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Smokefree Clinic

Quit Smoking Prescriptions

You know quitting smoking will help you to become healthier. You also know that it’s not easy. Perhaps you’ve tried some strategies to quit before, but you’re back smoking again.

There are a range of smoking cessation approaches, including medications approved by Australian health regulators, that can help you to kick the habit. National and international studies suggest a combination of medications and behavioural support can be effective to help you quit once and for all.

Perhaps you’ve been unsuccessful with a number of quit smoking strategies already (likely more times than you can remember) and find yourself here preparing for another attempt.

Prescribed options can be especially helpful for people who struggle with a higher level of dependence on nicotine. The RACGP’s smoking cessation guidelines note the following as telltale signs of nicotine dependency:

  • smoking more than 10 cigarettes per day,
  • having an urge to smoke within 30 minutes of waking up in the morning, and/or
  • having a history of withdrawal symptoms during previous quit attempts.

Do any of these sound familiar to you?

Don’t quit trying to quit, as there are now more options available to help you.

Prescribed Nicotine Vaping Products (INRT)

The use of prescribed Nicotine Vaping Products (NVPs) or e-cigarettes that are medically prescribed to assist with smoking cessation is known as Inhaled Nicotine Replacement Therapy (INRT).

NVPs offer a novel way of delivering nicotine that more closely mimics the hand-to-mouth experience and sensory aspects of smoking which some users require, without inhaling the harmful chemicals found in tobacco combustion.

This can help you if you have previously tried other traditional quit-smoking methods but have not yet been successful.

As a relatively new technology, no nicotine vaping product has been assessed by the TGA and there are currently no TGA approved nicotine e-cigarettes in the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG). Nicotine vaping products are considered unapproved therapeutic goods in Australia, as such, they are only legally available to patients with a prescription from a suitably qualified doctor to assist with smoking cessation.

Nicotine vaping products are battery-powered devices that heat a pharmaceutical liquid formulation containing nicotine (known as e-liquid), into an aerosol (known as vapour) for inhalation into the lungs (known as vaping).

While the health effects of long-term use are unknown, vaping is recognised as a harm-minimisation strategy which may assist you to quit smoking.

Want to speak with a doctor to find out more? Our compassionate and supportive team of telehealth doctors are all TGA registered Authorised Prescribers of nicotine, and are suitably trained to provide you with more information on nicotine vaping products, and assess your suitability for a prescription.

Prescribed Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)

Although most NRT products are available as over-the-counter medicines which don’t require a prescription, doctors are able to prescribe some prescription-only formats to certain patients as part of a tailored quit plan. This can provide you with the additional motivation and support you may need throughout your quit journey, and has been found to improve success rates.

Importantly, doctors are able to substantially reduce the cost of certain NRT products for you by prescribing under the government’s subsidised Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

Nicotine-replacement therapy patches are available via prescription (under the PBS) or in a wide variety of over-the-counter products such as lozenges, patches or gum, or inhalers and mouth sprays.

They can help when your body is dependent on nicotine, the addictive part of tobacco. These medications give your body nicotine in controlled doses and reduce some of your physical withdrawal symptoms.

Quit smoking medications (pharmacotherapy)

Pharmacotherapy is another treatment option available on prescription that you and your doctor may wish to discuss as part of your tailored quit plan.

Unlike NRT options (which are intended to help satisfy your cravings by replacing the Nicotine you previously received from smoking), pharmacotherapy options are designed to reduce the satisfaction you receive from nicotine by affecting your brain chemistry.

There are a few pharmacotherapy options available which your healthcare provider may consider for your treatment.

  • Varenicline (brand name Chantix): this acts on the receptors in the brain to reduce withdrawal symptoms and reduce the positive feelings from smoking nicotine.
  • Bupropion (brand names Zyban / Wellbutrin / Alpenzin): these are prescription antidepressants that help reduce nicotine cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

Both medications come in a tablet form.

Although these medications have been proven to assist some people with smoking cessation, like most medications designed to affect your brain chemistry, they can have negative side effects. It’s important that you discuss these carefully with your doctor.

Combination therapy

Some healthcare professionals, based upon their assessment of the patient, may recommend a combination therapy approach. This involves using two different NRT formats in combination to support a smoking cessation attempt.

For example, a doctor may recommend wearing a slow-release product (i.e., a patch) while using a faster-acting product like lozenges, gum, spray or a nicotine e-cigarette to assist with cravings. This has led to better quitting rates in clinical trials. 1

Another combination approach, for people who have been assessed as clinically suitable for this medication, is to prescribe varenicline (accompanied by behavioural support), together with a nicotine replacement therapy.