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Smoking Cessation Medications

Reasons to use medication

Closeup of nicotine gum

Tobacco contains nicotine—a highly addictive chemical. Smoking or using other tobacco products can make you physically addicted to nicotine. When you stop using tobacco you'll likely experience withdrawal symptoms, which include:

  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Hunger
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Cravings

Using smoking cessation medications while you're quitting can help you manage nicotine withdrawal symptoms and cope with the urge to smoke.

You have the best chance of success if you use smoking cessation medication and get counseling.

Types of medication

  • Nicotine patch, nicotine gum, and nicotine lozenges, which are referred to as nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), give your body medicinal nicotine to reduce your withdrawal symptoms. Unlike tobacco products, NRT doesn't contain the other harmful ingredients in tobacco.
    • Single NRT: Use just one type of NRT like the patch, gum, or lozenge.
    • Combination NRT: Use two different types of NRT at the same time, like the patch + gum or the patch + lozenge. In these combinations, the patch provides a steady dose of nicotine for withdrawal relief while the gum or lozenge is used as needed to control cravings. Combining two NRTs together can increase your likelihood of staying off tobacco, when compared to single NRT use.
  • Bupropion (Zyban®) is a pill that reduces your urge to smoke. Bupropion does not contain nicotine. It is taken as a pill starting 1-2 weeks before your quit date. Bupropion can also be combined with a single type of NRT, like nicotine gum or the nicotine lozenge.
  • Varenicline (CHANTIX®) is a pill that blocks the effects of nicotine on the brain, making smoking less enjoyable and reducing your withdrawal symptoms. Varenicline does not contain nicotine. It is taken as a pill starting 1-2 weeks before your quit date. Varenicline should not be combined with any other smoking cessation medication.

How to use smoking cessation medication

Your VA health care provider will talk with you about how to use these medications and can answer your questions.

Download patient medication guides:

Descarga las guías de medicamentos en español.

VA uses only Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved medications. Learn more from FDA about smoking cessation products.

Where to get smoking cessation medication

Your VA health care provider will work with you to decide the best type of medication for you. It will be based on your experiences with these medications in the past, how much you currently smoke, and any other medical conditions you have.

You can get NRTs (the patch, gum and lozenge) by prescription at your VA clinic or without a prescription at your local drugstore. Bupropion and varenicline are available by prescription from your VA provider.

If you're taking smoking cessation medication you got from someplace other than VA, it's important to let your VA provider know.

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