The nicotine patch is a transdermal patch that is placed (stuck) on the skin and releases Nicotine into the body slowly and steadily while the patch is in place. It is generally about 2 inches by 2 inches. The most commonly used Nicotine patch is Nicoderm CQ, a brand name patch made by the GSK. Off-brand patches are also available, Walgreens has their own label for example and these are generally cheaper depending on where you purchase them.
The Nicotine Patch For Smoking Cessation Treatment
Patches generally come in 21mg, 14mg, and 7mg versions. These reflect the amount of nicotine supplied by the patch and depending on the number of cigarettes you smoke you may start on a different level of patch.
Quitting if you smoke more than 10 cigarettes per day:
Start with the 21mg patch (Step 1 for Nicoderm CQ) for the first six weeks. After 6 weeks, move to the middle nicotine strength (14mg) for two weeks Then, move to the lowest nicotine strength (7mg) for the next two weeks. At this point you should be able to stop using the patch altogether and remain smoke free. This doesn’t mean you won’t have cravings, they will just be far more tolerable and easier to manage than before you began the treatment.
If you smoke less than 10 cigarettes per day:
start with the middle nicotine strength (14mg) for the first 6 weeks and then move to the lowest (7mg) for another two weeks.
Some programs and plans are different and you may choose to alter the way you use the patch and different strengths. However, the above plan is recommended based upon clinical trials and maximizing the success rate so it might be the best starting point.
Be prepared to quit before you start using the patch
For all smoking cessation treatments, products, and programs, be sure to have a good plan together before you have your last cigarette. Even though the patch supplies nicotine to your body, quite often it will be less than if you are smoking and you will still have cravings. The NRT can certainly take the edge off the cravings however in order to be successful you must have all of your quitting preparation in place.
The cost of the Nicotine Patch
Prices can vary for patches depending on where you buy them and what brand you decide to purchase. On average, patches will cost you $20-30 per week in the US however some healthcare plans subsidize the cost of patches which can dramatically reduce the cost if not cover it completely.
Re-using the Patch
Some websites have claimed that the patches can be re-used which can save a great deal of money. The adhesive on a patch will typically not work after it has been worn and taken off however using medical tape you may be able to stick it back onto your skin. The sources that claim the patch can be re-used for up to five days at which point the amount of nicotine in them will decline. It is our opinion that if you try this be very wary of underdosing that can result from either less nicotine in the patch or poor adhesion to your skin.
Cutting The Patch
In order to have a lower dose of nicotine rather than purchasing the lower dose versions, some people have tried to cut a higher strength patch which can save money. Unfortunately, it is relatively inconclusive as to whether this really works. Some sources indicate that this causes the nicotine to evaporate thus resulting in little or no nicotine delivery. Other sources claim that the surface area is not the sole factor in determining how much nicotine is delivered to the body. Overall, we don’t recommend this since you could get a lower dose of nicotine and possible relapse into smoking. After all, if you are truly serious and ready, you will only need to pay for patches over the course of 8-10 weeks and in most countries the patches are still cheaper than a smoking habit.
Nicotine Patch Brands
- Nicoderm CQ (GSK)
- Private label – Walgreens etc.