Ask any smoker, and he will tell you that smoking is one of the most difficult habits to kick. Worse is the fact that even the various medical interventions that are supposed to help come with negative side effects. One of such is the nicotine gum, which is marketed under the brand name Nicorette Gum.
According to General Practitioner, Dr. Timothy Ogbonnaya, on the average, most medicines have side effects, but the hope is that the typical medicine will give the user more positive relief from the ailment than side effects. Experts say this could not be said of nicotine gum as concerns its ability to make smokers quit smoking.
While many ex-smokers say the product actually helped, many more say it is as addictive as the cigarette they want to stop smoking.
Researchers say that the quantity of Nicorette Gum that an individual chews each day may sometimes be influenced by his smoking habits, as he is advised to only chew a piece of Nicorette gum when he feels the urge to smoke.
Consequently, since the typical smoker could light up to 10 sticks a day, it translates into the fact that he could also chew as many pieces of Nicorette gum as that. Yet, physicians warn that by the time you are taking more than 12 gums per day, you are on your way to overdosing.
?At worst, no more than 24 gums should be used daily,? researchers counsel.
Indeed, GlaxoSmithKline, which markets the Nicorette Gum, advises people to ?stop using the nicotine gum at the end of 12 weeks,? and to talk to a doctor if they ?still feel the need? to use it.
And while the Nicorette Gum has not been implicated in cancer formation, scientists warn that nicotine could possibly promote cancer once initiated. They say that despite its much-touted success, nicotine gum also comes with a huge price to health, as it has been linked with various side effects, some of which could sometimes be severe.
What are these side effects? These ones?
Experts at the online forum, quitsmokingcommunity.org, warn that nicotine gum causes nausea and stomach pains.
?It is even worse when the smoker cheats on himself by smoking while also chewing the nicotine gum to enable him quit smoking,? Ogbonnaya says.
He adds that the situation becomes worrisome because, on its own, the nicotine gum contains too much nicotine already. ?This produces toxin in the bloodstream. And when there is toxin in the bloodstream, it will naturally send the body into shock and cause nausea ? just like when an individual consumes too much alcohol,? he explains.
Ogbonnaya says some of his patients who use the nicotine gum have reported experiencing increased heart rate and high blood pressure. ?This is not unexpected, especially among patients suffering from coronary artery disease,? he notes.
He adds that among this category of patients, nicotine gum may cause coronary artery vasoconstriction ? that is the narrowing of the blood vessels.
Decreased insulin sensitivity
Ogbonnaya says, on its own, smoking raises the risk of developing diabetes, because the nicotine in cigarette is capable of reducing the amount of insulin which the body releases. ?When this happens, it can damage the cells, making them less sensitive to insulin. And over time, this can cause high blood sugar levels and diabetes,? he says.
Experts therefore warn that while a nicotine, replacement product, such as the nicotine gum, can be helpful in the short term, it appears that long-term use can cause the same sensitivity to insulin as smoking does.
The American Heart Association says the complication can be worse in individuals who also drink alcohol. ?That is why we advise patients never to start any course of treatment without consulting their doctor. And chewing nicotine gum is a form of treatment that should be done under the supervision of the physician,? Ogbonnaya suggests.
Experts at the National Institutes of Health warn that nicotine enters the body and brain very quickly and causes the body to release adrenaline.
?Adrenaline constricts the blood vessels, speeds up the heart rate and raises blood pressure. But though nicotine gum exposes the body to much lower levels of nicotine than cigarettes, after three months of use, it is important to try to slowly discontinue using nicotine gum,? Ogbonnaya advises.
He warns that those with known heart conditions should not use nicotine gum unless under a doctor?s supervision.
?This warning is important because, even for those without heart disease, long-term use of nicotine gum may contribute to irregular heart rhythms, which can lead to a heart attack,? he avers.
Other side effects
Scientists say nicotine gum users have also reported cases of hair loss, skin irritation, and gastrointestinal issues.
The bottom line: If you don?t smoke, don?t start. If you need help with smoking, see the doctor.