ROCHESTER, Minn. — June 14, 2012. Stopping smoking — at any age — offers almost immediate health benefits, according to the June issue of Mayo Clinic Health Letter. Recent reports about side effects of drugs used to help stop smoking shouldn't dissuade smokers from trying to quit. Side effects from these medications are usually infrequent, minor, and manageable — either by reducing doses or switching to another medication.
Stopping smoking has many significant health benefits. Just 20 minutes after the last cigarette, the heart rate decreases. Twelve hours later, carbon monoxide in the blood returns to normal. A year after stopping, the risk of having a heart attack related to smoking drops by half.
Stopping is difficult, and most smokers make many attempts before they have long-term success. Smokers who are successful often take advantage of behavior counseling and medications.
A variety of drug options can help ease withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings. Mayo Clinic Health Letter provides an overview of medication options and potential side effects or risks.
Nicotine patch: With a steady dose of nicotine, smokers double their odds of successfully quitting. The odds nearly triple when patches are combined with fast-acting nicotine replacement. Potential side effects include skin irritation, dizziness, racing or irregular heartbeat, sleep problems, headaches and nausea. Sleep problems can be minimized by removing the patch at night.
Nicotine gum, nasal spray, inhalers and lozenges: These fast-acting nicotine replacements help minimize cravings. Using these products doubles the odds of successfully stopping.
However, nicotine replacements may irritate the mouth, nose and throat, plus they can cause coughing, nausea, headache and minor digestive issues.
Varenicline (Chantix): This drug decreases withdrawal symptoms and reduces the feelings of pleasure from smoking. It increases the odds of successfully stopping by at least 2.5 times. Possible side effects are nausea, headache, insomnia and vivid dreams. Rarely, it's associated with serious psychiatric symptoms such as depressed mood, agitation and suicidal thoughts.
Bupropion (Zyban): Use of bupropion doubles the odds of successfully stopping and may help minimize weight gain. It increases the levels of brain chemicals that are also boosted by nicotine, decreasing withdrawal symptoms and reducing pleasure from smoking. Possible side effects are sleep disturbances, dry mouth and headache. It's very rarely associated with serious psychiatric symptoms.
Patients taking these medications should consult their physician right away if they experience side effects.
Mayo Clinic Health Letter is an eight-page monthly newsletter of reliable, accurate and practical information on today's health and medical news. To subscribe, please call 800-333-9037 (toll-free), extension 9771, or visit Mayo Clinic Health Letter Online.
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