Nicotine Patches

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A nicotine patch helps you quit smoking. The patch looks like a large bandage. The outer part of the patch sticks to your skin, while the inner part presses against your skin and slowly releases nicotine into your skin.

Patches may also give you a constant dose of nicotine for either 16 or 24 hours. The 24-hour patch may cause sleep problems, such as trouble sleeping or unusually vivid dreams. Removing the patch a few hours before you go to sleep may stop the sleep problems.

Here's how to use the patch.

  • Read the directions.

    Read and follow the directions that came with the medicine as well as any directions your doctor gave you.

  • Choose the correct patch.

    Choosing the right patch strength is important to your success in quitting smoking. The starting patch size depends on how much you smoke now. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist for more help choosing the right patch strength.

  • Apply the patch to your skin.
    • Put the patch on a clean, hairless place on your skin between your neck and your waist, such as your upper arm, your shoulder, or your back.
    • Do not apply the patch to the same place over and over again. Find several locations and rotate among them. This will reduce problems with skin irritation.
  • Change the patch every day, and wear it all day.

    It's important to use a new patch each day and to wear the patch all day. Do not put it on and remove it as a substitute for a cigarette. Do not remove it in order to smoke a cigarette.

  • Change the patch size and strength as the directions say. Changes in size and placement of nicotine patch over time.
    • Many brands come with different-sized patches that have different strengths of nicotine.
    • Use the patches as the directions say. Generally use the:
      • Large patches for the first few weeks.
      • Medium-sized patches for the next few weeks.
      • Smallest patches—which have the least nicotine—during the last few weeks.
    • With other brands, you use the same size of patch every week and then simply stop using the patch.
  • Use the patch as long as you need to.

    The patches are usually used for 8 to 10 weeks, but it can vary with each person and with the brand of patch. If you feel you need to use the patch for a longer period of time, talk to your doctor.

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Current as of: November 15, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.

The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.