Better Than Turkey: Using NRT to Manage Cravings

Blog Post created by dr_hays on Mar 30, 2016

After last week’s blog exploring “cold turkey”, I’d like to share some information about a treatment method that has been proven to help people stop.  This particular approach is referred to as combination nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) and can be very effective in managing symptoms of withdrawal when properly planned with a healthcare provider.  This blog is meant to be informational and not intended to diagnose or provide treatment. 

What does combination NRT mean?

Combination nicotine replacement therapy means using the nicotine patch, a “long-acting” replacement, with one of the shorter, faster-acting nicotine medications such as the gum, lozenge, inhaler or nasal spray.  The idea behind this is that the patch will provide a baseline of coverage from withdrawal symptoms and cravings.  While the patch is doing the “heavy lifting” throughout the day, a person can use the faster-acting NRT during triggering situations to manage “break-through cravings”.  As smoking habits and cues fade, individuals can taper their nicotine use until they feel comfortable being nicotine- and tobacco-free.

I feel it is important to note that medications are no silver bullet.  Stopping smoking is a process that involves multiple factors including: changing behaviors, having the right mindset, getting support from others, and finding ways to manage the withdrawal process.  Medications can be a game-changer in helping people control cravings which is why it is always recommended to speak with a care provider in determining the best approach for you. 

You can learn more about the stop smoking medications from my old friend and colleague, Dr. Richard Hurt, through the BecomeAnEx video series on medications.


Stead LF, Perera R, Bullen C, Mant D, Hartmann-Boyce J, Cahill K, Lancaster T. Nicotine replacement therapy for smoking cessation. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2012, Issue 11. Art. No.: CD000146. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD000146.pub4