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!