My friend chews several pieces of Nicorette a day and has no
intention of stopping, ever. I am very concerned about what
long-term effects this will have on his health. Can you tell
about any known side-effects, both short-term and long-term?
Nicotine is a highly addictive chemical, but it is probably not all that toxic to the body in and of itself. What kills smokers is all the damage done to the lungs and heart by the carbon monoxide, tars, carcinogens and other toxins contained in tobacco smoke. Some of these compounds are contained in chewing tobacco, which explains why smokeless tobacco users suffer from cancers of the head and neck. But the nicotine contained is nicotine replacement products is relatively pure and free of toxic compounds. This explains why chewing nicotine gum is so much safer than smoking.
The jury is out in terms of the risks and benefits of pure nicotine. We know that it has anti-depressant and anti-anxiety properties, and studies are underway looking at the use of nicotine for the treatment of dementia and Parkinson's disease. On the other hand, nicotine does stimulate the heart, and some animal studies suggest that long term use may have an adverse effect on the walls of cells in our circulatory systems.
The bottom line is this: your friend is much better off chewing nicotine gum than he would be smoking or chewing tobacco. MUCH, MUCH BETTER OFF!
Until definitive studies are done, I would advise anyone who is able to stop nicotine replacement without resuming smoking to go ahead and give up nicotine altogether. However, anyone who is unable to live without nicotine is far better off with gum, patch, inhaler or nasal spray than they would be with cigarettes, cigars, pipes, or smokeless tobacco.
For a lot more information about tobacco dependence and smoking cessation, check out my Ask DrSteve web site, conveniently hyperlinked below. Good luck!
Steve Adelman, M.D. (a.k.a. DrSteve)
This information is for general medical education purposes only. Please consult your physician for diagnostic and treatment options pertaining to your specific medical condition.
Keywords: smoking cessation, nicotine replacement therapy, nicotine gum
Ask DrSteve: The Real Story About Smoking, Drinking & Getting High
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