You chew nicotine gum as a way to help yourself quit using tobacco. The gum contains nicotine and feels and looks like chewing gum. When you chew the gum, the nicotine begins to slowly release into your mouth. Then you hold the gum in your mouth between your cheek and gums.
Cigarette smoke passes nicotine almost instantly into the blood through the lining of the lungs, and the blood takes it to the brain in a few seconds. The nicotine in the gum takes several minutes to reach the brain. This makes the "hit" less rapid with the gum than with a cigarette. Nicotine gum also delivers much less nicotine to your body than a cigarette would.
How to use nicotine gum
Nicotine gum comes in several flavours and in two strengths: 2 mg and 4 mg. Start with the 4 mg strength if you smoke 25 or more cigarettes a day or if your doctor recommends it.
Do not chew nicotine gum like normal gum. Instead, use the "chew and park" method:
- Use one piece of gum at a time.
- Put a piece of gum into your mouth, and chew it slowly a few times to break it down. Chewing will release a "peppery" taste. Next, park the gum between your gums and cheek, and leave it there.
- Repeat the process of chewing and parking for about 15 to 30 minutes, or until there is no more peppery taste released by chewing. The gum is used up at that point. The nicotine from the gum makes its way into your system through the blood vessels that line your mouth.
- If you chew the gum without parking it, the nicotine will be released directly into the saliva in your mouth and you will swallow it. This may cause a stomach ache, hiccups, or heartburn. Also, it may take longer for the nicotine to get into your bloodstream.
Other tips for using nicotine gum
- Avoid drinking beverages, especially acidic ones (such as coffee, juices, and soda pop), for 15 minutes before and after you chew. Your body may not absorb the nicotine well because of the acid in these drinks.
- Follow the written instructions that come with the gum for how many pieces you can use per day. Most people use 10 to 15 pieces a day. (Do not chew more than 30 pieces of the 2 mg gum or 20 pieces of the 4 mg gum a day.)
- Consider using the other materials provided with the nicotine gum. These can help you change your smoking behaviour.
- Avoid the common mistakes of chewing too little gum or stopping use too early. Using too little of the gum will result in withdrawal symptoms similar to those caused by abruptly stopping smoking.
- As the urge to smoke decreases, use fewer pieces of gum each day. When you are using only 1 or 2 pieces a day, stop using the gum completely. However, you may want to keep some nicotine gum with you in case you find yourself in a potential relapse situation.
It is possible to become dependent on nicotine gum, but this is rare.
Nicotine gum does have side effects. Read the package insert before you use this medicine.
Current as of: March 12, 2020
Author: Healthwise Staff
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Brian D. O'Brien MD - Internal Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
John Hughes MD - Psychiatry
Michael F. Bierer MD - Internal Medicine, Addiction Medicine