Updated 01/14/2013 05:00 AM
Healthy Living: Nicotine patch and gum effectiveness
It takes the average smoker seven attempts before quitting for good. As our Katie Gibas reports, researchers say those who used nicotine replacement therapies to help them quit were just as likely to start smoking again as those who didn't.
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If you've ever tried to quit smoking, you know how tough it can be. It takes the average smoker seven attempts before quitting for good.
"You have to have someone who wants to change their behavior. And this is hard stuff. This is really hard to change behavior," said Dr. Elizabeth Berry, a clinical psychologist.
That's why once someone commits to quitting, they often turn to nicotine replacement therapies, like the patch or gum. But they might not be as effective as you think.
"It is more effective at helping a person quit. That pharmacological assistance a person is getting doesn't do anything for the behavioral aspect of it," said Chris Owens, Tobacco Cessation Center Director.
Harvard researchers looked at nearly 800 people trying to kick the habit. After a couple years, one-third of the people who quit had picked up the habit again. Researchers say those who used nicotine replacement therapies were just as likely to start smoking again as those who didn't.
"Any of these aids are just helpful and supplemental. They don't make people stop smoking," said Dr. Leslie Kohman, Upstate Cancer Center Medical Director.
Experts say if you're feeling discouraged by lack of progress trying to quit with the nicotine replacement therapies, you should meet with your doctor and talk about your other options and create a plan that will encompass everything you need to help you succeed.
"If at first you don't succeed, quit and quit again. It usually takes several quit attempts before someone succeeds, so they should not get discouraged," said Kohman.
Owens added, "Once you get away from the physiological addiction to nicotine, you still have all these extraneous stimuli that are coming in to signal a person to start smoking again."
Doctors say the most effective way to quit is a combination of social and psychological support and counseling, nicotine replacement therapies and one of the medications, like Chantix or Zyban.