Stop smoking medication

As opposed to willpower alone, you're more likely to give up if you use your local NHS Stop Smoking Service combined with stop smoking medication. These include:

  • 8 types of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT)
  • Zyban (bupropion)

All NHS stop smoking medication and support in Scotland is free.

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT)

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is a way of continuing to give your body nicotine without the harmful effects of smoking or chewing tobacco. You can take it in various ways - usually one of the following (often with a patch):

  • patches
  • gum
  • inhalator
  • microtabs
  • lozenges
  • nasal spray
  • mouth spray
  • oral strips/film

NRT works by gradually reducing your body's addiction by using a low dose of clean and therapeutic nicotine. This doesn't contain the other harmful chemicals found in tobacco smoke such as carbon monoxide and tar. NRT should reduce cravings and other withdrawal symptoms.

NRT should be used for an 8 to 12 week period but it's best to check your individual product for guidance. Some long-term NRT users experience mild withdrawal symptoms when they stop using it. NRT is safe to use, even long-term. It's a much better option than returning to smoking as it only contains nicotine.

NRT is available to everyone free from any community pharmacy. This will also give you access to additional support through your prescriber. Medication and support will increase your chances of stopping and staying stopped.

The best way to use NRT is starting from your ‘quit date’. If you haven’t been able to, or don't want to, stop smoking at once on a target quit date, you can use NRT for several weeks alongside ‘cutting down to quit’.

Read more about cutting down to quit

NRT and pregnancy

If you're pregnant, it's best to stop smoking without the use of NRT. If you're struggling to stop through willpower alone, your health professional or smoking cessation advisor may advise you to use NRT.

It's important to talk to your doctor, midwife, pharmacist or stop smoking advisor before using NRT. They can help you to weigh up the risks of continuing to smoke against the benefits of stopping by using NRT.

Any small risk from NRT to mothers and babies is far outweighed by the much greater risk of continuing to smoke during pregnancy.

Read more about smoking and pregnancy


Zyban (bupropion hydrochloride) is a prescription-only non-nicotine medication. It should be accompanied by intensive stop smoking support to give you the best chance of quitting.

You start taking Zyban before stopping, and it works by reducing your cravings for a cigarette and by reducing the reward effect you feel if you do have a cigarette. It also reduces the usual withdrawal symptoms of anxiety and irritability.

Zyban cannot be used with NRT, and cannot be used by under-18s, or by pregnant or breastfeeding women.

Quit Your Way Scotland

Contact Quit Your Way Scotland for advice on choosing the best medication for you.

Last updated:
19 December 2022

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