Nicotine Patch – A Guide and Review to the Best Patches

If you ever wonder what a nicotine transdermal patch is, how nicotine patches work, what are the side effects of nicotine patches or have any other question about the magical patches, this guide has got you covered.

A complete guide to nicotine patches

Nicotine Patch: The Best Tool for Quitting?

Trying to quit smoking can be tough. In addition to having to break the psychological part of the habit, you also have to deal with nicotine addiction. Getting off of nicotine is a difficult process no matter what, and it can be so brutal if you take the abrupt “cold turkey” method that many smokers just can’t get through. Nicotine replacement methods can help smokers kick the habit by allowing them to step down on the amount of nicotine they consume.

How Nicotine Patches Work

That is where the concept of nicotine patches come in: the patches stick on your body, and you absorb the nicotine through the skin, then into your bloodstream. This method, called transdermal, releases nicotine into your system as a replacement for smoking.

The nicotine patches have a pad that contains the nicotine, which is covered by a layer of plastic and made to look like a bandage. The patches are extremely sticky and stay in place for most of the day, and will usually not come off even if you bump them into something. In general, they are designed to be worn for 24 hours and deliver a specific amount of nicotine over that period.

Nicotine Levels:

The beginning dosage of a nicotine patch roughly correlates to how heavily you smoked, so that it will provide an initial adequate replacement for the nicotine you consumed in cigarettes. The strengths range from 7 mg to 21 mg. The intention is that after some time, your body will require less nicotine and you can step down to a lower strength until you are gradually able to taper off the nicotine replacement patches altogether.

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First Introduced:

The first nicotine transdermal system on the market was NicoDerm CQ, which was introduced by the manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline and was approved in 1991.  At first, NicoDerm was only available with a doctor’s prescription. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration changed the product’s status in 1996 to make it available over the counter without a prescription.

Eventually, generic versions of the nicotine patch became available, which significantly lowered the cost of the products. However, the original brand name manufacturers still promote that their products have advantages over the generics because they have stickier adhesive and clear plastic layers that are less obtrusive and match more skin tones.

Side Effects of Nicotine Patches

Side effects to expect in the first hour:

  • Mild itching
  • Burning
  • Tingling

Additional possible side effects:

  • Vivid dreams or sleep disturbances
  • Headache

Although nicotine patches are considered safe, they are still a drug and therefore can have negative side effects on your health. Some of the most common side effects associated with nicotine patches include skin irritation, itching, nausea, dizziness, headaches, anxiety, and insomnia. Transdermal nicotine patches can also make you feel like your heart is racing.

Side effects seem to be the worst at higher doses, so you may want to switch to a lower dose patch if you experience intolerable negative side effects.

Even though nicotine replacement patches have side effects and some risks, for many people, the benefits far outweigh the risks. Dozens of clinical trials proved the efficacy of the nicotine patch, with success rates of nearly double that of placebo.

Other Uses for Nicotine Patches

Nicotine patches may have additional uses for purposes other than quitting smoking, as well. Researchers are studying the possibility that nicotine patches may treat early dementia and relieve post-surgical pain. Nicotine patches may also help with symptoms related to ulcerative colitis; however, nicotine in any form, even in vape juices and e-liquids, can actually make symptoms related to Crohn’s disease much worse, and the similarities between these two conditions mean that you should not attempt to self-medicate. Always seek a doctor’s advice if you are using transdermal nicotine patches for any purpose, but particularly when doing so off-label to treat other conditions.

Studies are also being done to see if nicotine will help with mental conditions such as depression, anxiety, and attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), as well as Alzheimer’s and Tourette’s syndrome. Nicotine appears to boost concentration, whether you receive nicotine in the form of the transdermal patch or through smoking.  The risks from nicotine, particularly related to increased cancer odds, mean that nicotine patches should not be considered benign or harmless, but that researchers may someday find safe ways to use them.

Transdermal nicotine replacement therapy can be a very effective way to help you quit smoking once and for all. However, the patches need to be treated with caution and kept out of the reach of children. Also, you should use it if you are continuing to smoke.

Best Nicotine Patches Reviews and Ranks for 2016

NicoDerm CQ

GSK is the pioneer in the patch industry, and their two-decade-old product NicoDerm CQ is still the industry leader. NicoDerm is a transparent, transdermal patch that is barely visible on your arm and delivers instant, a steady stream of nicotine into your body. This is amazing stuff because most cheap patches either deliver too much nicotine too quickly or take too long, while NicoDerm CQ seems to have found the right sweet spot. Also, that is why it is not only the number one on our list but also the number one doctor recommended product for smoking cessation in America.

A 14-patch pack costs about $28, which can last for at least 14 days. The manufacturer claims that one patch can deliver nicotine for up to 24 hours, however, depending on the smoking habits you might need another patch after about 16 hours. A commonly reported side effect of NicoDerm is a rash on the skin, so if you are prone to skin allergies, make sure you consult a doctor before using it. Also, it is a good idea to keep switching the spot on your skin where you use the patch.

While the manufacturer recommends using the patch for 8-10 weeks depending on how many cigarettes you smoke daily, but within 3-4 weeks, your cravings will go away, you will feel much better, and all the apparent side effects of smoking will start to diminish.

Habitrol Nicotine Transdermal System Patches

Habitrol patch is another great product for smokers who want to quit smoking. A pack of 14 patches costs about $30, and each patch lasts for about 15-17 hours. For sustained, smooth delivery of nicotine to fulfill your cravings, Habitrol patches gradually release nicotine into your skin that you eventually absorb into your bloodstream.

The good thing about Habitrol nicotine patches is that you can choose from three different potency levels to gradually reduce your nicotine intake, and finally stop using it at all. Habitrol recommends an eight-week period for permanently quitting smoking. The patch ensures you do not experience the withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, anxiety, restlessness, headaches, increased appetite, etc. when your body stops getting the nicotine it’s accustomed to.

Interestingly, one of my co-workers at VapingDaily stopped smoking cold turkey but slipped after about one year. This time she used Habitrol for quitting and was surprised how easy it was to quit with a high-quality nicotine patch. A noticeable nuisance she noticed with Habitrol patches was that they sometimes come off, so you have to make sure your skin is perfectly clean and dry before applying it. Hopefully, they have improved the adhesive they use on their patches by now.

Equate Nicotine Transdermal System

A rather more affordable and more popular transdermal system patches are the Equate; they will cost you $26 for a pack of 14 patches. It comes in two different strengths: Step 1, for those who smoke 10 or fewer cigarettes every day, and step 2 for those who smoke more. Although the Equate patches might not be as powerful as the other two patches on our list, they surely get the job done at a better price.

Equate patches also have the same issue as Habitrol, they come off after a few hours, especially if you sweat a lot. Some people reported having minor headaches. However, it is better than continuing to smoke and risking cancers, respiratory diseases, and heart disorders.

Tips on Using Nicotine Patches

Some ex-smokers complain that patches did not work for them, but if you take a closer look, it is usually the person’s fault, not the patches. Let’s make sure you do not do it:

  • If you are 18 or under, always consult your doctor before using patches or any other nicotine product for smoking cessation.
  • Remember, even the best nicotine patches are not a silver bullet just like the best vapes won’t help you quit smoking. You have to be committed and motivated to quit your habit. They will pretty much fulfill your nicotine cravings, but you will have to fight behavioral issues yourself. However, luckily, fixing behavioral problems is easier than surviving nicotine cravings.
  • Start wearing a patch on your quit day; not a day before, not a day after.
  • In comparison to e-cigarettes, the only major benefit patches offer is that they let you know the exact amount of nicotine you are taking. While some e-liquids also allow you to choose your desired nicotine strength, however, patches give a better idea of how much nicotine is going into your body.
  • It is a trial and error method to find the best spot on your body for the patch. For some people, it is convenient and hassle-free to stick it on their arm, while others find it better to slam it on their buttocks.
  • Read and follow instructions given on the label. All you have to do is to unpack and stick the patch onto your body. However, there are little things that manufacturers recommend for best usage of their product, but they can make a big difference.
  • You can use a patch for 16-24 hours. If your cravings are under control, you can remove the patch before going to bed and wear again when you wake up.
  • Clean up after use. Wash your hands after applying a patch, and dispose of used patches properly.
  • Cutting patches in half or using more than one patch at a time is not recommended.
  • Different types of patches suit different people, and it’s ideal to consult a health professional before choosing an ideal product.
  • Although FDA allows using patches for more than eight weeks, it is ideal to stop using them after 8-10 weeks.
  • Always keep the patches and any other nicotine product away from kids and pets.

Success Rates of Nicotine Patches

Studies have shown that users of the nicotine patch have a success rate of quitting smoking that is twice the rate of people who use placebos. People who have been given placebos, in turn, are about twice as more likely to give up smoking than those who have used nothing at all. This means that nicotine patches increase the chances of quitting smoking successfully by about a factor of 4. Those are pretty good odds.

Imperial Cancer Research Fund

The Imperial Cancer Research Fund General Practice Research Group published research that was carried out on 1686 heavy smokers who have been smoking averagely 24 cigarettes for averagely 25 years each. This research aims to get the subjects to quit smoking for at least the last 4 weeks of the total 12 weeks of nicotine patch treatment. The smokers divided into two halves, and one-half were placed on placebo treatment, and the other half were put on nicotine patch treatment. Smoking cessation was confirmed in 99 subjects among those placed on placebo treatment which constitutes about 11.7% of them. Smoking cessation was observed in 163 subjects among those placed on nicotine patch treatment which constitutes about 19.4% of them. This shows that there is a positive effect of nicotine treatment on those who have a real desire to quit smoking.

More Information

Other sources place nicotine replacement therapy at a success rate from 19% to 26%,

From all the information that has been gathered and analyzed, it is safe to say that nicotine patches and Nicoderm CQ Nicotine Patches, in particular, are effective ways for those with a real desire to quit smoking. It is not a magical product that will make the user quit overnight, but when used correctly with much willpower, it can help make the quitting process a lot more bearable and effective.

Our Stance on Nicotine Patches

We believe nicotine patches can be a great aid in smoking cessation as they can minimize nicotine craving. However, don’t forget that there are certain side effects of nicotine patches. To minimize these hazards, you should always choose the best nicotine patches by the most reputable brands, act on the recommended practices by the manufacturer, and always talk to your health professional before using one. However, at the end of the day, minor side effects are worth the gift of a smoke-free life.

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Published: October 11, 2017 Updated: May 14, 2019



Leave a comment

43 comments on “Nicotine Patch – A Guide and Review to the Best Patches

  • candice cummings

    February 1, 2020 at 12:48 pm

    I need help with quit smoking

  • Bill

    October 30, 2019 at 12:50 pm

    Says behavioural issues easier than fighting nicotine addiction but I heard nicotine addiction is only 5% of the problem the mental emotional behavioural is the other 95%

  • Gavin

    October 4, 2019 at 10:09 pm

    I used the N***** patches but have not tried any other brands so I have no comment on which to choose. I have stopped and started smoking at least 3 times and find the patches are much better than cold-turkey. Here are some tips that I found useful:
    – put your first patch on before bed and it will absolutely remove your 1st-day craving – Day 1 is hard but the first week is even harder and for me, it’s day 3 that is the hardest – weeks 2-3 and on is much easier
    – place the patch on top of some fat – chest, and butt are good places – I tried my arm and they fall off
    – avoid parties or situations where others are smoking for 1-2 weeks
    – I experienced some dizziness and headaches especially during the first 3 days
    – I walk a lot and sweat so have used surgical and even a piece of duct tape sometimes to keep the patch on
    – get a squish ball or something to occupy your fingers
    – if you break down and have a smoke then restart immediately the next day – don’t give up

    I have also heard first-hand advice from ex-smokers that the pain of cold-turkey quitting is a powerful motivation not to start again. As with everything in life we are responsible for our education and if you are reading this site you are well on the way to a brighter future.

  • Kelly Burgess-Gomez

    August 1, 2019 at 2:10 pm

    I’ve used other patches, estrogen, fentanyl. I also took care of my father an put nitro patches on him. I’ve NEVER had a problem till now. These things constantly fall off. After putting 3 on I gave up. PLEASE don’t waste your $$$ on these buy nicoderm they stay on GREAT!

  • Kristy

    June 27, 2019 at 10:05 am

    I was on 14 mgs in the hospital for two days but wasn’t holding my cravings. So yesterday when I got home and it was time to change my patch, I put on a 21 mg patch and got a bad headache about 3 hours after. This morning my heart rate is higher and having shortness of breath, (probably anxiety), and getting the headache again. Should I try going down to 14 mgs patches? Am I getting too much nicotine?

  • Lupita

    May 26, 2019 at 11:43 pm

    Hi! Just started the 14mg patch last week, I was smoking 12 cigarettes a day before and now have been smoking 1-3 a day… hopefully stopping completely in one week and just using the patch. My lungs were hurting sooo much all day and now feel 90% better in only one week!! ( I am 33 and have been smoking for 12 years)

    I loved this page and all the comments… I feel very understood and not alone!!

  • Rita Casas

    March 24, 2019 at 10:25 am

    They give me a lot of headaches, is that normal?

  • Missy

    October 28, 2018 at 8:47 pm

    Hope everyone is hanging in since my last visit here. My doctors advised I take all the time I want with the patch and not rush it. I started July 9 on 14 mg, because I had already cut my cigs in half first. I am now wrapping things up with the 7 mg, as I don’t put one on till I start feeling it, which is now not till noon or so, then I take it off at bedtime. I think I will be able to drop them completely very soon without too much trouble.
    Take your time and stick it out!
    I will note that as I have gotten this low, I suddenly put on 8 lbs. in like the last 2 weeks, eating no more than usual, so the metabolism has clearly slowed a lot. I will just hang in there and work on that later. One thing at a time!

  • Lynn Kennedy

    October 11, 2018 at 11:21 pm

    11 days on the 21mg. Walmart brand…I really have no urges, I’m proud of myself..34 year smoker, almost 2 packs a day…so glad I final tried the patch. This week I’m gonna try to go to step 2, hoping I can stay strong…been wanting this for so long, it feels good….good luck everyone

  • Mary Davis

    September 15, 2018 at 8:58 am

    Can you smoke weed while on the patch

  • ashley

    September 13, 2018 at 3:22 pm

    Today is my second day with no cigarettes, I am on the 14 mg patch at most times i am fine but i have noticed toward the end of my 24 hour patch i get a little antsy. I have a stress ball some gum and alot of will power. Determined to stop for good.

  • Marsha

    September 11, 2018 at 10:33 am

    It really does make you sick feeling if you smoke too much while wearing a patch. I forgot I had one on (I’m just starting) and smoked 4-5 cigarettes then I began to feel queasy and just not right. Then it hit me- the patch plus medium strength cigarettes = too much nicotine at once. I immediately took the patch off to clear my system of nicotine for a while.

  • Deborah Riebot

    August 11, 2018 at 8:59 am

    On my 3rd week of having quit smoking. I use the nicotine inhaler and 1st step nicotine patch as I am overweight and was a 38 year 2 pack a day smoker.
    The inhaler helps a great deal with the repetition of bringing hand to mouth.
    I have tried many different ways of quitting. Pills. E-cigarettes. Etc.
    The combination of patch and inhaler is working great. Although I do have tiny areas of rash and an overall itch on arms and legs. My patch is on either upper arm. I do use a sports tape to hold them on as I am doing this in summer and have been sweating.
    Having been diagnosed with COPD years ago. It has crept up and I now have issues breathing.
    I wish everyone trying to quit great success. This is how I deal. I am a smoker. I just choose not to smoke this day.

  • Wilma xx

    July 24, 2018 at 8:48 am

    Hi I’ve been on patches for 8 days now. Feeling extremely tired and really sick. Could this be patches or just maybe coincidence? No appetite at all~ not normal for me as I’m always eating great food and exercise. I’m not giving up I shall fight through side affects 💁🏼‍♀️🙅🏼‍♀️🙌🏽

  • Missy

    July 9, 2018 at 6:24 pm

    I got major anxiety from putting the patch on my arm but seem fine with it on my thigh. I have skinny arms and am thinking maybe too much nicotine was flooding into my system? Anyone have that happen?

    • Alli

      July 24, 2018 at 1:28 pm

      I felt the same way when I tried the patch a long time ago. I was very thin with skinny arms and it when I put a patch on my arm, it ached terribly every few minutes. Try an area with more fat. This time around, I am on the 21 mg habitrol patch and I’m 25 lbs heavier and the aching feeling is very mild almost non existent so I think from my experience, weight does have something to do with it.

      • Missy

        October 28, 2018 at 8:21 pm

        Thanks, glad it wasn’t just me. It makes sense, though.
        I am still on 7 mg about half a day only, so I am about to wrap it up. Lots of allergic spots, but I have decided just to put up with it till this is over.


    June 28, 2018 at 5:56 pm

    Any best nicotine patch brand recomendations please?

  • CeCe

    June 19, 2018 at 3:32 pm

    Hi guys and gals, today is my first day! I’m currently using the 2nd step patch and for the moment I feel fine although I did smoke like 5-8 cigarettes today. I do notice a little itch and it’s hot where I am at so the patch isn’t sticking all the way. I’m hoping that in 14 days I can be completely smoke free! The smell is horrible plus I was told I was too cute to be smoking and I agree 🙂 wish me luck!

    • Rita Casas

      March 24, 2019 at 10:40 am

      I smoke 5 to 8 a day with a 14mg patch on! Do you smoke with your patch on??? please help
      I wish you a lot of luck!!!!

  • Chema

    June 4, 2018 at 2:22 pm

    Its been 14 days for me since my last cigarettes . I’m on the patch, its safe to say that it works but at times I’m become all bent out of shape, angry, easily angered, it’s when i rather be totally alone I pace a lot.. I also understand the science behind the nicotine patch and how it works,. I wear stage 1, 21ml, I’ve had urges to put 2 patches on to see if it really satisfied that craving but I never did though. i have cheated but by one box but haven’t bought anymore. i noticed im hungry at any given moment. mental state also plays a key emotional status. .. Bottom line is it is hard for me..

    • Stevie

      June 16, 2018 at 7:07 am

      Chema I’m right there with you. It’s been 13 days for me. I’m using Step 1, 21mg patches. They really do help. I slipped a few days ago as well for a few hours at least, due to overwhelming stress…but had no problems getting back on track bc the cigarettes tasted so nasty- it basically told me I need to get over the habitual part of it, the hand to mouth and all that. I went out and bought a vape so I also use that maybe 3 times a day so not much, just when I miss the hand to mouth part, and I might chew 1-2 pieces of nicotine gum a day as well. They have nicotine inhalers by RX only, they also really help but for some reason my PCP wouldn’t prescribe them for me, which is why I bought the vape instead. Hey, whatever it takes ya know. I’d much rather have nicotine in my body for an additional 3 months to my 20 year habit than the other 4000 chemicals that are in the smokes. Congrats on your 14 days, keep it up.

  • Linda

    May 25, 2018 at 5:23 pm

    I too received blistering swollen rashes from the patches I have used, I only left one on for a few hours and removed it as soon as the redness appeared and only then replaced a new patch in a different location. They work great to ease the craving for nicotine and I am almost 4 weeks without smoking now but also covered in some nasty rashes.

    I read many suggestions for help on the rashes, I tried the commonly recommended cortizone cream with no relief or effect, but the best help I experienced was when I realized this is an allergy, one that goes deep under the skin, so I found my solution came from a Diphenhydramine Hydrchloride gel that took the swelling down immediately and lessened the redness and itching over the course of a few days.

    That said, because of the patch’s ill effects I am now more desperate to quit using the patches than I ever was to quit smoking but now thanks to an allergy gel I manage to go days without using a patch too so on the bright side I am closer to becoming nicotine free

  • Janay Bozeman

    May 15, 2018 at 1:39 am

    I found the information very informal thank you and wish me luck luck …

  • Trying to Stop

    May 14, 2018 at 2:56 pm

    The gum makes me puke.
    Hoping patches help.

    Stopped vaping bc of hearing about popcorn lung. (?)

  • Shirley

    April 3, 2018 at 7:58 am

    I also have issues with the adhesive, if anyone knows witch patch has the least skin issues, please let me know

  • Vince

    March 27, 2018 at 12:17 pm

    I quit smoking using the patches. Compared to other times I tried to quit, I found it easy. AFTER 13 YEARS I STARTED SMOKING AGAIN! Beware of vacations. I tried the patches again, but I couldn’t quit. I falsely thought a cigarette from time to time was okay. BACK TO TWO PACKS A DAY! I’m back on the patch now for 8 weeks now starting the smallest dosage. This nicotine replacement doesn’t replace willpower, but it gives you a chance. YOU HAVE TO KEEP CIGARETTES OUT OF YOUR MIND. The best thing about this therapy, is you are not left addicted to gum, lozeners, or E-cigs. WISH ME LUCK! YOU CAN QUIT TOO!

  • Mattie

    February 19, 2018 at 8:53 pm

    It seems I am allergic to the glue and end up with a long lasting rash. Is there a patch that doesn’t have that effect on the skin?

  • Dennis Tinney

    January 1, 2018 at 5:18 pm

    Well I started my 21 mg patch from Kroger its all I could afford I just turned 54 12/26/63 and it is time for me to stop wish me luck.Wish there was a vape with no nicotine thanks for listening

    • Neisha M

      January 2, 2018 at 8:46 pm

      Good luck. The patches work for me. Ive slipped up a couple time in the last month, but get back on track. I just bought the lozenges today to use in conjunction with my patch

    • Sarah Cox

      January 7, 2018 at 10:02 am

      There are vape juices with zero nicotine. I get mine from Kind Juice online. I like them because their juices are organic. I also sometimes vape pure vg (food grade specifically for vaping) nothing else. Best of luck for 2018! ?

    • Shannon

      January 9, 2018 at 6:03 am

      Good for you!! Sending you good vibes and extra willpower!!

    • Paula

      March 28, 2018 at 5:07 pm

      Dennis, there ARE a lot of vape juices or e-liquids with NO nicotine!! Go down to your local vape shop and talk to those guys. Most of the time you can even try them b4 u purchase.
      Good luck!!

    • Jennifer

      July 23, 2018 at 6:04 pm

      There are. Vape is available in 0 nicotine also. Just ask your vape shop

    • Barbie J Bender

      August 12, 2018 at 4:07 pm

      There are vaps with no nicotine..i wear a 21 mg patch and use a nicotine free vape..just ask at any smokers store.

  • Nana

    December 29, 2017 at 1:08 am

    I quit smoking in August using the vape E Cigarrette liquid #3
    Can I use the patch?
    Thank you

  • huda

    October 25, 2017 at 12:52 am

    i would like to know the date of which this article was published and who was it written by so i can cite this in my article, please reply as soon as possible thank you

    • Daniel May

      January 2, 2018 at 1:04 pm

      Published on: Oct 11, 2017
      Written by Eric. A.

  • carolyn gribben

    October 21, 2017 at 7:09 pm

    wish me luck! let you know how it does.

  • French450

    October 20, 2017 at 4:04 am

    Is smoking a cigarette or two during the use of patches Step 1 dangerous for your health?

    • Danelia Allen

      May 2, 2018 at 1:34 pm

      One is too many and one is never enough.
      A person who quit before 5 years. And a person who is getting ready to quit again on May 13th.

    • Sixela

      July 12, 2018 at 4:24 pm

      Yes very don’t do that

  • Shelly Shell

    October 19, 2017 at 2:08 pm

    Thank you for writing this. Finally, an easy-to-read, get real article that’s helpful for a wanna-quit smoker. I switched to e-cigarettes about three months ago after being a pack-a-day smoker. It helped my energy levels and cigarettes started tasting bad, but about a month into it, my face started breaking out/getting super oily, and has only gotten worse since. I found out that some people have this reaction to the oils in the vape. I’m still addicted to nicotine and needed to know about patch options because cigarettes just don’t taste good to me any more but I still crave them…so crazy. But thank you for this article.