What is the role of long-term nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) in the treatment of nicotine addiction?

Updated: Jul 16, 2018
  • Author: R Gregory Lande, DO, FACN; Chief Editor: Glen L Xiong, MD  more...
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Smoking cessation treatments with NRT enable smokers to cease tobacco use and subsequently to withdraw from nicotine altogether. However, for some smokers, complete withdrawal from smoking may be difficult. In those individuals, it may be beneficial to continue NRT for longer periods, even indefinitely, to prevent relapse to smoking. This strategy is essentially the same as that currently used in methadone maintenance programs for heroin-dependent patients, where patients may be maintained on daily doses of methadone for years.

Although nicotine is not entirely without risk, nicotine maintenance is clearly safer than cigarette smoke–delivered nicotine, with its numerous accompanying toxins. Therefore, indefinite NRT to prevent resumption of smoking may be considered for some individuals.

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