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Going smoke-free in 2023? Medication doubles your odds of success

breaking cigarette
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The University of Kentucky Public Relations and Strategic Communications Office provides a weekly health column available for use and reprint by news media. This week's column is by Audrey Darville, Ph.D., a tobacco treatment specialist at UK HealthCare and an associate professor in the College of Nursing. Darville is also part of UK Markey Cancer Center’s Markey CARES Tobacco Treatment Program.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Jan. 17, 2023) Most people who smoke attempt to quit at least once a year, so it’s no surprise that quitting smoking is one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions year after year. 

If you plan to quit in 2023, there are support tools available that can set you up for success, including medications that can help minimize uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms and cravings when trying to quit.

Studies show that using cessation medicines can double your chances of successfully quitting.

There are three different types of medications approved by the FDA to help you quit smoking — the first is nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), which includes gum, lozenges, patches, inhaler and nasal spray. The other two, bupropion, and varenicline, do not contain nicotine and also help people stop smoking and reduce cravings.

If you have tried using NRT to quit before but it didn’t seem to help, you may want to talk to your health care provider about other forms of NRT, varenicline or bupropion.

Varenicline works differently than other quit-smoking medicines by attaching to the same parts of your brain that are stimulated by nicotine, reducing the urge to smoke. It also makes smoking less pleasurable by blocking some of nicotine’s effects. Bupropion helps people quit smoking by decreasing craving and other nicotine withdrawal symptoms. We now know that combining NRT patches and gum or lozenges is more effective than using one form alone.

Most people need NRT or take varenicline or bupropion for 12 weeks. Your health care provider might prescribe it for longer, if needed.

Talk to a health care provider to get a prescription for varenicline, bupropion or an NRT inhaler. Your doctor will review your medical history to help determine the right prescription for you, and discuss how to use it safely.

Cessation medications are affordable for most Kentuckians. Medicaid and many health insurance plans cover FDA-approved quit-smoking medicines, including varenicline and bupropion.

In addition to medications, counseling is another accessible treatment strategy that increases your likelihood of success. In Kentucky, the free quitline 1-800-QUIT-NOW provides personalized coaching to help you quit tobacco for good.

If you’ve tried quitting before, don’t be discouraged and don’t give up! It can take around 10 attempts to quit for good. Quitting is the most important thing you can do to improve your health and quality of life.

UK HealthCare is the hospitals and clinics of the University of Kentucky. But it is so much more. It is more than 10,000 dedicated health care professionals committed to providing advanced subspecialty care for the most critically injured and ill patients from the Commonwealth and beyond. It also is the home of the state’s only National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, a Level IV Neonatal Intensive Care Unit that cares for the tiniest and sickest newborns, the region’s only Level 1 trauma center and Kentucky’s top hospital ranked by U.S. News & World Report.

As an academic research institution, we are continuously pursuing the next generation of cures, treatments, protocols and policies. Our discoveries have the potential to change what’s medically possible within our lifetimes. Our educators and thought leaders are transforming the health care landscape as our six health professions colleges teach the next generation of doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other health care professionals, spreading the highest standards of care. UK HealthCare is the power of advanced medicine committed to creating a healthier Kentucky, now and for generations to come.