A nicotine patch is a transdermal patch that releases nicotine into the body through the skin. It is used in nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), a process for smoking cessation. Endorsed and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it is considered one of the safer NRTs available for the treatment of tobacco use disorder.
Nicotine replacement products including gum and transdermal patches are on the World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines.
A meta-analysis found that fewer than 20% of people treated with nicotine replacement therapy remain abstinent from smoking at one year.
NicoDerm packaging states that their nicotine patch should not be used if: "...you continue to smoke, chew tobacco, use snuff, or use a nicotine gum or other nicotine containing products"(NicoDerm).
The first study of the pharmacokinetics of a transdermal nicotine patch in humans was published in 1984 by Jed Rose, Murray Jarvik, and Daniel Rose, and was followed by publication by Rose et al. (1985) of results of a study of smokers showing that a transdermal nicotine patch reduced craving for cigarettes. Frank Etscorn filed a patent in the United States on January the 23rd 1985 and was issued the patent on July 1, 1986. The University of California filed a competing patent application nearly three years after Etscorn's filing on February the 19th, 1988, which was granted on May 1, 1990. Subsequently, the U.S. Patent Office declared an interference action and, after a thorough review of conception, reduction to practice and patent filing dates, issued on September 29, 1993 a priority decision in favor of the Rose et al. patent.
Research has shown NRT in combination with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can improve the rates of smoking cessation in pregnant women. CBT counseling includes motivational interviewing, Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change, and Social Cognitive Theory.
Studies are being conducted about the use of transdermal nicotine patches to treat anxiety, depression, and inattentiveness in subjects with ADHD[verification needed] and to treat late-life depression.
Two small studies have shown that transdermal nicotine patches improve some symptoms of ulcerative colitis. However, this is not the case with Crohn's disease, a similar health condition, where smoking and nicotine intake in general worsen the disease's effects.
It is important to read the package information and instructions to ensure the nicotine patch is used properly.
Nicotine patches should be placed on a clean, dry, and hairless part of the skin. The patch can be placed on the upper body, such as on the inside or outside part of the arm or the shoulder, or it can be placed on the hip area. When applying the patch, the sticky adhesive part of the patch should make contact with the skin, and the remaining protective covering should be removed. Then, the patch should be pressed into place for at least 10 seconds to ensure that the patch will stick. After application, hands should be washed since nicotine from the patch could linger on the hands, and this could cause further irritation if left alone.
Nicotine patches should be removed and replaced every day at the same time. When removing a nicotine patch, pinch the middle of the patch and press the sticky sides of the patch together. Dispose of the folded patch in a location inaccessible to children and pets. When applying a new nicotine patch, place it on a site that has not had a patch on it in the last few days to prevent skin irritation.
There is no need to remove the patch before bathing or being exposed to water.
A study published in the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine in 2015 found that the most common side effects experienced when using a nicotine patch include: cough, headache, nausea, light-headedness, insomnia, disturbing dreams, sweating, watery eyes, shortness of breath, and skin irritation at the application site. The same study found that the following side effects were reported by patch wearers less frequently: diarrhea, dizziness, coldness in limbs, vomiting, and fast or pounding heart beat. The drug facts label found on Nicoderm CQ patch containers mentions to remove the patch before nighttime to reduce vivid dreams. Additionally, the patch may increase heart rate and blood pressure and could also result in skin irritation. If the patch causes skin irritation that lasts longer than 4 days, if the skin swells, or if a rash forms, the product should be discontinued, and a physician should be consulted for further directions. 
Nicotine patches are available for purchase over-the-counter from various manufacturers, without a prescription.
|NicoDerm CQ patch strength||For a person who smokes less than 10 or exactly 10 cigarettes per day||For a person who smokes more than 10 cigarettes per day|
|21 mg||Do not use this patch strength.||Step 1: Apply 1 patch per day for 6 weeks|
|14 mg||Step 1: Apply 1 patch per day for 6 weeks||Step 2: Apply 1 patch per day for 2 weeks|
|7 mg||Step 2: Apply 1 patch per day for 2 weeks||Step 3: Apply 1 patch per day for 2 weeks|
|Total Patch Treatment Period: 8 weeks||Total Patch Treatment Period: 10 weeks|
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