Get Help from Medications

Medications that can help you quit can double or even triple your chances of quitting for good. They help to reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings for tobacco. Talk to your healthcare provider about medications and counseling that can help you quit. Using a combination of quit medications and counseling can make you up to four times more likely to stay quit than using nothing!  

Tobacco Addiction in the Brain  

Nicotine is the chemical in tobacco that causes addiction. Tobacco products also contain many other harmful substances that can impact your health. 

When you smoke, the nicotine goes quickly through your bloodstream to your brain. In your brain, nicotine triggers the release of chemicals that create a buzz of pleasure and energy.  

As you continue to smoke and use tobacco, your brain needs more nicotine to get the same pleasurable feelings. In between cigarettes or other tobacco use, the brain chemicals released by tobacco decline. This can leave you feeling irritable, foggy, and uncomfortable. When you quit tobacco, these feelings of discomfort can continue, and you may also have trouble sleeping. This is all part of the process called nicotine withdrawal. The cycle of using tobacco in order to get nicotine to release chemicals in the brain to prevent withdrawal is what leads to tobacco addiction. About 80% to 90% of people who smoke regularly are addicted to nicotine.  

Illustration of the effect of nicotine on the brain.
How Medications Can Help 

The medications described below all act on parts of your brain to help reduce the symptoms of withdrawal that people get when they stop smoking or using tobacco. These medications that can help you quit are sometimes known as "tobacco cessation medications," “quit smoking medications,” or just "quit medications." They work in different ways, and you should talk with your healthcare provider about which one is best for you.  

Talk to Your Healthcare Provider 

Talking with a healthcare provider is a great first step in quitting tobacco. They will be able to work with you to determine the treatment option that is best for you, including medications and counseling. Discuss with your provider what the best type of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) or other quit medication might be right for you and what dosage they recommend. Tell them what medications and other quit methods you have used in the past and how you responded to them; how much you currently smoke, dip, or chew; and any other medical conditions you have so that you can find a medication and quit plan that works for you and your life. Here are some questions to ask your provider when discussing medications: 

  • When do I start the medication?  
  • How long is the medication used for? 
  • How do I properly use the medication? 
  • What happens if I slip and use tobacco while taking this medication? 
  • What are the potential side effects? Is there anything I can do to minimize them? 
  • Is this medication right for me, given my medical history? 

Don’t Forget Counseling 

Quit medications can help reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms, but they won’t do all the work. To give yourself the best chance for success, combine medication with counseling. Counseling helps you change your daily routines to avoid using tobacco. It also can help you think differently about your triggers and give you strategies and skills to handle stress and anxiety without picking up a cigarette, pouch, or can. Counseling can be in person or through phone or telehealth sessions with a provider at your VA medical center or clinic, or through the free telephone quitline at  
1-855-QUIT-VET (1-855-784-8838). Find a counseling resource here or ask your provider for advice. 

Types of FDA-approved Quit Medications 

VA offers Veterans all the quit smoking medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Use this locator to find a VA facility in your area or you can also sign in to My HealtheVet and send a question to your VA primary or mental healthcare provider. If you don’t receive health care from VA, check your insurance plan to see if it covers quit smoking medications. 

VA has patient medication guides that describe how to use NRT and other quit smoking medications. Always use medications as prescribed by your healthcare provider.