nicotine dependency.
Nicotine Inhaler: Effectiveness
One example of effectiveness shows the quit rate of two groups of people: 223 who used the inhaler, and 222 who used a placebo, in two trials. At six weeks, the inhaler group showed 44%-45% quit rates, compared to 14%-23% in the placebo users. By six months, 20%-21% of the inhaler users were still cigarette free, with only 6%-11% of the placebo group still abstaining.
Considerations to make before using a nicotine inhaler
- If you have any diseases
- Problems breathing
- High blood pressure
- A heart condition
If you have any of these problems, it is best to avoid nicotine inhalers, if you absolutely need one you should consult your doctor first.
Nicotine Inhalers: Pros and Cons
Many smokers find that the physical act of handling an item and inhaling the vapor provides a form of relief that other cessation aids like the nicotine patch or nicotine gum do not. In addition, it can give the sense of immediate gratification that they are used to receiving from a cigarette. Simulating smoking is a form of comfort all on its own. Since the inhaler is used as cravings occur, it is easily customizable, and each user can tailor their intake.
- Reduces cravings
- Easy to use
- Mostly no smell
- Can irritate the throat
On the other hand, the inhaler is not for everyone. Some people find that it simply prolongs the habit of smoking instead of allowing the smoker to become independent of it. Cost is also prohibitive for others, as the inhaler itself is more expensive, and it requires a prescription from a physician. Unlike the nicotine patch or gum, the inhaler cannot be used discreetly, which may pose a problem for some individuals.
Side Effects and Warnings
As with any product containing nicotine, it is possible to become addicted to the inhaler. Some of the most common side effects include mouth and throat irritation, stomach discomfort, sour stomach, stuffy nose, belching, and coughing. Some less common were anxiety, diarrhea, dizziness, and depression.
To sum up, some of the common side effects of using a nicotine inhaler are:
- Sore mouth
- Sore throat
- Coarse cough
- Irritable stomach
- Muscle tension
- Sinus pain or pressure
- Body pain
It is very important to disclose a complete medical history to your doctor before beginning any nicotine replacement therapy, including the nicotine inhaler. Special consideration needs to be taken with cardiovascular history, allergies, stomach conditions, diabetes, and kidney or liver problems.
This is not a complete list of all of the safety considerations and side effects of nicotine inhalers, You can find more information here, and you should also discuss with the prescribing physician and pharmacist.
Overusing a nicotine inhaler or smoking while using one can cause you risk and could lead to an overdose.
- Some nicotine overdose signs include:
- Dizziness or fainting
- Upset stomach
- Cold sweats
- Blurry vision
- Loss of hearing
If you think you have any of these symptoms after using a nicotine inhaler you should stop using your device immediately and seek medical help.
Overall t nicotine inhalers seem to be safe but less effective than other approved products like transdermal patches. If you are going with the NRT (Nicotine Replacement Therapy) route than those two options will have more benefits.