Nicotine patches are transdermal patches used to deliver nicotine through the user’s skin to reduce cravings and the withdrawal symptoms which can be experienced when the user attempts to quit tobacco usage. The nicotine patch was developed by Jed Rose, Murray Jarvik and Daniel Rose as a top down approach to prevent tobacco usage directly; it was cleared for human use in 1984 and patented soon after in 1986. (Rose, J. E, 1984). An interdisciplinary approach is now used to promote the “over the counter” product in Australia, with advertisements heavily broadcasted over radio, television and often shown in newspapers. The introduction of these patches was just a small step in Australia’s attempt to reduce the prevalence of smoking, which has declined from 22.3% in 2001 to 14.7% in 2015 in people 18 years and older. (The Department of Health 2018).
A study conducted outlines the effectiveness of the nicotine patches in the reduction of tobacco use. A group of users were given both placebo and nicotine patches. The success rate for the nicotine patches almost doubled the placebo patches at 6 weeks, the percentage of quitters 10.8% and 5.9% respectively. The results at 24 weeks were different, however still heavily favoured the nicotine patches, at 8.2% and 2.8%. (Renshaw, 2013).
Although some of these users may have quit smoking, as the patch still delivers nicotine to the user, the users may share common symptoms to that of smoking, such as headaches, dizziness, weakness and sickness.
The design of the nicotine patch is largely successful due to the fact that it fulfills the cravings held by the user, eliminating the need to smoke or chew tobacco from which many health risks may arise such as stroke, heart disease and cancers. However, this alone does not define its success as the primary aim of nicotine patches are to eliminate nicotine dependency. Some brands of nicotine patches offer differing strengths to wean users from nicotine completely. An example of this is Nicotinell, an Australian nicotine patch brand which provides three different nicotine dosages, Nicotine Step 1, 2 and 3 (52.5 mg, 35mg, and 17.5 mg respectively). Typically, heavy smokers begin with Nicotine Step 1, and move their way down after 3-4 weeks as prescribed. Lighter smokers may even begin from Nicotine Step 2. (NPS, 2009).
Figure 1: An advertisement for Nicotinell Patches, displaying the differing dosages of nicotine.
In all, like most other reduction and prevention methods, nicotine patches still rely heavily on the user’s own will to quit. The nicotine patch succeeds in weaning users off tobacco usage. It’s gradual reduction in nicotine strengths is a great way to combat the severe withdrawal effects that are associated with smoking and chewing tobacco.
Rose, J. E., Jarvik, M. E., Rose, K. D. 1984. Transdermal administration of nicotine. Drug and Alcohol Dependence
The Department of Health 2018, Smoking Prevalence Rates, viewed 28 November 2018, < http://www.health.gov.au/internet/publications/publishing.nsf/Content/tobacco-control-toc~smoking-rates>
Renshaw, A 2013, The Real Story Behind the Nicotine Patch and Smoking Cessation, viewed 28 November 2018, < http://healthpsych.psy.vanderbilt.edu/health-patch.htm>
NPS Medicinewise 2009, Nicotinell Patch, NPS, viewed 28 November 2018, < https://www.nps.org.au/medical-info/medicine-finder/nicotinell-patch>
Figure 1 found online as an advertisement for Nicotinell on Amazon < https://www.amazon.co.uk/Nicotinell-Stop-Smoking-Nicotine-Patches/dp/B001E5CDU0>