If it only takes 24 - 48 hours for nicotine to leave your body, why would I want to use NRT?

When you first stop smoking, it is true that it only takes up to 48 hours for the nicotine to leave your body. So it may seem strange to start using nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) and put the nicotine back into your body again. Why would anybody want to do this?

Without trying to make it complicated, this is basically what happens;

Once a person becomes a smoker they begin to put nicotine into their system - Nicotine is the drug that the smoker becomes addicted to and craves for. By doing this, the nicotine attaches itself to receptors on nerves in a part of the brain that is important in controlling motivation.

This causes the nerve cells to become more active and leads them to releasing a chemical messenger called 'dopamine' at the other end of the nerve.

This dopamine acts as a 'chemical reward' or 'teaching signal'. It causes the brain to be motivated to repeat whatever action immediately proceeded it - in the smokers case this would be puffing on a cigarette. In the newly quitter's case it could be caused even by just putting the kettle on or after a meal - Most people would recognise this as a 'trigger'.

This is usually a completely unconscious decision and quite often undermines the smoker's ability to stay stopped.

Regardless of whether or not NRT is used, it can take between 8-12 weeks for these receptors to down regulate.

These receptors are very, very powerful little 'gremlins' and most new 'quitters' can find it really difficult to ignore them. When this happens, the person will quite often return to smoking.

This is where using NRT can help. Provided that it is used correctly, NRT will never satisfy you in the way that smoking a cigarette will. However it will help to 'curb' the feeling and will keep those little gremlins at bay to give you a head start on 'learning' to become a non-smoker.

This is the reason that NRT is generally used for the same amount of time that it takes for these 'gremlins' or receptors to down regulate. However, when used correctly, the amount of nicotine is controlled and is slowly reduced over time.

Therefore it is recommended that the full course of NRT is completed if you are to remain quit.

Regardless of whether you choose to use NRT or not, it is really important that you plan ahead and try to remain as positive as possible.

Most of all, remember that you can do it! :-)

12 Replies

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  • I agree with this post, having tried to quit before I was fooled into thinking I didn't need the patches after 3 days so stopped using them, I then failed quite quickly this time I intend to do the full course and although I use a e-cig I only use it a couple of times a day but intend to keep one in my bag after the course as I have found that If I go out for a couple of drinks its so easy to say I'll just have a couple of puffs and before you know it your smoking again at least with the e-cig its the lesser of two evils.

  • Great post. I am 8 weeks on Thursday without a cigarette. I have the spray which suits me fine. However, yesterday , the lady at the clinic said i had to start monitoring the amount of sprays i use a day. I told her, with my job, hypothetically, if i;m stuck in traffic on the M62 or M1, behind sheep on the moors, i would use it, and i haven't the time or inclination to start writing down when i use it. She is adamant that i do this. I also told her i am going away in a fortnight with my friend who is a smoker. Smoking is permitted inside, and i said i was considering getting a e- cig. Again, she said, i must not do this. I don't want a cigarette, but, i would like to be prepared for any unexpected cravings that i might have. To my way of thinking, surely it is better to fall back on a substitute than yield to the real thing.

    Any suggestions would be welcome

  • How are you feeling? Well done on completing 8 weeks smokefree.

    It is recommended to start trying to reduce the usage of NRT after approximately 8 weeks up to the 12 week mark. I expect that the reason your stop smoking advisor is asking you to keep a 'spray diary' is so that you can monitor your use of it, notice at what points of the day it happens - to see if there are any specific trigger points and then to help make a start on cutting down.

    I understand completely how it may be difficult for you to write every spray down that you have, especially as you do quite a lot of driving. However, even if you can gauge a rough idea of the amount you use and when, then this will help your advisor to guide you on the next best step forward. Try not to get too bogged down thinking you've got to keep a huge record of feelings, dates and time etc. If you can’t write it down at the time, make a note when it’s safe. Also, try and keep a record on a day that you are not in work. Usually after a couple of days you can see a pattern to your usage and look at how it can be reduced.

    How lovely to have a holiday to look forward to 8-) . Please keep positive about this and your smoking friend. Try and remember why you are quitting smoking and I'm sure this will outweigh the reasons to start again. In relation to buying an e-cig; if you've been quit for 8 weeks now, you have stopped the hand to mouth action when you smoke but when you turn to the e-cig you will be starting it again. E-cigs have helped and are helping many people quit smoking, however there isn't a lot of research around these products. They are new to the market and at present the e-cigarette and other novelty nicotine delivery devices are not regulated by Medicines and Healthcare products Regulations Agency (MHRA). At present it is still unclear as to what chemicals are used within an e-cig and also what health implications they may have on us. A small piece of research recently suggested they can damage part of the lung so please think carefully before you buy one. We would like to think that in comparison to cigarettes, the e-cigarette could be the lesser of the two evils. However, we are not yet in any position to be able say this.

    The main thing is to stay as positive as possible and remember that should you smoke, how this would leave you feeling. You have come so far now within this journey and should look at this holiday as your first one as a no-smoker.

    Please shout if you need anything else.

    Take care

  • I'd say you wouldn't. There's an amazing website to help someone stop smoking 'cold turkey' called whyquit dot com. I didn't want to use NRT (lots of reasons: patches wouldn't stay on, still using nicotine, feeling desperate for a nicotine fix, so reaching for sprays and gum... I couldn't stand all of that again.) I once gave up (for five years) using patches - I found I went through three lots of withdrawal... once when stopping smoking and going on large patches, again moving to medium patches and again to stop using patches. (I couldn't face using the small patches and withdrawing again!)

    I felt the same as you... Why use nicotine to give up nicotine? I decided to use Champix... Bit unorthodox, but I stopped smoking the day before starting using Champix (I was so determined to stop smoking), used Champix for four days (until I realised that there were some major side effects attributed to Champix, but just long enough to get through the rough first three days of physical cravings) Then stopped using Champix, now been cold turkey since. I've been stopped 21 days 6 hours 23 minutes. Didn't crave a cigarette at all today. Whyquit.com really really helped during the first three days. I watched loads of the videos and read loads of the articles. Take care. Best advice: Never take another puff. Simples.

  • Hey there Reallyworried. Welcome to our friendly on-line stop smoking community :D

    Congratulations to you on entering your 22nd day, you must be really proud of yourself.

    With regards to choosing whether to stop smoking by using NRT (or non - nicotine based products) or going cold turkey really is down to the individual. We have quite a mix of members who have used either NRT or braved it and gone cold turkey. Some have found it quite challenging whilst others have sailed through their quit journey. I believe that it really does come down to the planning and thought process beforehand.

    I am confident that if people were to trust what we said and believe it that when we say it does get easier, then they would be able to get through their quit journey via the cold turkey route. However for some people, when the cravings set in it can quite often be too much for them and so by using NRT or non-nicotine based products such as Champix (Varenicline) or Zyban (Bupropion) it is of great help to them.

    With regards to side effects of any of these products, providing that they are taken safely and GP advice is sought after if need be, then all should be okay. I'm sure that you will agree that there are far worse 'side effects' caused by smoking :-/

    I've had a quick look at 'whyquit.com' and it has some great hints, tips and stories, so thank you for sharing that with us ;-)

    Is your quit date around the 29th October? If so, I'll add you onto our 'Wall of Winners' - the place where every quitter is a winner :-)

  • Hi EmJay

    This is a really kind reply :)

    6.47pm Monday 29th October was my last nicotine.

    Being on your wall of winners sounds brilliant! Thanks for your congratulations.

    I agree that there are far worse side effects caused by smoking. Definitely! And I agree about the thought processes... I got really sick of smoking, I got sick of the smoking in the same room as my kids, in the car with my kids, the kids breathing in smoke, the kids smelling of smoke, the kids getting used to the idea of a smoker around them, the cravings interrupting the things I did like watching a film, the cost, the ash all over the place, fag burns in things, having stained teeth, having stained fingers, having stained lips, having stained tongue, waking in the middle of the night to smoke, having ups and downs due to nicotine withdrawal, being socially ostracised, the health impact, coughing every day and every night, to name a few.

    best wishes, Dan x

  • Hey Dan, you are now on our 'Wall of Winners' :-)

    Keep up the good efforts and you'll have reached your 4weeks (1 month ) mark before you know it :D

  • Hello Emjay...My name is chrisellie and i am new on your site.I find it excellent and really helpful..Not sure where i,m supposed to write things but am working my way round best i can....

    I loved your explanation of how nrt helps us, and how it works on brain receptors. Much like champix does i think?

    I am on champix and not had cig for four days, yeh! Coping pretty well but i have sucked on a nicotin mint when the craving is really bad.(i,ve had 3 mints over the 4 days on champix).

    i will definitely turn to your site daily and hopefully get to the wall of achievement. lol ,,,,

    Chrisellie

  • Hi Chrisellie,

    lovely to have you around :-)

    If you want to chat with everybody, then pop along to our latest daily chat (on the left hand side of the home page under 'blogs'.

    If you have a question, then please feel free to ask. You can do this by scrolling up to the top of the screen or to the right of the screen at the top and click on 'ask a question'.

    If you want to share your story or quit smoking journey with us, then please feel free to write a blog. This can also be done by scrolling up to the top of the screen again and clicking on blogs, write a blog.

    Other than that, have a good rummage around on the site and there is plenty more advice and information in the 'archives' section.

    If you have any difficulties, just let me know and I'll help you out all I can :-)

    Well done to you for getting this far, you are now into your 5th day quit and so it won't be too long before we are celebrating your first week quit with you :D

    Let me know what date is your quit date is and we'll add your name up onto our 'Wall of Winners' - The place where every quitter is a winner :-)

  • Thank you for your helpful reply Emjay..My quit date was the23rd of November...

  • Hi Chris and welcome to our lovely community. I've only just spotted you but see that you've now started your second week so a big well done to you! :) I don't think many of us had blogged before we came on here so why don't you take a leap and come and join in the daily chat - the more the merrier we always say. That way, it's easier to share your ups and down with us all and we'll always try and find a way to help you get through them.

    See you again soon, Andi. :)

  • Hi everyone I have smoked for about 11years now. I quit 3 days ago using nothing else but this one video! IF YOU WANNA QUIT! Watch it. and please tell me what you think and tell others! THIS WORKED AND IT WAS FUN NO BLUFF!!!!

    ENJOY AND SHARE :)

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