Kick the habit and quit smoking with prescription medications to help

Smoking is bad for you, but it’s just so difficult to quit. If that sounds like you, check out our FDA-approved medications for smoking cessation. They’ll help you reduce the urge to smoke and ease withdrawal symptoms.


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Written by Dr Yasmin Aghajan, MD

Information last reviewed 06/21/19


Thinking of Quitting?

Many people who smoke have thought about quitting in the past. There are 5 stages of “readiness to quit” and it is helpful to consider what stage you are in at this point in time.

  • Pre-contemplation (not ready to quit)
  • Contemplation (considering a quit attempt)
  • Preparation (actively planning a quit attempt)
  • Action (actively involved in a quit attempt)
  • Maintenance (achieved smoking cessation)

From “Contemplation” to beyond, doctors can help provide medical treatments to help you achieve your quitting goal. Quitting begins with setting an “end date” and it is possible to successfully quit smoking with the guidance of your doctor.

Barriers to Quitting and Symptoms

Smoking cessation is not always easy, and there are several common barriers that patients experience.

  • Nicotine Withdrawal: Nicotine is addictive, and the withdrawal is one of the biggest barriers for patients to quit. Withdrawal symptoms include:
    • Increased appetite, weight gain
    • Changes in mood
    • Insomnia
    • Irritability
    • Anxiety
    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Restlessness

Symptoms peak in the first three days of quitting, and can last up to three to four weeks. Smoking cessation medications can help with these symptoms.

  • Environmental Triggers: one obstacle to quitting smoking can be the environmental triggers associated with smoking, such as morning coffee, alcoholic drinks, or the end of a meal, or a break from work to take a walk.


Methods to quit smoking

Medical Treatments

Many smokers desire to quit, and using the available treatments gives them a better chance of being successful. The combination of behavior modifications, behavior counseling, and medications significantly improves the chance of success.

The first-line medications for smoking cessation include combination nicotine replacement therapy such as nicotine patch, gum, or lozenges with the addition of the medications Varenicline or Bupropion. It is important to go through a detailed medical history with your doctor before being prescribed one of these medications.  More information is available through Medzino.

Varenicline and  Bupropion are FDA-approved for smoking cessation, as they have shown to be effective in quitting smoking.

Medications are used in conjunction with nicotine replacement. Better results are seen with the combination of two nicotine replacement products, such as patch with gum or lozenge. The patch is long-acting, and gum or lozenge are short acting.

What medications are used for smoking cessation?

The FDA-approved medications are Varenicline and Bupropion, in conjunction with nicotine replacement products.

What is Nicotine replacement?

Cigarettes contain nicotine, and the body can get addicted to nicotine. Nicotine replacement are products such as gum, lozenges, and patches that provide a controlled amount of Nicotine to help curb the cravings while you are quitting.

What is bupropion?

Bupropion is a medication of the antidepressant class, which is also FDA approved for smoking cessation. It helps reduce the urge to smoke and withdrawal symptoms. It is a prescription-only medication. Treatment usually lasts 7-12 weeks, but may be longer. Bupropion is contraindicated in patients with a seizure disorder, or a history of seizures.

What is Varenicline?

Varenicline is FDA approved for smoking cessation. It works by preventing nicotine stimulating the dopamine system in the brain which is associated with reward and nicotine addiction. It also helps with withdrawal and cravings.


Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. You and your physician will determine if and how you should take any medication prescribed to you following a medical consultation.

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