Addiction Nicotine Use How to Quit Smoking Is the Nicotine Patch a Good Way to Stop Smoking? By Terry Martin Terry Martin Facebook Twitter Terry Martin quit smoking after 26 years and is now an advocate for those seeking freedom from nicotine addiction. Learn about our editorial process Updated on December 26, 2021 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Sanja Jelic, MD Medically reviewed by Sanja Jelic, MD Sanja Jelic, MD, is board-certified in sleep medicine, critical care medicine, pulmonary disease, and internal medicine. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Verywell / Cindy Chung Table of Contents View All Table of Contents Effectiveness Health Risks Dosage Side Effects Smoking With the Patch The nicotine patch is a popular and effective quit smoking aid. Research has found that using a form of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) such as the patch increases a person's chances of successfully quitting by about 50% to 60%. Due to the health risks of consuming nicotine-containing products, and the high potential for addiction, many people are searching for ways to decrease their use of these products. Nicotine replacement therapy products are a popular choice for decreasing dependence on nicotine. Due to its ease of use and efficacy, the nicotine patch has become one of the most popular NRTs. The nicotine patch was approved by the FDA in 1991. From 1992 to 1996, the patch was available in the U.S. by prescription only. Since 1996, it has been available over the counter (without a prescription). Other forms of medicinal nicotine products include gum, lozenges, inhalers, and a spray. This article discusses the efficacy of nicotine patches and some of the benefits they provide. It also covers some of the side effects you might experience and other things to consider when using the nicotine patch. Is the Nicotine Patch Effective? The nicotine patch provides a steady, controlled dose of nicotine throughout the day, thereby reducing the effects of nicotine withdrawal. Patch strength is reduced over time, allowing the person to wean themselves off of nicotine gradually. There are seven first-line medications that consistently have been found to increase long-term abstinence rates: bupropion (Zyban), varenicline (Chantix), nicotine gum, nicotine inhaler, nicotine lozenge, nicotine nasal spray, and the nicotine patch. All five NRTs have about the same level of efficacy. Studies suggest that all types of NRT can be effective for quitting smoking, but the patch with a short-acting NRT produced the best results. The combination of counseling and medication is also more effective than either alone. Recap Research suggests that nicotine patches and other types of nicotine replacement therapy are safe and effective when used correctly. Health Risks of Nicotine Use Nicotine use is linked to health risks including increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, and narrowing of the arteries. It is also highly addictive, which is why quitting cigarettes leads to withdrawal symptoms. The use of NRTs such as the patch can help you gradually decrease your nicotine use and minimize the severity of withdrawal symptoms. Tobacco products contain varying levels of nicotine. For example, traditional cigarettes contain 10–20 mg of nicotine, and about 1–2 mg of that is absorbed by your body when you smoke. Juul, the most popular brand of vape, contains 50 mg of nicotine. The Biggest Smoking Risk Isn't Lung Disease Nicotine Patch Dosage Nicotine patches typically come in three different dosage strengths: 21 mg, 14 mg, and 7 mg. These numbers refer to the amount of nicotine in the product. The 21 mg patch is usually recommended as a starting point for people who smoke a pack of 20 cigarettes or more daily. From there, the person steps down to lower dose patches following package instructions until the final step down to no patch (i.e., no nicotine) at all. The nicotine patch resembles a square beige or clear bandage. The size depends on the dose and brand but generally is between 1 and 2 inches square. The nicotine patch should be applied once a day to clean, dry, hairless skin. Manufacturers usually recommend wearing the patch between 16 and 24 hours a day, depending on what you're comfortable with. Recap When using the patch, people typically begin with a higher dose and then gradually switch to a lower dose over time until they no longer need to use a patch. Possible Side Effects Wearing a nicotine patch to bed at night can disrupt sleep and cause vivid dreams. If this becomes a concern, remove the patch before bed and put a fresh one on the next morning. Some people experience itching, burning, or tingling when they first apply the patch. This side effect usually goes away within an hour and is a result of nicotine coming in contact with the skin. Some people may experience redness or swelling at the patch site for up to 24 hours. Other symptoms that people can experience when using a nicotine patch include diarrhea, dizziness, headache, upset stomach, or vomiting. More serious side effects may include abnormal heartbeat or rhythm, difficulty breathing, seizures, severe rash, or swelling. Be sure to consult a doctor before using the nicotine patch and if any of the above symptoms are severe or do not go away. Contraindications You should always talk to a health care provider before using the nicotine patch. Be sure to mention if you have any illness or medical conditions since you should not use the patch if you have certain conditions. Some of these include: Allergies to tapes, bandages, or medicinesChest pains or a recent heart attackDiabetesHeart diseaseHigh blood pressure (hypertension)Kidney or liver diseaseSkipped or irregular heartbeatsSkin rashes or skin diseasesStomach ulcersThyroid disease Recap If you take any other medications or have any health conditions, be sure to check with a doctor before starting the patch, as it can change the way some medicines work. Smoking While Using the Nicotine Patch Do not smoke when using nicotine patches or any other NRT as you run the risk of overdosing of nicotine. Some of the signs of a nicotine overdose may include: Bad headachesBlurred visionCold sweatsConfusionDizziness, weakness, or faintingDroolingHearing problemsUpset stomachVomiting If you suspect an overdose, take the patch off and call seek medical attention immediately. Nicotine overdose is rare but can be fatal. A Word From Verywell Research suggests that the most effective way to quit smoking is to combine a long-acting nicotine patch with another short-acting type of nicotine replacement therapy such as a lozenge, gum, or nasal spray. Such methods, when used for 12 weeks or longer, significantly increase your chances of quitting nicotine successfully. While nicotine inhalers are another form of NRT that can be utilized alongside patches, you should avoid the use of e-cigarettes. Electronic cigarettes, which are used for vaping, have been associated with serious lung injuries and all vaping products should be avoided. If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area. For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database. 11 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Hartmann-Boyce J, Chepkin SC, Ye W, Bullen C, Lancaster T. Nicotine replacement therapy versus control for smoking cessation. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2018;5(5):CD000146. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD000146.pub5 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Use of FDA-approved pharmacologic treatments for tobacco dependence -- United States, 1984-1998. American Cancer Society. Nicotine replacement therapy to help you quit tobacco. Rigotti NA. Strategies to help a smoker who is struggling to quit. JAMA. 2012;308(15):1573-1580. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.13043 Lindson N, Klemperer E, Hong B, Ordóñez-Mena JM, Aveyard P. Smoking reduction interventions for smoking cessation. Cochrane Tobacco Addiction Group, ed. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2019;2019(9). doi:10.1002/14651858.CD013183.pub2 American Heart Association. How smoking and nicotine damage your body. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Nicotine transdermal patch. American Academy of Family Physicians. Nicotine patch. American Lung Association. What it means to be "nic-sick". Rigotti NA. Strategies to help a smoker who is struggling to quit. JAMA. 2012;308(15):1573-1580. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.13043 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated: interim guidance for health care providers evaluating and caring for patients with suspected e-cigarette, or vaping, product, use associated with lung injury—United States, October 2019. October 18, 2019;68(41):919–927. By Terry Martin Terry Martin quit smoking after 26 years and is now an advocate for those seeking freedom from nicotine addiction. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Get Treatment for Addiction Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.