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The nicotine patch releases a constant amount of nicotine in the body; the nicotine dissolves right through the skin and enters the body. The patches are similar to adhesive bandages and are available in different shapes and sizes. A larger patch delivers more nicotine through the skin.Less nicotine is obtained through the patch than in cigarettes. The patch also does not contain all the tars and poisonous gases that are found in cigarettes. Most of the patch products are changed once every 24 hours. One particular patch is worn only during the waking hours and is removed during sleep.

Wearing the nicotine patch lessens chances of suffering from several of the major smoking withdrawal symptoms such as tenseness, irritability, drowsiness and lack of concentration.

Studies have shown that it is much easier to give up the patch than it would be to give up cigarettes for two reasons:

  • First, people usually develop cravings for things that provide immediate satisfaction, such as chocolate. With the patch, the nicotine level in the body stays relatively constant day after day. There is not immediate satisfaction, so there is little craving for a patch.
  • Second, anything people do often, such as smoking, becomes a habit; since you apply the patch only once a day, there is no strong habit to break.


Side Effects

Some side effects from wearing the patch can include:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Upset stomach
  • Weakness
  • Blurred vision
  • Vivid dreams
  • Mild itching and burning on the skin
  • Diarrhea

Nicotine patches are available over-the-counter without a prescription.


Source: American Lung Association, 2002