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Nicotine Gum: How Does It Work And Is It Bad For You?

While there may have been about 2.9 million adults in the US who succeeded to stop smoking in 2018, there are still tons who are yet to end this habit.
nicotine gum and cigarette

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Quitting smoking takes a lot of effort. There have been reported cases of withdrawal symptoms like irritability, insomnia, and depressed mood due to quitting smoking.

To lessen withdrawal symptoms and increase chances of quitting, individuals undergo Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) such as using nicotine gum. 

But what does it do to your body? Are there any nicotine gum side effects?

Is nicotine gum bad for you? Read this article to find out!

Nicotine gum as a cigarette substitute

is nicotine gum bad for you

What does nicotine gum do to your body?

Nicotine gum is just like your ordinary chewing gum but it contains nicotine.

Nicotine is the main addictive component of tobacco. Once nicotine enters the body, it causes a rush of adrenaline and triggers an increase in dopamine or the brain’s happy chemical. 

By using the gum, nicotine is released and absorbed in the body through the linings of the mouth. This way lessens the urge to smoke. There is no need to smoke tobacco for your body to absorb nicotine. You are also safe from intaking other harmful chemicals in tobacco that can cause cancer.

When and how to take nicotine gum?

User precautions

Nicotine gum is especially recommended for those who would want to quit smoking. Though quite rare, a study suggests that nicotine addiction can occur for non-smokers if they take nicotine gum.

There is no need for a prescription from your doctor to purchase nicotine gum. It can be bought over-the-counter. It would be good to do prior research to know which brand is good.

However, it is suggested to seek medical advice either from a doctor or pharmacist before using it. Inform them of any health conditions and medications use such as the following:

  • Heart disease, recent heart attacked, or irregular heartbeat
  • High blood pressure with no maintenance medicine
  • Stomach ulcer
  • Diabetes
  • Asthma
  • Sodium restricted diet
  • Non-nicotine smoking cessation drug 
  • Medicine for depression

Those who are 18 and under should also seek medical advice from a doctor before use.

Also, if you are pregnant and lactating, talk to your doctor before using nicotine gum. This is to check whether using the gum would have any adverse effects on your baby. Women who also became pregnant during the time of their therapy should seek medical advice.

Lastly, do not use nicotine gum if you are still smoking. Overdose may occur.

Instructions for use

Nicotine gum comes in two doses ﹣2 mg and 4 mg.

It was observed that using the 4 mg dose is more effective for heavy smokers to lead to abstinence. You are classified as a heavy smoker if you fit either the following:

  • You smoke more than 20 cigarettes per day, or
  • You smoke within the first 30 minutes of waking up

Non-heavy smokers or those who smoke less than 20 cigarettes per day may start using the 2 mg dose. 

You may refer to the following 12- week schedule:

  • Weeks 1 to 6: a piece of gum every 1 to 2 hours
  • Weeks 7 to 9: a piece of gum every 2 to 4 hours
  • Weeks 10 to 12: a piece of gum every 4 to 8 hours

Park and chew method

While nicotine gum looks like regular gum, you cannot just chew it like a regular one.

Nicotine is absorbed through the lining in your mouth and not through swallowing.

To use it properly, here are the simple instructions for the park and chew method:

  1. Place a piece of gum inside your mouth.
  2. Chew the gum slowly until there is a peppery taste.  This usually takes about 15 to 30 minutes.
  3. Flatten the gum using your tongue.
  4. Park it against the side of your mouth.
  5. Once the peppery taste is gone, after about a minute, slowly chew the gum again and park.
  6. Repeat this park and chew process for about 30 minutes, or until the peppery taste does not return.

Other tips and reminders for using nicotine gum

  • Use only as directed. Talk to your doctor or other health care provider should you have questions about taking the drug.
  • Use 8 to 12 pieces of gum daily or fix your daily dose. The drug is more effective as a nicotine replacement if used regularly. Consult your doctor or other health care provider if unsure.
  • Do not take more than 24 gums per day.
  • While the gum is in your mouth, do not drink or eat. 
  • Within the first 15 minutes after chewing gum, do not drink or eat, especially acidic food or beverages.
  • Do not put and chew multiple pieces of gum inside your mouth at a time.
  • If you miss a dose, chew it as soon as you remember. But if it is time for the next dose, skip the missed one and proceed with your regular schedule.
  • Ideally, nicotine gum drug usage should only last for about 3 months. Should you need to use it further, consult your doctor.

Storage and disposal

As the gum contains nicotine, it should be stored and disposed of properly. 

Here are some tips:

  • Keep the drug in a tightly closed container.
  • Keep the drug out of reach of children and pets.
  • Store nicotine gum at room temperature.
  • Keep it away from direct sources of light, excess heat, and moisture.
  • For disposal, wrap the used pieces of gum in paper and throw them at proper trash cans.
  • Unused medication must be disposed of properly to avoid accidental usage, especially if within reach of children and pets. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for possible take-back medicine programs.

Can nicotine gum harm you?

As one of the smoking cessation aids, nicotine gum is considered generally safe for up to 12 weeks of usage. However, depending on each person’s condition, nicotine gum consumption may cause side effects.

Here are some side effects of using nicotine gum that you should be aware of.

What are the side effects of using nicotine gum?

These are some side effects you may experience during nicotine replacement treatment. In case you experience the following side effects while on medication, stop using immediately and seek medical advice.

  • High blood pressure 
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Increased heart rate
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Sore throat
  • Vomiting
  • Coughing
  • Indigestion
  • Mouth ulcer
  • Jaw muscle aches 
  • Toothaches
  • Rashes
  • Seizures

Nicotine prescription should be followed to avoid overdose.

Be wary also of the following side effects of nicotine overdose. 

  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea
  • Fainting
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Cold sweats
  • Weakness
  • Severe headache
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty breathing

If symptoms persist, stop using the gum and consult your doctor.

Is long-term use of nicotine gum harmful?

The main purpose of consuming nicotine gums is to stop smoking. Ideally, nicotine replacement treatment by chewing gum lasts about 12 weeks. If medication is continued beyond that period, it should not last more than 18 weeks.

Continuous usage of the gum to not light a cigarette may cause health side effects in the long run. Some of these include:

  • Sleep Deprivation

Some who have been using nicotine gums for over six months have reported recurrence of nightmares and sleep disruption.

  • Premature Hair Loss

Extended exposure to nicotine in any form may cause damage to hair follicles. Premature balding may also occur. This chemical can also hinder blood circulation.

  • Increase risk for oral cancer

Possibility of mutations in the FOXM1 gene of long-term nicotine users may occur. Due to this, they are at higher risk to develop oral cancer.

  • Nicotine Addiction

Though the gum contains nicotine less than a cigarette, addiction may occur if used in the long run. This is because the body has already been accustomed to receiving nicotine. The chances of quitting nicotine decreases.

What are alternatives or complementary methods to use?

E-cigarette as substitute

One popular smoking cessation aid these days is the use of e-cigarettes. 

These devices heat liquid that has nicotine and sometimes, flavorings. The released vapor enables the individual to inhale nicotine without the other toxins found in tobacco. 

Studies are still ongoing for the side effects of long time usage of e-cigarettes. But they are helpful for the first months for individuals trying to quit smoking. They are especially helpful for individuals whose withdrawal symptoms include oral fixation and physical sensation given by the act of smoking.

Do physical activities

Engaging in physical activities and other forms of exercise can also help an individual quit smoking.

It does not pose any side effects and is generally good for one’s health.

In a study by researchers from St. George’s University in London, findings say that exercise reduces the body’s dependence on nicotine. Exercise activates the same receptor that nicotine targets which decrease the severity of withdrawal symptoms.

Hypnosis as nicotine replacement

While there are various smoking cessation activities, a comparative study conducted at the University of Iowa showed that hypnosis has the highest success rate at 30%. This figure is better compared to all other methods which only has a success rate of 19%.

During hypnosis, your body will be put in deep relaxation, in an almost trance-like state wherein you will have increased focus and concentration.

Unlike nicotine replacement treatments, hypnosis addresses the cause and motivations why an individual smokes. Hypnosis can help to change an individual’s perspective and turn into a more health-conscious lifestyle.

Hypnosis can be done with the help of licensed clinical practitioners or psychologists. In a 2014 study by Hasan, Zagarin, et al,  it was found that hypnotherapy is more effective to stop smoking compared to nicotine replacement therapy. In just 12 weeks, hypnotherapy has a 43.9% success rate while nicotine replacement treatment only has 28.2%.

Self-hypnosis can also be performed by an individual without the help of a health practitioner or doctor. Apps like Quit: Hypnosis to Stop Smoking provide an accessible means to perform hypnosis on your own. 

Quit provides users with suggestive hypnosis audios that they can listen to.

quit smoking hypnosis app

Quit provides a program custom-made to help the user quit smoking through hypnosis audios. The app also includes a tracker where the user can see how much progress they have made since they last lit a cigarette. There is also a tracker to see how much money the user has saved since quitting.

Unlike nicotine replacement treatments such as chewing nicotine gum, using Quit does not pose adverse side effects to the user. It is a chemical-free and convenient way to stop smoking.

Download our free app now, subscribe, and start your journey to quit smoking.

Quit: Hypnosis to Stop Smoking for iOS | android

Frequently Asked Questions

Does chewing on nicotine gum help quit smoking?

Chewing nicotine gum is one of the smoking cessation aids to replace the nicotine absorbed by a smoker through cigarettes. So yes, it can. However, since your body will still be exposed to nicotine, there may be side effects, especially for prolonged use.

Is nicotine gum bad for your lungs?

The lungs are not exposed to nicotine when chewing gum. Thus, there is little damage that nicotine gum may do to your lungs.

Is nicotine gum bad for your gums?

Nicotine gum may cause irritating effects on your gums, mouth, and teeth. This may lead to gingivitis, stomatitis, and change in taste and salivary flow.

How long should I use nicotine gum?

Both 2 mg and 4 mg forms of nicotine gum drugs are recommended to use for 12 weeks. Some may recommend medication to extend up to 18 weeks. Make sure you are properly following the instructions during the medication period.

Should you want to extend prescription or experienced side effects or other symptoms, consult immediately your doctor or other health care provider.

Is it okay to do both hypnosis and nicotine gum to quit smoking?

Yes, you may. It was published in the 2014 issue of Complementary Therapies in Medicine that hypnotherapy patients and those with combined hypnotherapy and NRT are over three times more likely to succeed in quitting until 26 weeks after discharge compared to NRT-only patients.

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