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  • QuitSure Team

The Science Behind the 7 FDA-Approved Tobacco Cessation Medications

Smoking is a complex addiction with both physical and psychological aspects, making it challenging to overcome. Thankfully, scientific advancements have led to the development of medications that can help alleviate withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings. These include the 7 FDA approved tobacco cessation medications, each with a unique method of action designed to assist those on the journey to a smoke-free life.

Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)

The FDA has approved five types of Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) products, which work by providing controlled amounts of nicotine to your body to alleviate the withdrawal symptoms.

1. Nicotine Patches: These are placed on the skin and slowly release nicotine, which is absorbed through the skin.

2. Nicotine Gum: This is chewed to release nicotine that is absorbed through the lining of the mouth.

3. Nicotine Lozenges: Similar to gum, these are placed in the mouth where they slowly dissolve, releasing nicotine that is absorbed through the mouth's lining.

4. Nicotine Inhaler: This is a cartridge inserted into a device similar to an inhaler, which delivers nicotine into your mouth when you puff on it.

5. Nicotine Nasal Spray: This delivers nicotine into your bloodstream quickly by absorption through the lining of your nose.

The Nicotine Connection

Our brain loves rewards. It's a system that's been hardwired through millennia of evolution, aiding our survival. This reward pathway involves the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine, creating feelings of pleasure. When a smoker lights up a cigarette, nicotine floods the brain, creating a dopamine surge and a sense of relaxation. However, as nicotine levels drop, withdrawal symptoms kick in, encouraging the smoker to reach for another cigarette. This forms a vicious cycle of addiction.

The NRTs help by supplying a measured dose of nicotine, without the harmful compounds found in tobacco smoke. These NRTs mitigate the withdrawal symptoms associated with sudden nicotine cessation. The goal here is to slowly reduce the dosage until the body no longer craves nicotine.

Non-Nicotine Medications

The FDA has also approved two non-nicotine medications which work on brain chemicals involved in nicotine addiction: bupropion (Zyban) and varenicline (Chantix).

6. Bupropion (Zyban): This medication helps reduce nicotine withdrawal and the urge to smoke. It works by inhibiting the reuptake of dopamine, thereby maintaining higher levels of the neurotransmitter, which is involved in the reward pathways associated with smoking.

7. Varenicline (Chantix): This works by blocking nicotine from binding to receptors in the brain, thereby reducing the pleasure derived from smoking and the severity of withdrawal symptoms.

Bridging the Knowledge Gap

With all this scientific knowledge, why do people still find it difficult to quit smoking even with these aids? The answer lies in the fact that smoking is not only a physical addiction but also a psychological one. Behavioral cues, stress, and certain activities or places can trigger cravings, even in the absence of physical withdrawal symptoms.

This is why using the 7 FDA approved tobacco cessation medications in conjunction with psychological support, like behavioral counseling or self-help materials, has proven to be the most effective way to quit smoking.


The 7 FDA approved tobacco cessation medications have revolutionized the landscape of smoking cessation. Science has provided us with potent tools that attack the issue on multiple fronts. But it's also crucial to remember that quitting smoking is a personal journey. Medication can help smoothen the ride, but the drive to reach the destination must come from within. Stop procrastinating and quit smoking today with help from QuitSure.

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