Nicotine (Transdermal)

Nicotine transdermal patches are available to assist patients who want to quit smoking by providing the stimulant effects without the dangerous health conditions.


Releasing Nicotine gradually through the skin, a transdermal nicotine patch has been shown to double the success rate in patients that are trying to quit smoking. Nicotine patches are sold under the brand names Nicotrol, Habitrol and NicoDerm CQ. These patches are recommended by doctors in some cases but are available over-the-counter with proof of age (over 18).

The Nicotine laced patch is applied to the skin and slowly releases Nicotine, a stimulant found in tobacco products, into the body. Through a system of step-down amounts, eventually the patient is weaned off the Nicotine stimulus and able to stop smoking. During the step-down phase, the Nicotine released into their system provides relief from withdrawal symptoms typically experienced when stopping "cold turkey". Because the patient doesn't have severe withdrawal symptoms, they are more likely to continue to step-down their smoking and eventually stop completely.

Nicotine is a stimulant drug found in tobacco products. It binds itself to receptors in the brain and provides a stimulant effect that is the cause of addiction in many smokers and users of tobacco products. Though there are harmful chemicals also released in the Nicotine patch therapy as well as health risks, as it is a temporary measure to eventually stop smoking, the risks are often determined to be worth taking.

Conditions Treated

Type Of Medicine

Side Effects

Nicotine transdermal patches release a stimulant into the bloodstream that directly attaches itself to neurotransmitters in the brain. In doing so, this medication may cause unwanted effects on health and wellbeing. If you should experience the following symptoms, get in touch with your physician right away for your own safety:

  • Vision changes or blurriness
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nervous demeanor
  • Pounding or ringing in the ears
  • Irregular or rapid heart rhythm
  • Skin rash or hives
  • Swollen, itchy, red skin

The following side effects, while annoying, typically are alleviated over time and use of the Nicotine patch. You should let your doctor know that you're having them in case there are ways to give yourself relief from them:

  • Dizzy, lightheaded feeling
  • Headache
  • Irritation at the patch application site, itching, burning or redness
  • Irritable mood
  • Nervous demeanor
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Insomnia
  • Strange dreams

It is possible to give yourself too much Nicotine and cause overdose symptoms, especially if you don't follow the cessation plan as directed in the medication literature. Be aware of the symptoms of overdose and seek emergency medical assistance if you experience them:

  • Dizziness
  • Rapid pulse
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Weak muscles


Read and comprehend the information that comes with the Nicotine patches, asking any questions necessary of your doctor or pharmacist to make sure the information is absolutely clear. You will be directed on how to use the patches and provide yourself a safe, correct dose of the medication.

It is encouraged that you also receive counseling, education and support while you embark on a smoking cessation program including the Nicotine patch. These combined therapies will make it easier to follow the program and create greater success in quitting smoking.

Most Nicotine transdermal patches come in different strengths to create a step-down approach until you are off the medication and stop smoking. If your chosen patch therapy has only one strength formulation, it is typically stopped completely after the period of time indicated on the patient information.

NicoDerm CQ patch users who have chosen this three-step program and smoke more than 10 cigarettes per day will follow all three steps. Smokers on this patch program who smoke less than 10 cigarettes per day will begin with step two and continue to step three.

  • Choose a day to quit and begin using your NicoDerm CQ patch on this day.
  • Leave the patch in the protective, sealed pouch that it arrives in until you are ready to apply it to your skin.
  • Open the pouch without cutting the patch itself; if you accidentally cut the patch, discard it safely and do not use it.
  • Save the pouch for disposal later.
  • Apply your patch to clean, dry skin that is relatively hairless at the same time every day.
  • Switch your patch location every time, removing the old one first.
  • Avoid applying the patch to skin that is irritated, cut or injured and do not use lotions or sunscreens on the patch site.
  • Wash your hands after touching old or new patches.
  • If a patch falls off, apply a new one immediately to a different area.
  • After a maximum of 24 hours, your patch should be removed to avoid skin irritation.
  • Insomnia or intense dreaming may occur if you leave the patch on overnight so it is recommended that you remove the patch before bed and apply a new one in the morning.
  • Bathing, showering or swimming with the patch on is not going to harm the patch.

Your dosage has been pre-determined by the manufacturer of your particular Nicotine patch program. Follow the written instructions completely, enlisting a caregiver or family member for assistance or checking with your doctor if you need assistance.

Adults and teenagers over 18 years old should follow the label advice on the dosage amount and program to follow, which is based on the quantity of cigarettes you smoke per day. Step-down programs will decrease the Nicotine amount in the patch over a certain period of time to help you quit. If you need to continue applying a patch for a longer duration than what is recommended on the label, consult your physician to determine if it is safe for you to do so.


If you have ever had a hypersensitive reaction to adhesive products, to Nicotine patches of any brand or to animals, foods, dyes or perfumes, you should read the interactions posted on the patient information or consult your doctor before using the Nicotine transdermal patch. Follow all written instructions and heed all warnings carefully.

Pediatric patients have not been studied for use of Nicotine transdermal patch therapy to provide data that indicates they are safe to use this medication. Use on pediatric patients is not recommended

Geriatric patients do not have any age-related conditions that would prevent them from being effectively treated for smoking cessation with a Nicotine transdermal patch program.

Women who are pregnant or who may become pregnant while on this medication should be aware of the risk it poses to their unborn children. Avoid use of Nicotine transdermal patches if you are pregnant and let your doctor know if you think you may be pregnant while on this program.

Harmful infant effects have been demonstrated in women who are breastfeeding and on the Nicotine transdermal patch. If you are breastfeeding, it is best to stop during your patch therapy treatment to avoid harming your child.

Nicotine transdermal patches may interact with other medications in a harmful way. While you are on your smoking cessation patch therapy, it is best to avoid other medications if possible or to check with your physician to make sure you are safe to combine them. This includes any vitamin, non-prescription or herbal therapy treatments as well as other prescribed medications.

Tegafur is a medication that may react poorly when combined with Nicotine patch therapy. If you require both for health reasons, it is best to check with your physician to determine if the dosage of one or both medications should be changed for your safety.

Food, alcohol and tobacco use during your Nicotine patch therapy should be as advised in the patient information leaflet that comes with your patch system. If you have any questions about these substances in combination with your patch, get in touch with your physician to clear up any gray areas.

Patients with heart disease, blood vessel problems or high blood pressure should use caution when taking Nicotine patch therapy, as the drug can make these problems worse. As the overall goal is to lessen your chance of long-term health issues that smoking causes, use of the patch is still recommended but your dosage may need to be adjusted. Seek advice from your doctor to be certain you are taking this medicine safely.


Patients who have chosen the NicoDerm CQ program that involves a three-step process are encouraged to finish all three steps according to the manufacturer's instructions. Prolonging the use of the patches after the program is not recommended without the advice of your physician.

Women who are pregnant should not use Nicotine transdermal patch systems unless their doctor specifically instructs them to. As cigarette smoking is harmful to fetal development, it is recommended that women who are pregnant stop smoking completely. The Nicotine patches are safer than smoking during pregnancy, but still pose risks to your unborn child. Make sure you are aware of all risks and do your best to stop smoking on your own for the sake of your child.

Keep your Nicotine patches out of sight and reach of children and pets, as even a small amount of this medication can harm a child or an animal. Even used patches are dangerous and should be disposed of safely according to the directions provided to you. If a child or an animal swallows a new or used Nicotine patch, contact emergency medical services or the poison control center immediately.

When you first use your Nicotine patch, you may experience a burning, itching or tingling sensation. This effect typically doesn't last over 24 hours. If you develop a rash or your skin becomes red and swollen, get in touch with your doctor and do not reapply a patch until you determine what the problem is.

Avoid MRI scans if you are a patient who uses a NicoDerm CQ patch in the opaque formula as you could experience skin burns if you have this medical test. Remove your patch prior to your MRI scan and let the technician or nurse know you are using a smoking cessation patch system. They may want to check you for old, forgotten skin patches prior to the test for your safety.

Avoid taking other medications while using Nicotine transdermal patches to quit smoking. Vitamin supplements, herbal treatments and holistic therapies should also be avoided in case of dangerous interactions or lower effectiveness of the patch system.


Keep your Nicotine transdermal patches in their original packaging and out of sight and reach of children and pets. Do not store your patches where they can be exposed to excessive moisture, heat or light. Dispose of used patches and unused or expired patches in a safe way that keeps them from being applied or accidentally swallowed by children or pets. Follow the safe disposal methods on the packaging and ask your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions.

When you remove a used patch, fold the sticky sides together and place it back in the storage pouch saved for this purposes. Throw it away in a container that is secured from children and pets.


Patients who need to quit smoking find it difficult because of the addictive properties found in cigarettes and other tobacco products. These addictive properties are due to the Nicotine contained in tobacco, which is a stimulant type of drug. Stimulants create euphoric, pleasurable, satisfied feelings that become addictive. Those trying to quit smoking can benefit from Nicotine transdermal patch systems that help them step-down their Nicotine and avoid withdrawal symptoms.

There are a few transdermal Nicotine patch systems on the market including NicoDerm CQ, Habitrol and Nicotrol. Most are step-down programs that are based on how many cigarettes you smoke per day. Adults 18 years and older should use this medication only as directed on the packaging and consult their physician if they have questions. Patches should be applied as directed in different places on the skin, avoiding the areas that have too much hair. No lotions or other topical substances should be applied where you will be placing your patch.

Irritation at the site of the patch and headaches, nausea and dizziness are symptoms that have been reported in some patients, which typically disappear over time and with use of the system. Patients who have other health or mood changes that are severe or prolonged should stop using the patch and get in touch with their physician immediately.

Women who are pregnant and breastfeeding should try their best to quit smoking without the use of Nicotine transdermal patches, as they pose a health risk to their infants and unborn children. If it becomes absolutely necessary, a doctor may supervise and recommend patch therapy for women who are pregnant. Use of transdermal nicotine patches in children under the age of 18 is not recommended or safe.

Disposal of used patches and storage of new transdermal system patches should be in a safe, secure way as recommended by the manufacturer, out of sight and reach of children and pets.