We’re pretty sure that right now, you’re looking for ways to ‘ease’ through the quitting process – which you’ve probably read is quite challenging for most smokers.
Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is one of the best ways to make quitting smoking a lot smoother and more manageable.
But the truth is, NRT doesn’t work for everyone, and patches may cause side effects after weeks of using them.
In this post, we’ll explore the potential side effects of nicotine patches, why they happen, and what we can do about them.
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The Long-Term Side Effects of Nicotine Patches
During the first week or two, you might not feel any issues with wearing nicotine patches. It’s when you’re a few weeks into use that the side effects of nicotine patches may start.
Here are the potential side effects of long-term nicotine patch usage:
If your patch makes your skin feel itchy, red, and rough the first time, you might be allergic to the patch. On the other hand, some motivated smokers report the same symptoms after using nicotine patches for more than 2 to 3 weeks.
Motivated smokers experiencing an immediate allergic reaction should stop using their nicotine patches and see their GP immediately to get an alternative treatment.
For those who experienced the symptoms after weeks of use, they can apply the nicotine patch to another part of the body and see if it doesn’t get irritated.
For instance, if you’ve always placed it on your left shoulder, place it on the other shoulder or another part of the body (somewhere that doesn’t sweat too much as it could fall off).
Remember the first time you puffed a cigarette? You likely experienced a quick head rush followed by a lightheaded feeling. You might experience the same once you start using nicotine patches.
If you’re experiencing any nausea, it’s most likely that the nicotine content of the patch is higher than your usual intake.
While a pharmacist can recommend the right dosage based on your cigarette intake, it’s better to call a bulk-billing GP for advice to get the dosage correct the first time.
Do you feel like someone squeezed your shoulder after placing the patch? This is typically normal.
Transdermal patches – including nicotine patches – might cause you to feel a small amount of pressure on the area they’re applied on.
However, if you feel like having a bruised or weak shoulder after weeks of using the NRT patch, it might be time to lay off using it to alleviate symptoms.
One explanation for this side effect is nicotine’s capacity to constrict blood vessels. Transdermal nicotine patches contain a small dose of nicotine concentrated on one area of the body.
If you repeatedly attach a patch on the same spot for weeks, the blood vessels in the area may have been constricted for too long. Your muscles haven’t received the proper level of nourishment for too long, causing them to feel weaker and sensitive.
When this happens, you can stop using the patches altogether to feel some relief or place them in a different spot each time.
While nicotine is quite harmless (it’s the chemicals in cigarette smoke that are harmful), it can cause the body to react with some discomfort to its presence.
For instance, most motivated smokers report a small burst of energy and forget hunger when they light a cigarette – a side effect of consuming nicotine.
Now, imagine that you’ve applied a nicotine patch before going to bed. You feel comfortable and do not feel any cravings, thanks to the patch.
But, it feels hard to fall asleep. It’s medically established that nicotine can disrupt neurotransmitters in the brain that communicate with each other during sleep.
When this happens, most GPs recommend removing the patch an hour or two before you sleep, then apply a new patch once you wake up.
Higher Heart Rate
As mentioned, one of nicotine’s side effects is constricting blood vessels temporarily, causing it to narrow and resulting in a higher heart rate.
Like nausea, a higher heart rate right after using a nicotine patch is most likely due to the high nicotine dosage. See a GP or use a lower-level nicotine patch and see if your heart rate steadies after applying it.
How Long Do The Side Effects of Nicotine Patches Last?
The side effects of nicotine patches should come off right after you stop using them.
In case you have skin irritation after applying a patch, the irritation should go away a few days after you stop using it.
For motivated smokers who have used the patches after 2 to 3 weeks and experienced irritation and muscle soreness, they may need to place the product on another part of the body.
Both nausea and higher heart rates should come down shortly after you’ve removed the patch.
The Side Effects Of Coming Off Nicotine Patches
Are there side effects after you’ve stopped using nicotine patches a week or two during your NRT?
The answer isn’t straightforward because the effect is different for every person.
Some quitters who have been on their fourth week and stopped NRT patches felt no difference – a sign that their body has adapted to the low nicotine dose and is ready to stop altogether.
On the other hand, some who have used the patches for more than a month report that their body starts craving the patch rather than a cigarette.
When this happens, the urges might not be as strong as quitting a cigarette for the first time. But still, to address possible withdrawals, a GP may prescribe a lower-dose patch for use within a few weeks to a month.
In any case, if you feel any side effects after using nicotine patches, the withdrawals are most likely significantly weaker than that of quitting cigarettes for the first time – it’s possible you can wing it even without lower-dose patches by keeping yourself busy.
The Side Effects of Nicotine Patches: Are They The Right NRT For You?
Nicotine patches are one of the best NRT products that can help you quit smoking for good.
While you might experience the side effects mentioned here, there’s no big danger and life-altering event that can happen (except for quitting smoking forever) once you start using them.
We highly recommend trying NRT patches. And, if the side effects prove to be too terrible, you can always use other NRT products – such as gum, lozenges, and inhalers that may work better for you.
We also recommend working with a stop-smoking GP specialising in helping smokers go through the quitting process. You can avoid higher heart rates, nausea, and other symptoms because your GP can prescribe the right dosage that helps you stop smoking, without overdoing it.
What’s The Alternative If NRT Doesn’t Work For You?
Many motivated smokers stand by the efficacy of NRT products, but they don’t always work for everyone. If your GP deems your first-line solution to quitting isn’t working, they may prescribe nicotine vaping products (NVPs) from pharmacies.
Here’s how to go about accessing NVPs.
Go Through First-Line Solutions First
Some motivated smokers can handle cold turkey just fine and see success within a few tries, but oftentimes, smokers have strong withdrawals that can draw them back to lighting a stick.
That’s where nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products come in. These are readily available and stocked at your local pharmacy.
NRT products are the most trusted quitting option available for motivated smokers. They might not imitate cigarettes, but they contain a small dose of nicotine that may be enough to alleviate your withdrawals. These come in the form of patches and gums for easy and convenient nicotine delivery.
While NRTs can be effective, they don’t work for everyone. If these haven’t done the trick for you, you may now be eligible for a nicotine prescription to use nicotine vaping products (NVPs).
Chat to a GP
As mentioned, NRT products have worked for many successful ex-smokers. But, you might have ingrained behaviours and triggers that only something that mimics a cigarette can successfully address, such as the hand-to-mouth motion, and needing something to use while having a drink with friends.
That is where NVPs become very handy in helping you fight the urge to consume tobacco.
You need a nicotine prescription before you can purchase NVPs, so you’ll need to consult with a GP to help you on your smoking cessation journey.
And, if your GP deems it necessary, they can write you a nicotine prescription for NVPs.
You can chat to your usual GP about this, or book a bulk-billed phone chat with an authorised prescriber of nicotine.
Visit Your Local Pharmacy
Once you have your nicotine prescription, you can pop down to your local pharmacy. Over 2,200 pharmacies across Australia hold these products in-store, but any pharmacy can order these in for you if they don’t currently stock them.
Both your pharmacist and GP can advise you on how best to use the product, such as the initial setup, and the number of puffs to take when you feel withdrawals.
Nicotine patches might have some side effects, but they don’t always happen to everyone. If it does, stop using them and see a GP immediately. Better yet, you can see them before you start going through NRT to reduce or completely avoid these side effects.
If you want to talk to a GP before going through NRT, we can help.
Smokefree Clinic gives you access to many medically reviewed and trustworthy resources that can inform and aid you in your path to wellness, so have a look around!
If you’re ready to get started, Smokefree can connect you to bulk-billing Australian healthcare professionals who excel in helping patients quit smoking for good, including using responsible vaping products where appropriate.
Click here to book your bulk-billed telehealth consultation with an Australian healthcare professional and quit smoking today.