Trading One Addiction for Another?
Nicotine gum and nicotine lozenges can be useful tools when you are trying to beat a smoking addiction. However, for a growing number of ex-smokers, there is a risk of trading one addiction for another. The number of smokers who start using these products to quit cigarettes and then find themselves trapped in a new addiction is unknown, but it may be substantial.
Many packages say you should not use nicotine gum or lozenges for more than three months. The trouble is, once you are hooked, you are hooked. I know people who have been using these products for years and are as dependent on them as they were on cigarettes. I find it interesting that no formal studies have been done on the effects of long-term use of these products, and yet nicotine gum and lozenges are readily available over the counter in your local drugstore or supermarket. I also personally know people who have used them for years—many years—and have experienced stomach problems, high blood pressure, borderline glaucoma, and hair loss, among other things. All of these problems disappear when they finally stop using nicotine-replacement products.
In addition, there is growing evidence of a relationship between long-term use of nicotine gum and mouth and throat cancer. I think some real medical studies are definitely in order.
Quitting cigarettes is hard—very hard. I should know. I kicked the habit after more than 30 years, and I did it with the help of a nicotine patch, and later nicotine gum. I have now been smoke-free for more than a decade, but not gum- and lozenge-free. It took me years to free myself from that addiction, and my experience is far from unique.
My Nicotine-Replacement Story
I had my last cigarette over a decade ago. I had managed to stop once for four years, but had a life crisis and bummed one cigarette. I couldn't believe that after four years, one cigarette could hurt, but it did. Within months I was back up to two packs a day, and a lot had changed.
For starters, the price of cigarettes had gone up dramatically, and people were much less tolerant of smokers than they had been when I smoked before. The upshot was that after a year or so, I started trying to quit again. I finally made it, going cold turkey with the help of the nicotine patch. I threw out all my cigarettes one night, slapped the patch on when I woke up the next morning, and that was it. After four weeks on the patch, weaning myself down from 21 mg to 14 mg of nicotine, I decided to switch to Nicorette gum, figuring that I would taper off until I was using no nicotine replacement at all.
It didn't happen. Like any good addict, I stopped counting how many pieces of gum I chewed. I kept buying my supply and ignoring the fact that it was taking more and more of the substance to satisfy me. I consumed ten or more of the 2 mg lozenges or pieces of nicotine gum a day. I grew to like the taste and looked forward to my lozenges the way I had once enjoyed cigarettes. I told myself that it was OK to keep using my lozenges because at least I wasn't smoking.
Now, I hasten to say that there are 4,000 substances in tobacco smoke that are not in the gum or the lozenges, and most of them are poison and proven to be carcinogenic, but nicotine is the addictive substance in cigarettes, and when you put it in a lozenge or piece of gum it is still an addictive substance. If you are a highly addicted cigarette smoker, you will be at high risk of becoming addicted to nicotine gum or nicotine lozenges.
That said, I must also admit that only with the help of nicotine replacement therapy was I able to get off cigarettes, so here is what I recommend for you if you are either a long-term user of nicotine gum or lozenges (more than three months) or a highly addicted smoker considering using nicotine replacement as a quitting aid.
How to Get Off the Gum
Whether you are using nicotine gum or lozenges to quit cigarettes, or are an ex-smoker who has become hooked on nicotine replacement, the same rules apply.
- Do not, under any circumstances, smoke a cigarette while using nicotine gum or lozenges. An overdose can be very dangerous and will totally sabotage all your good work.
- Buy a little notebook and carry it at all times. Use as many pieces of gum as you wish to calm cravings, but note how many you use and the time so that you know how many a day you are using. Be honest with yourself and don't cheat or forget—that is important. Most people use 15 to 20 lozenges or pieces of gum a day when they first give up smoking. You want to get a baseline and work down from there.
- After two weeks, take away just one lozenge a day and see how you do. The idea is to use the nicotine replacement just enough to keep the withdrawal symptoms at bay, but not so much that the gum replaces cigarettes, so you should be feeling mild but manageable cravings. When these stop, withdraw one more lozenge or piece of gum from your daily allotment. Do this for as long as it takes but no longer than three months. Once you are down to five or so nicotine hits a day, you might want to put the lozenges or gum someplace inconvenient in your home—like in the attic or a closet or under a pile of books so that you really have to make an effort to get one—and of course keep track in your notebook.
- If you are still using gum or lozenges three months after giving up cigarettes, you have probably substituted one addiction for another and are just not getting your nicotine hit from cigarettes (which is good) but are still hooked on nicotine which you are getting from gum or lozenges (not so good). Start with step one above and get yourself unhooked. If you can't do it alone, talk to your doctor or enlist a friend to supervise your tapering-off period. Do not, under any circumstances, smoke a cigarette. It is amazing how stubborn an addiction can be, and it is equally amazing how having to be accountable to your doctor or a trusted friend will help you unload those last few nicotine quitting aids and become totally nicotine free.
Kicking cigarettes is no small thing, and, as many will tell you, getting hooked on nicotine replacement therapy is not nearly as bad as being hooked on cigarettes. (Plus, you don't have to step outside in the rain and cold to chew a piece of gum after dinner.) But, and this is a big BUT: nicotine, even in the form of gum or lozenges, is a poison, bad for your body, and highly addictive. Long-term use can bring on serious health problems, and there are those who say there may be a link to gastric and mouth cancers, as well as dental problems. The bottom line is: nicotine gum and lozenges can be important aids to quitting cigarettes, but it is equally important not to let the aid become a new addiction.
For More Information
- Side Effects of Nicotine Gum - This is an informative article from Buzzle.com
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Questions & Answers
Question: Have you ever heard of anyone developing severe lead toxicity from nicotine lozenges?
Answer: No I haven't. I'm just recounting my personal experience with getting hooked on nicotine lozenges here.
DavidC83 on August 06, 2020:
I gave up smoking about 5 years ago and I am now very very addicted to nicotine replacement products. It has gotten to the point at times where I have had a lozenge in my mouth from the point I wake up to the point I go to bed. I suffer with anxiety disorder and it has definitely made that worse. I too have often worried about the effects of long term use, particularly of the gums/ lozenges. Currently got myself off those onto patches and reducing the dose gradually. I am personally finding it harder to kick this than I did smoking. It's nice to see I am not alone here.
Dave Knetsch on March 06, 2020:
Thanks for the response Roberta, to be honest I had forgotten I had posted here but I did bookmark the page. An update: I still take the lozenges but found nic spray on eBay that is glorious. It more resembles the act of smoking or vaping and it is fast acting and eliminates the craving immediately. It's also better than trying to drink a beer, a key smoking time, while sucking on a mint. But it is only 1 MG and does not last. I have not really reduced my intake yet but it's only been 3 months. I do play that game of yours where I get a craving and tell myself to wait, usually it's 15 minutes.Tic Tacs work great for that but again it's temporary. I know I will need to get off these at some point, and the prescription by doc gave me to reduce the cravings didn't work. But I'm much happier with the spray and mints than I was with the vape or cigs. So I feel I'm at a good place, just need to finish the deal by getting off everything.
Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on November 16, 2019:
No worries, Dave, and congratulations on giving up vaping as well as cigarettes. It's all a question of nicotine delivery and I am now 20 years away from my last cigarette and have not had a nicotine craving for years, so don't believe everything you hear. The main thing is to stay in the present moment and not worry about future cravings. Sounds like you are doing very well. The thing about cravings is that they can be very intense, but they don't last. I told myself that if I wanted a lozenge, I could have one, but only after half an hour. I would set a timer. The craving never lasted more than ten or fifteen minutes and each time you withstand a craving, you become more aware of your power to do so. Never forget that you are in control here. I could not have quit without the help of the lozenges, and it was tough to give them up, but you will know when you are ready to do it and it doesn't sound like it is time yet. Just keep up the good work. I sucked on the lozenges for 6 or 7 years before I was able to give them up and tapering off only worked for me because I was scrupulously honest with myself and wrote down every lozenge I put in my mouth.
Dave Knetsch on November 14, 2019:
I am new to the lozenges after taking the path of cigarettes to vape for 2 years and now these for the past 2 weeks. The patch did little other than itch but the lozenges remove the craving. I like my progression, no doubt I've gone from bad to not as bad and I have no desire to use the vape again. I probably take 10 4MG lozenges a day and I can't seem to cut down. What scares me is I understand nicotine cravings never go away. I want to be free of it all but if I have to stay on the lozenges I know it's the safest of the 3.
Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on April 12, 2018:
Congratulations Tom. on giving up cigarettes and glad you are tapering off the lozenges too. Hope you manage to get off them totally eventually. I was sucking on them for close to 7 years--and doing the equivalent of a pack a day in nicotine. I agree, it is better than cigarettes, but for me, it had its own problems, like acid reflux and tooth decay to name just two.
Tom Wistrand on April 04, 2018:
I was a 2+ pack a day smoker for years. I'd quit several times and always found an excuse to go back to smoking. I quit smoking 3 months ago and have been on Nicotine gum and lozenges to help me. Starting with the 4mg dose and now on the 2mg. Sure I may have an addiction to the nicotine but I'm no longer wheezing and I feel better than I have for a long time. If NRT helps, go for it. Cold turkey? Go for it. Whatever works so please folks lighten up about an individuals personal battles with whatever addiction. I'd rather be addicted to lozenges than cigarettes any day.
Vivica Cornelly on September 12, 2017:
I am 54 years old and I was told I had COPD 7 years ago. I immediately quit smoking, but as the years pass by my condition got significantly worse, and I started having serious attacks. I used to be able to exercise, but it became so hard because I`m constantly out of breath. My pulmonologist started me on oral steroids to help control symptoms and minimize further damage but my symptoms never stopped getting worse. In January this year, my pulmonologist and I decided to go with natural treatment and was introduced to NewLife Herbal Clinic natural organic COPD Herbal formula, i had a total decline of symptoms with this COPD Herbal formula treatment. The infections, shortness of breath, fatigue, dry cough and other symptoms has subsided. Visit NewLife Herbal Clinic official website ww w. newlifeherbalclinic. com or email info@ newlifeherbalclinic. com.
I had great improvement with my over all respiration with this product and i breath very much easier, i can never be thankful enough to nature
Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on September 10, 2017:
Thanks for the tip, Jason Le Phillips and thank you also Huckleberry and Suz for taking the time to comment. Good luck to both of you. I quit dozens of times before I finally became tobacco and nicotine free. Don't give up giving up. Each step forward teaches you something.
Hucleberry on September 09, 2017:
I have been addicted to the gum for just under two years. Tried cold turkey I didnt do too bad but the craving was too strong. Will try again.
Suz on August 18, 2017:
After quitting smoking and using the lozenges I found I am addicted to the lozenges. I'm not ready to go cold turkey from all forms so I've committed to the patch alone. 8 weeks as I wean myself down from the lozenges. I quit smoking once using the patch alone so I feel pretty good I can quit the lozenges this way as well. I am on day 2 and have had 2 lozenges 1mg each. I am hopeful to be off all of it 8 weeks from now.
Jason Le Phillips on July 11, 2017:
Also, to reduce the dose of your gum without having cut it up and chew a tiny amount:
Find a water source like a sink, stick your gum in your mouth and chew. Fill your mouth with water and swish with the gum. spit out the water. Now your gum is a bit milder but definitely not dead. Continue to drink water to dilute as needed as you enjoy your new lower level of nicotine. Wish they'd just sell the flavor in 1mg and 0mg.
James lacoste on June 06, 2017:
Wow, that absolutely makes No sence. As a smoker you are physically dependent on Nicotine, NRT lets you wean down, on nicotine. So how can you trade one addiction for another. You never changed nicotine is nicotine. For example. When an opiate addict goes on replacement therapy and people say o you traded one addiction for another you went from a Vicodin addict to a suboxone addict. That doesn't make any sense an opiate is an opiate. People trading an addiction would be like I stoped drinking so now I'm gambling that's trading an addiction. Not I'm a camel addict now I'm a Nicolette addict or I was a heroin addict and now I'm a methadone addict. The masses are true morons
MK on May 18, 2017:
Finally admitting to the N lozenge addiction.
14 years after smoking 30.
I am hooked and am going to try to quit it a lozenge less a day at a time.
Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on January 23, 2017:
Thank you Joel Weeks and PF Bankroller for adding your voices and experience here. As Joel says, it's no big mystery. Nicotine is what you are addicted to and it comes in lozenges and gum as well as cigarettes. To kick any addiction is no easy task. It takes committment, time AND above all, self honesty. Nicotine replacement therapy can be helpful in quitting cigarettes, but clearly, it has its own dangers because nicotine addiction is nicotine addiction no matter what substance it comes from.
PF Bankroller on January 22, 2017:
I have been addicted to lozenges for about 10+ years....I lost count. Is tarted using them when they first came out. I am glad to be off cigarettes, but traded one addiction or another. I would love help.
Joel Weeks on January 20, 2017:
That's no shocker, really. After all, what do you think you're addicted to? Tobacco!!!! No, Margaret, it is the NICOTINE your brain is craving. The ONLY way to beat an addiction into submission is cold turkey. Nicotine replacement therapies are far from the 'solution' and only serve to enrich those that market them. I know....I was addicted to Copenhagen for nearly FOUR decades.
bc1965 on January 17, 2017:
Same here. I quit smoking in 2011 and haven't had a cavity in years. I've been using the Thrive 1MG lozenges ever since, and in the last four months I've had three cavities. Perhaps a coincidence but I cannot think of what else it could be. My oral hygiene is exemplary, aside from the lozenges.
Ron on January 11, 2017:
Too bad the manufacturers don't make the next step in nicotine replacement therapy.....0.0mg of nicotine I know I'm addicted to the 2mg of nicotine but I'm also addicted to the taste and the sucking on the lozenges. If I could get a 0.0mg of nicotine lozenge that taste the same I feel it would give me a better chance at success.
Anyone know of a hard candy with similar taste to the cherry flavor lozzenge?
sandbaby on January 03, 2017:
Does anyone know WHY lozenges and gum cause cavities? I have researched the ingredients and mannitol and sucralose are not suppose to cause cavities, so I don't understand why all of a sudden I have 4 cavities, when I haven't had any for years and years.
Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on December 29, 2016:
OK I'm responding to the last three comments here.
Hi again Melanie-- yes I have run into others who smoked and used lozenges or patches. I treally isn't a good idea because you now have a double addiction to nicotine in two forms to fight instead of one. The first thing to do is to get yourself off the cigs totally. Use either lozenges or patches but not both and just get the cigs out of the house. You might want to try a support group as well, for some in-person reinforcement. Don' t be in a hurry to start tapering off the patch or lozenges, just get yourself off cigarettes and above all... don't be hard on yourself. Just keep on trying till you make it. Good luck.
Lori--Good to see you too and thanks for your comment. I know the lozenges are expensive, but don't fall into the trap you are setting for yourself and start smoking again. Don't worry about the expense of NRT, it is a lot easier on your lungs than smoking and won't give you cancer :-) if you make a serious plan to cut down on the lozenges ( maybe with the help of your doctor, or an in person weekly support group like Nicotine Anonymous, you perhaps can begin to taper down on the lozenges. Good luck to you too.
I hear you, Karen, I gave up smoking cigarettes in 2000, but chewed the gum and sucked on the lozenges till 2008 or 9 and had some horrendous dental bills btw. I decided to treat the lozenge addiction seriously as an addiction and developed my tapering plan-- it worked for me because I was ready to quit, but you need o do whatever works for you and yes, you probably do need some help from either your doctir or an in person support group in your area. You really dont have to do this alone and it really is an addiction not just a bad habit. Get all the help you can and don' f feel bad about it ... Good luck to you as well.
Thanks to all three of you for your honesty and really helpful comments.
Karen on December 28, 2016:
OK. Here I am. Twenty years after quitting smoking and STILL addicted to nicotine gum. I still remember getting a prescription for it before I finally quit. I chew about 30 2-mg a day. I shop online for the cheapest price. I hear ya. I really need to get off this stuff, if only for the money!
I probably need help... :(
Lori Lewis on December 19, 2016:
I quit using NRT, and now have been using 2 mg lozenges for almost 2 years now, the 81 lozenge package lasts 4 days, and costs $50. A carton of my cigs only cost $32 and lasted 10 days, so really, I have traded addiction to one for a more expensive addiction, and am struggling to get off, but cannot seem to cut down below 17 lozenges per day at 2 mg each. Phoey on NRT.
Melanie on November 26, 2016:
Thanks Robie, I was honest and I wonder how many others are hooked on chewing gum and smoke while chewing the gum.
I tried patches every day for over a year and whilst they helped me cut down smoking, I still smoked and gradually upped my smoking as I got used to the patch. Then started on the gum again, that was 5 years ago.
Have you come across smokers who also use gum or lozenges? Have they been able
I think too using gum and drinking coffee and alcohol really accelerates the addiction to the gum.
I'm a happy person, not depressed. Just your quintessential "I love my cigarettes" smoker, but am also a closet gum addict. I hope I one day flick the switch, its just hard when you enjoy it so much!
Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on November 22, 2016:
Hello Lora2 and Melanie. Thanks for stopping by and adding your two cents..... both of you left such honest comments. Lora2--why not try the patch? It might work for you. I hear you on the teeth-- lozenges did a number on mine too. and Melanie, it's all about the addiction, you are right, but there is always hope. You too might want to consider doing the patch and ditching both the cigarettes and the lozenges-- just a thought :-)
Melanie on November 22, 2016:
So many inspiring stories. Alas, I am not one.
I always wanted to smoke cigatettes and started at 11. Loved being a smoker. Tried a half assed attempt to quit with tbr gum, but actually liked them.
Now ive been Addicted to gum for over 15 years, I broke "rule #1", I smoked too when I used the gum. Tried patches, spray, lozenges, inhalers, but always back to the gum. And still smoking. The gum has helped me cut back to 30-40 cigarettes a day, but I need my gum and just can't quit smoking or my gum.
Best wishes to all addicts. Break rule #1 and prepare to puff and chew your life away. Xxxx
Lora2 on October 24, 2016:
I have been addicted to the lozenges for 14 years. I quit smoking when my grandchild was born. For 12 of these years I used the regular lozenges, which did a number on my teeth. I then switched to the minis. I need to quit ! I am going to try your suggestion, but I am really not sure if I can. Would u suggest trying the patch,, I use probably 40 a day.
Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on September 11, 2016:
I think you are right ChrisB. I wish I had stayed on the patch and never used the lozenges. Far from " tapering off". They just got me more hooked on nicotine. Thanks for putting in your 2 cents
Chris B. on September 05, 2016:
I am currently quitting nicotine lozenges after a 10 year addiction. What's crazy is that I smoked for less time (7 years). I quit the lozenges for 1.5 years and then went back. The key to quitting, is using the patch. With the patch, there are no behaviors tied to the substance. There's no immediate rush when you put a patch on and it it takes up to 3 hours to enter your bloodstream. The patch regulates the dose for you, so you can get on with your day without the added stress of regulating your addiction. If you have to have something in your mouth at the same time, use tic tacs or mint chicklets. That behavior is not tied to the substance rush and will die out. I strongly suggest using the patch but following the full program, not modifying it with any other nicotine replacement. Patches will have a higher success rate. Good luck everyone!
Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on January 07, 2016:
I hear you, lozenge user. No question that lozenges really do help. I could never have stayed off cigarette without them. I say don't hate yourself.... very unproductive. Congratulations for getting off and staying off of cigarettes. That is a huge achievement. When you are ready to try again to unload the lozenges for good, try the methods people have shared here in these comments to taper down and really get off them by substituting something else. Adding a support group of people quitting smoking either online or in real life might also be helpful. Above all, don't be hard on yourself about still using the lozenges. That's why they call it addiction :-) If it were easy to quit, there would be no problem. You are not weak willed, or a bad person..... you are just addicted to nicotine. It's biochemical..... not a moral issue. Thanks for sharing in these comments and very good luck to you.
P.S. to above comments on January 06, 2016:
I wanted to add this: I was sent to a pulmonary specialist by my GP because of thirty years of smoking. The doc said I have extremely mild COPD and it hasn't progressed in three years. He also said if I hadn't stopped smoking when I did (15 years ago) my lungs would be in much worse shape. So, money spent on lozenges, extreme expense to fix teeth, (not to mention looking like a moron by still smoking, i.e. social issues) BUT they saved my lungs. How much are functional lungs worth? They were the difference between life and death from smoking. Yet, I'm still having a hard time getting off and STAYING off the lozenges. Frustrating!!
Lozenge User on January 05, 2016:
I'm still struggling to get off the lozenges despite everything --- HUGE dental expenses (could have bought a nice car ... new!) by using sugarless candy and gums, holding/puffing fake cigarettes and so on. Nothing is working. I feel like a hard drug addict, the craving is THAT bad. I'm depressed and detest myself and my predicament. I think we need a class action lawsuit TO HIT THE MEDIA to enlighten the public.