If you’ve tried to quit smoking only to notice an increase in your appetite and constant mood swings, there’s a good chance you’re going through nicotine withdrawal. Nicotine is the fundamental cause of addiction among tobacco users. It adversely affects your cardiovascular, respiratory, renal, and reproductive systems.1 So what can you do to break the habit and tackle the withdrawal symptoms?
Nicotine Replacement Therapy With Nicotine Gum
Tar and carbon monoxide are the most toxic chemicals found in cigarettes. If you are a hardcore smoker, your doctor may suggest you go through Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) to help break your smoking habit. It is a medically approved method of getting nicotine into your body without these dangerous poisons.
There are a number of NRT products available in the market today, including patches, gums, lozenges, microtabs, inhalators, and nasal sprays. Nicotine chewing gum, one of the more popular and easy-to-get NRT products, replaces the nicotine that you would otherwise inhale from a cigarette. When you chew this gum, it releases nicotine that is then absorbed through the lining of your mouth.
Chewing the gum can reduce physical withdrawal symptoms like cravings, irritability, and anxiety. It can also improve your success of kicking your habit completely.2 But overuse or long-term use of nicotine gum have some side effects you should watch out for.
Potential Side Effects Of Using Nicotine Gum
Some common side effects of using nicotine gum include hiccups, sore mouth, headache, indigestion, and nausea. Here’s a full list of potential reactions:
- Bad taste
- Throat irritation
- Blurred vision
- Mouth, jaw, or tooth discomfort
- Digestive issues
- Rapid or pounding heartbeat
- Difficulty breathing
- Blisters or sores in the mouth
These symptoms may be relieved by chewing more slowly and resting the gum in your mouth. Most users will rate these reactions as mild, but if they are nagging and persistent, you may want to seek advice from a doctor. A number of these side effects could even turn serious. Such reactions are described in the Consumer Medicine Information (the pack insert) that comes with the gum. Just remember to follow the instructions in the leaflet. You should also avoid smoking when using the product.
If you swallow nicotine or chew the gum too fast, it can lead to stomach and jaw discomfort. The gum can also stick to and damage your dentures and dental work. Side effects will reduce significantly if you use the product correctly. However, if your heart starts racing or beating irregularly, stop using the gum and seek medical assistance immediately.3
Long-Term Health Risks Of Using Nicotine Gum
Nicotine gum and other NRT products are medications that can have serious side effects, including accidental overdose or nicotine poisoning. This scenario can arise if you double up on nicotine consumption by using NRT products while smoking. NRT products should only be used alone as a substitute for cigarettes. Symptoms of nicotine overdose or poisoning include:
- Respiratory distress
- And death
Keep all products away from children, who can be at risk of nicotine poisoning.
Long-term use can also lead to other health risks, such as:
- Muscle weakness in the throat
- Chronic hiccups
- A feeling of irritation in the throat
- Increases your risk of heart disease
- Throat, mouth, and esophageal cancers
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
Pregnant women are advised to never use nicotine gum as there are increased chances of birth defects, especially if consumed in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.5 It is also not advised for teens and you should be above 18 years to try NRT.
The Best Way To Use Nicotine Gum
Nicotine gum is a fast-acting form of replacement therapy and can be bought without a prescription. The gum itself comes in 2 mg and 4 mg dosages. As you chew the gum, nicotine is taken in through the mucous membrane in your mouth. To ensure maximum efficiency, it’s best to follow the instructions on the package.
- Chew the gum slowly until you notice a peppery taste or feel a tingle.
- Then tuck the gum inside your cheek until the peppery taste fades. You can chew the gum to get the taste back.
- Repeat this process for the next 20–30 minutes.
- Avoid eating or drinking anything for at least 15 minutes before and after chewing the gum, as food and drink can affect the absorption of nicotine.
Before using nicotine gum, you need to consider the dosage needed. Here’s a small set of questions to help you figure this out:
- Do you smoke 25 or more cigarettes per day?
- Do you smoke within 30 minutes of waking up?
- Do you have trouble not smoking in restricted areas?
If the answer to any of these questions is “YES,” you need to start off with 4 mg. Do not chew any more than 24 pieces of gum per day. The use of nicotine gum is usually recommended for 6–12 weeks and can go up to a maximum of 6 months. To stand the best chance of quitting tobacco use, reduce the amount of gum you chew as you approach 3 months.6
Alternatives To Help You Kick The Butt
Nicotine gum can be a highly effective tool to help you quit smoking. However, it’s important to use the product correctly in order to attain desired results. If you’re still not able to kick the butt, explore other options alongside or independently to help you quit smoking.
- Try counseling or get help from a behavioral therapist.7
- Acupuncture may also be effective in helping motivate smokers to reduce or even quit their habit completely.8
- Other NRT products, like nicotine patches and vapor cigarettes, also show high success rates.9
The Ideal Nicotine Gum Composition: Some Trivia
The biggest thing that can turn people off from trying nicotine gum? The bitter taste. Because of this, a study was conducted in an effort to develop chewing gum with a more pleasant taste. Ingredients like nicotine, sugar, liquid glucose, glycerin, sweetening agents, and flavoring agents were then added to a gum base. The nicotine gum that had the highest taste rating among smokers contained aspartame as a sweetener and flavor agents including cherry and eucalyptus.10
|↑1, ↑2||Mishra, Aseem, Pankaj Chaturvedi, Sourav Datta, Snita Sinukumar, Poonam Joshi, and Apurva Garg. “Harmful effects of nicotine.” Indian journal of medical and paediatric oncology: official journal of Indian Society of Medical & Paediatric Oncology 36, no. 1 (2015): 24.|
|↑3, ↑4, ↑5, ↑6||Nicotine Replacement Therapy to Quit Smoking. American Cancer Society.|
|↑7||Tobacco, The Clinical Practice Guideline Treating. “A clinical practice guideline for treating tobacco use and dependence: 2008 update: a US public health service report.” American journal of preventive medicine 35, no. 2 (2008): 158-176.|
|↑8||He, Dong, Jon I. Medbø, and Arne T. Høstmark. “Effect of acupuncture on smoking cessation or reduction: an 8-month and 5-year follow-up study.” Preventive medicine 33, no. 5 (2001): 364-372.|
|↑9||Nicotine Gum – Does It Work? Is It Safe?. Quit Smoking Community|
|↑10||Aslani, Abolfazl, and Sahar Rafiei. “Design, formulation and evaluation of nicotine chewing gum.” Advanced biomedical research 1, no. 1 (2012): 57.|