You’re certainly not the only user of nicotine gum to find it habit forming. Reportedly, between five and nine percent of nicotine gum users continue to chew it for longer than recommended, some for up to six months or more. One user posted on an online forum that she has been chewing 9 to 11 pieces of nicotine gum daily for 10 years and asked for advice on how to quit.
Nicotine gum can be an effective way to wean yourself off of cigarettes. It contains enough nicotine to reduce the urge to smoke. But to get the full effect and benefits, it is important to use the gum correctly – while participating in a smoking cessation program that may include group support, counseling, or behavioral change techniques.
Nicotine gum comes in several flavors and in two strengths: 2 mg and 4 mg. If you typically smoke your first cigarettes 30 minutes or more after waking up, using the 2 mg FORM is recommended. If you smoke your first cigarettes within 30 minutes of waking, use the 4 mg. After that, you can chew one piece of gum every hour or two for the first six weeks. To improve your chances of quitting smoking, chewing at least 9 pieces of nicotine gum each day for the first six weeks is recommended.
For maximum effectiveness, don’t chew the gum until 15 minutes after eating or drinking. You’re supposed to chew it briefly to release the nicotine; you should notice a peppery taste or feel a slight tingling in your mouth after about 15 chews. Then “park” the gum between your cheek and gum so that the nicotine can be absorbed slowly. When the peppery taste or tingling diminishes, chew again to release more nicotine. Your need for the gum should gradually diminish, allowing you to chew fewer and fewer pieces per day and to stop entirely once you are down to one or two pieces daily. Avoid eating and drinking while chewing nicotine gum and don’t chew one piece too soon after another – this can cause hiccups, heartburn or nausea.
It’s recommended that you stop using nicotine gum after 12 weeks. Chewing too much can cause stomach pain, fuzzy vision, cold sweats, diarrhea, trouble breathing and hearing, dizziness, exhaustion, fainting, headache, low blood pressure, mental confusion, nausea, pallor, fast and irregular pulse, too much saliva, “the shakes,” and vomiting.
Despite such adverse effects, there don’t appear to be any serious health hazards from the long-term use of nicotine gum. John Hughes, M.D., professor of psychiatry at the University of Vermont and spokesperson for the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco, says that the main complaint of long-term users is the cost of the gum – about the same as a pack-and-a-half-a-day cigarette habit.
Since you haven’t been able to wean yourself off the gum by cutting back on the amount you chew each day – as you’re supposed to – you could try acupuncture or hypnosis to help you overcome the habit.
Andrew Weil, M.D.
Anna Hansson et al, “Effect of Nicotine 6 Mg Gum on Urges to Smoke, a Randomized Clinical Trial,” BMC Pharmacological Toxicology, DOI: 10.1186/s40360-019-0368-9