What follows are the words of a 44 year-old woman addicted to Nicorette gum. "Originally I took it to quit smoking. I now have a major addiction to Nicorette, severe hair loss (have lost over 50% of my hair), high blood pressure (for which I now have to take high strength medication), severe problems with teeth and jaw from constant chewing (had to have 2 teeth pulled out and enamel has eroded). Previously I had perfect blood pressure (120/80), my teeth were excellent (not even a filling), and I had beautiful thick curly hair!"
"Nicorette did help me to quit cigarettes initially," she writes but "I have been addicted to Nicorette chewing gum now for over 16 years!! My doctors cannot explain my severe hair loss or my extremely high blood pressure. My diet is healthy, I exercise regularly and all my blood tests show up fine. But after reading all of these entries I now understand what the problem is. It is the nicotine I am ingesting!! I chew 2mg x 10 pieces of Nicorette each and every day!! Sometimes more. Would I recommend this product? NO ABSOLUTELY NOT! It is very expensive, very addictive, and destroys your health!"
Nicorette Hair Loss Common
This woman's eyes were opened by reading 150 Nicorette user comments posted at AskAPatient.com. Clearly, user symptom complaints such as those listed at AskAPatient.com do not reflect objective medical science. But given the massive scientific void in failing to research nicotine's long-term heath consequences, user observations afford the only evidence currently available.
AskAPatient.com asks Nicorette nicotine gum users to fill out a form rating their Nicorette use satisfaction, why they were using it, the side effects experienced and any additional comments. All submissions are then displayed in summary fashion. This lady is not alone. Nearly a third of responding long-term Nicorette users expressed hair loss concerns.
A 40 year-old female Nicorette user for 2.4 years writes, "My hair for the last year has been falling out in clumps! My hairdresser found a bald spot 2 weeks ago. A shot of cortozone in my scalp where the bald spot is and it continues to fall out."
"I am very concerned about my hair loss as I used to have thick hair," writes a 39 year-old 2 year female user.
"Severe hair loss for about a year now has me wondering if the gum is causing this," writes a 48 year-old 3 year female user. "Started out with about 6 pieces a day, now chew about 15 pieces of 2mg per day. Probably more nicotine than when I smoked. The hair loss is really really upsetting, Mom had full head of hair as do brother and sister so don't think it is genetic."
I was "wondering if Nicorette has something to do with my recent hair thinning," writes a 1 year male Nicorette user. "I don't know why it would randomly start happening at age 28. There seems to be thinning in different areas, almost patchy thinning." "Does the numb feeling I get on the top of my head when taking Nicorette have something to do with the hair loss?"
A concerned 62 year-old 10 year female user reports "extreme hair loss." "Please anyone out there, does your hair ever come back or blood pressure return to normal if you quit chewing?"
Nicotine is a known vasoconstrictor of the body's extremities but the effects after smoking are normally rather short lived. Still, bloodflow in the fingers becomes so diminished that their temperature can reportedly drop up to 7 degrees. While a 1996 study suggests a link between smoking and hair loss in men, there was no link seen in smoking women. But nicotine gum use can result in more stable blood serum nicotine levels with slightly lower spikes yet higher troughs than seen with smoking. Ease of NRT use may also result in greater nicotine intake and increased tolerance that may not have been seen in short-term smoking cessation studies. Could this result in hair loss? Don't expect such a study any time soon. Why? Because any researcher whose study findings significantly damage pharmaceutical industry nicotine gum, patch or lozenge profits will never receive industry funding of their research again.
Rashes, Reddening and Acne
One user reports bug bite like skin rashes that can last a few months on the face, neck or arms. Another reports an abdominal rash. A 38 year-old 13-month female chewer writes about "horrible acne - for the very first time in my life I have really really terrible skin. It is so embarrassing to be in your 30's and look worse than a teenager. It's definitely the gum. Within 24 hours of cutting down to a couple of pieces a day, my face looked better, and it cleared completely in less than a week... It's close to impossible to quit chewing this stuff."
A 51 year-old female who has used gum for 7 years reports hair loss and skin reddening. "I looked like I had a sunburn. I blamed it on menopause although I knew it's real cause." A 38 year-old 7 year male user reports "a nasty rash across my belly and sides over my ribs." "My rash is very troubling and is killing my social life."
Damaged and Missing Teeth, Crowns, Root Canals, Gum Disease and Jaw Harms
Studies tell us that the average smoker loses 5.8 more teeth than non-smokers, and that it takes years of non-smoking before an ex-smoker's risk of tooth loss equals that of a never-smoker. What we don't yet know is nicotine's role. We know that as a vasoconstrictor nicotine squeezes blood vessels, which often masks and hides gum bleeding until nicotine use ends. Symptoms of periodontitis can include breath odor, gums that bleed easily, appear shiny or bright red, are swollen or tender when touched but otherwise painless, or loose teeth.
Nicorette dental injury assertions abound at AskAPatient.com. "I heavily used Nicorette in the late 1980's," writes a 10 year female gum user. "I had to have several dental fillings replaced and then get root canals/crowns."
In "1998 I noticed the back of my front teeth had a groove and were worn so thin that it looked like they might break in half," writes an 11 year user. "It ended up costing me $25,000 in reconstruction done on my upper teeth. I still did not realize that it was the gum that had created it."
"My jaw is messed up. I can't open my mouth without extreme pain," writes a 24 year-old 1 year gum user.
"For the last couple of years dentists accused me of grinding my teeth, aka bruxism," wrote a 33 year-old 4 year user. "It turns out it is the stiff, tough chewing gum of Nicorette. It caused some serious trauma to my teeth. I have cracks in a couple teeth. I have exposed dentin. Many dentists don't have a clue. It first starts out that your teeth are sensitive at the base where the gum meets the teeth. Why? Imagine king kong shaking the empire state building... the windows on the bottom floors would burst first."
User Reported Nicotine Gum Use Symptoms
Complaints among long-term nicotine gum users (one year or greater) responding at AskAPatient.com include: addiction with intense gum cravings, anxiety, irritability, dizziness, headaches, nervousness, panic attacks, hiccups, ringing in the ears, chronic depression, headaches, heart burn, elevated blood pressure, a rapid or irregular heart beat, diabetes, insulin intolerance, sleep disruption, tiredness, a lack of motivation, a heavy feeling, recessed, bleeding and diseased gums, diminished sense of taste, tooth enamel damage, tooth loss, jaw-joint pain and damage (TMJ), canker sores with white patches on the tongue or mouth, oral cancers, bad breath, dry mouth, sore or irritated throat, difficulty swallowing, swollen glands, bronchitis, stomach problems and pain, gastritis, severe bloating, belching, achy muscles and joints, pins and needles in arms and hands, uncontrollable foul smelling gas that lingers, a lack of energy, loss of sex drive, acid reflux, stomach ulcers, fecal impaction from dehydration, scalp tingling, hair loss, acne, facial reddening, chronic skin rashes and concerns about immune system suppression.
Other Health Concerns
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration is not blind. It has seen industry commercials and knows that nicotine gum is now being marketed as both a great tasting supplement to smoking and a permanent stand-alone harm reduction solution. Sadly, this is being done without any meaningful long-term research regarding the consequences of long-term NRT use or the influence of harm reduction marketing in fostering youth nicotine addiction.
Recent studies raise a host of nicotine use concerns that most users will not notice until it’s too late. Researchers are concerned that nicotine is a super toxin that appears to destroy brain gray matter, prevent unhealthy cells throughout the body from dying natural deaths (apoptosis), promotes lung, breast and pancreatic cancer, hinders bone healing, induces angiogenesis which causes plaque build-up within arteries to harden, and that it accelerates tumor growth rates.
"I started chewing Nicorette 15 years ago," writes a 45 year-old male. "I was fit and healthy dispite being a smoker. Twelve years ago I was diagnosed with insulin intolerence. Today I take 3 drugs for diabetes. No matter what weight loss I have managed, my diabetes is getting worse. After reserching I am begining to suspect it is my addiction to Nicorette.I now have to inject myself with Victosa and have noticed my diabetes control is not based on my food intake but the amount of gum I am chewing."
A 38 year-old user is worried about immune system suppression. "The last three to four months I have been sick with viruses and bacterial illnesses more than any time in my life." A 42 year-old 5 year male user believes the gum is responsible for a "lower white blood cell count." "I get sick all the time due to this." "My doctor always asked me 'do you smoke?' I tell him no. He says, 'you get bronchitis a lot'. Bottom line, the gum is no good for you. It will have long term effects."
"This is not the person taking the gum but his wife writing this to you. The mood swings got worse. He started getting panic attacks more and more. He has now suffered two slight strokes which the doctors can't understand why because he doesn't have the markers to have them." She lists her husband as a 53 year-old twelve year gum user.
And then there is an unexplained spleen rupture in a 40 year-old 10-year male user.
Addiction Most Distressing Side Effect
"Its effects remind me of the ring's effects on Gollum in Lord of the Rings: 'my precioussss...'," writes a 48 year-old 12 year female gum user who chews 20 4mg pieces per day. "It insidiously hooks you and eats away at you from the inside. I used it to give me energy and see me through stressful times but it ended up being the most important thing in my life."
"The most distressing side effect is addiction," writes a 52 year-old ten-year Nicorette female user. "The expense is ridiculous and a total scam. What makes me think that some of the drug company's profit is going back to the tobacco companies?"
Her partnership suggestion is much closer to truth than she may realize. Have you ever noticed that never once have you heard a Nicorette commercial suggest that smoking is bad for you? Since about 1984 Nicorette's maker (then Dow Chemical) has had an agreement with the tobacco industry not to directly attack smoking or try to get all smokers to quit, but to only market Nicorette to those wanting to quit, without being anti-smoking when doing so (see documents evidencing agreement: 7/13/82, 7/7/84, 10/25/84, 12/17/84, 1/22/85, 9/4/85, 9/6/85, 9/6/85, 9/25/85, 12/16/85, 1/8/88, 5/8/91, 8/1/91 and 4/23/98).
This is essentially a non-compete marketing partnership that creates an artificial marketing climate which totally ignores the importance of why smokers need to quit smoking. Its purpose is to protect tobacco industry sales. There is no denying that the pharmaceutical industry is actively engaged in protecting cigarette industry profits.
"I am addicted to Nicorette, maybe even more than when I was to smoking. Help," pleads a 10 year user. "Nicorette Gum is extremely addictive," writes an 11 year user. "Totally addicted" claims a 53 year-old 9 year female user. "Severely addicted" says a 38 year-old 6 year male user. "I am addicted to the gum and the addiction is escalating," claims a 42 year-old 3 year female user.
"Me and my husband quit smoking about a year ago," writes a 24 year-old 1 year gum user. "Its really frustrating to know that we quit one addiction to begin another, which is not any cheaper. I swear its more addicting than cigarettes. I wont lie, we love the fruit chill flavor, and I’m so glad that we are no longer smoking. But I hate that despite my headaches and jaw pain, I still have to chew it."
"I now know getting off of Nicorette will be as hard as quitting smoking for me," writes a 36 year-old 12-year female user. A 32 year-old 3 year male user who chews 40-50 pieces a day thinks he may "chew more than anyone in the world." "There is one in my mouth 24/7 ... yes for real! I was addicted to heroin for 3 years and I can verify that this stuff takes the cake in what is the most addictive substance known to man."
Since 1984 Nicorette has assured users that risk of addiction is rare. "There is little risk of transferring nicotine dependence from tobacco onto the NRT product," Nicorette's 2000 website proclaimed. "That's because blood concentrations of nicotine peak more slowly and reach much lower levels than those achieved from cigarettes." While the graphs then presented evidenced higher peak nicotine concentrations from smoking they also showed higher average concentrations with nicotine gum.
But two 2003 studies would compel Nicorette to invent a new way to answer nicotine addiction concerns. The first, a March 2003 study, combined and averaged all over-the-counter nicotine patch and gum studies and found that only 7% of users were still not smoking at 6 months. Yes, a 93% relapse rate.
The second was a November 2003 study by the same lead authors. It had two important findings. It found that up to 6.7% of Nicorette gum quitters were still persistently using Nicorette gum 6 months after quitting smoking. Combining the results from the two studies raises the disturbing question, does any smoker break free of nicotine while still using it or do nearly all success stories remain hooked?
The second finding totally destroyed Nicorette's ability to argue that gum addiction is rare. Actual Nicorette store sales findings compelled researchers to admit that, "36.6% of current gum users are engaged in persistent use." Picture a steady stream of newly hooked gum quitters (6.7%) flowing into a larger lake of users hooked on the cure (then 36.6%).
The Frequently Asked Questions section of the 2006 version of the Nicorette website posed this question: "If nicotine is the problem, why should I use a nicotine gum?" The answer was that, "Nicorette doesn't contain any of the other addictive substances ... found in cigarettes. This is why Nicorette is safe enough to be sold without a doctor's prescription." The problem is that no addictive substance other than nicotine has yet been identified in tobacco.
"I'm addicted to it I can't stop," writes a 26 year-old five year female user. "I'm slowly poisoning myself. No one apart from my boyfriend believes me. Without it, I fall apart. I called the UK stop smoking helpline, they suggested it was psychological! Why do cigarettes in the UK carry warnings and the gum just have requires will power? Will power to quit smoking or to quit the gum? Am I supposed to start smoking again?"
"Nicorette is highly addictive," writes a 37 year-old 2 year female user. "More money and more health issues including sore throat and canker sores. Thank you Nicorette. You should be sued!"
Most advocating the nicotine gum and lozenge as cigarette harm reduction measures suggest that marketing pushing fruit, candy and coffee flavored Nicorette will have little or no impact in promoting youth and non-smoker nicotine addiction. Almost all national youth surveys continue to fail to ask youth and adults about NRT use. "I originally tried Nicorette because I was experiencing incredible daytime sleepiness in college," wrote a female user. "I became addicted which is unfortunate as I have never once even tried a cigarette. I have been using it for 4+ years. I wish it hadn't been available over-the-counter."
Some advocating NRT as a harm reduction measure suggest that dual use of both cigarettes and NRT is uncommon. A 54 year-old 5 year gum user appears to have spent the last two years mixing smoking with Nicorette. "The gum is more addicting than cigarettes. Now I am double-addicted. It is too easy to make excuses to oneself when its 'just gum!' Advice - don't try Nicorette."
A 44 year-old male chewer of twenty 2mg pieces a day for 10 years reports that he "started and stopped and smoked again, and started and stopped and smoked again, and started and stopped and smoked again. Finally, I decided that the ills of chewing could never be as fatal as smoking."
"My doc said it was fine to continuing chewing because it was less damaging than smoking. I now have severe TMJ, which has caused quite the bout with anxiety. I now have switched to the 2mg lozenges (to reduce the jaw damage) while I will try and quit nicotine replacement for ever," writes a 36 year-old male 5 year user.
Many websites are now advocating the nicotine gum and lozenge as smoking harm reduction measures. But try to locate where any of them try to help those who follow their advice after user symptoms teach them that living the cure can feel worse than the disease.
"I can not get off it and I am chewing 30 pieces of 2mg a day! It's awful and there should be more help to get off the gum," writes a 32 year-old 2 year female user. "There is no contact us button on the website and when you phone up they sound like you are the only one who has this problem."
Children Teased With Candy Flavored Nicorette
"Cinnamon Surge" Nicorette that's "coated for an intense rush of bold cinnamon flavor," "Fruit Chill" Nicorette that's "coated twice for an intense fruit flavor with a hint of mint," and new Cappuccino Nicorette are now moving into America’s schools.
"I think the flavored approach is to our detriment. Fruit chill and cinnamon make the stuff taste too good and I think the makers of Nicorette know that," writes a 37 year-old 3 year user. "I used Nicorette gum for 6 years, it is extremely addictive and expensive," writes a 50 year-old female. "The manufacture comes out with new flavors and keeps everyone hooked."
Limit Access to Nicotine Products
"I decided to try Nicorette in college," writes a 29 year-old female user. "I had never smoked before (not even once), and became addicted. 7 years later, I am still addicted and have a host of physical problems including high blood pressure. This medication should not be available without a prescription."
"Put it behind the counter, cover it with insurance, or make it unavailable. The drug company is breeding a whole new addiction just like their tobacco company compatriots," writes a 52 year-old 10 year female user.
I strongly suggest every pharmacy checks IDs since this is an over-the-counter drug," says a 30 year-old 1.5 year male user.
Hidden Long-Term Price
A 45 year-old ten year user writes, "I have tried asking the chemist staff about long term effects of using Nicorette and there doesn't appear to be any data on this."
She's correct. It will never be in pharmaceutical industry’s economic interests to conduct research showing the scope and gravity of nicotine’s harms.
"I am embarrassed to post this, but I started Nicorette when it first came out over 20 years ago," writes a 42 year-old female who has chewed for 22 years. "At the time, it was by prescription only and my co-pay was $5! I have been addicted to this gum longer than I ever smoked cigarettes. I do not recommend anyone to start it Not only is it extremely expensive now, but it is EXTREMELY ADDICTING!!!"
AskAPatient.com References Protected by Copyright 2008 Askapatient.com
Last updated November 21, 2012
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Reader E-mail, Discussions & Related Articles
09/29/09 - I am writing because I was reading about some of the people and there comments on this Nicorette gum. My mother 76 years has used this gum for 9 years she always said it was addicting. I always thought it was in her head. She just lost 25% of her small intestines because of the gum. Her surgeon is quite sure. At first he thought the inflamation was caused from her artritis. She has rumatoid arthritis. But after getting the pathology report back he is sure it is from the gum usage for so many years. Because it constricts the blood vessels. And that is what the pathology shows. This come needs to be with perscription only. She used it to quit smoking years ago when it was prescribed. She could not quit the gum after two years her doctor would not refill her subscription so she started smoking again. Then it became available without a subscrition so she quit smoking and has used the gum ever since. She also has had these small sores that take months to go away and the extreme hair loss. I had no idea this gum was so addicting and dangerous. I agree they should be sued. along with the FDAC for alowing this without a subscription. People need to be aware of this. Pamela
10/28/09 - Nicorette, Commit lozenge and NicoDerm CQ cancer scares - Imagine researcher horror upon discovering levels of cancer causing chemical NNN in the urine of nicotine gum and lozenge users that were 7, 31, 36 and 728 times higher than when smoking. Still, keep in mind that this was only one carcinogen versus the 81 thus far identified in cigarettes.
11/03/09 - Nicotine causes x3 cancer growth, x9 spreading and x3 regrowth - New animal nicotine patch study authors conclude: "Our results also show that a commercially available nicotine transdermal patch can promote the growth of tumors implanted into mice."
01/20/10 - Has anyone experienced a reverse of hair loss, high blood pressure and awful gas after quitting the nicotine gum? Since there are so few, if any, studies out there, the feedback may need to come from people's personal experience. I too had always had perfect blood pressure 110/70, no disease, a decent head of hair and not generally gassy up until the last few years. My hair started thinning (noticeably) 3 -4 years ago, my blood pressure went up to 199/120 a year and a half ago and now I am on medication although my diastolic hasn't been reduced to a more normal level on meds and I still spike even though I am on the medication, I was diagnosed with Renaud's(loss of BP,circulation in the fingers and toes when it gets cold) last year and have extreme bloating and the most awful gas in the last year regardless of diet. No one could explain any of this since I had been relatively healthy, no meds, thin to medium physique and today only 47. I had smoked from 1981 until 2001 when I quit. I had chewed the gum, which I had by prescription, in places I couldn't smoke-planes, meetings etc. I have chewed the gum since 2001 4mg and too many/per day than I want to admit to. I too never knew nicotine gum could harm me this way. I have cut back in the last 10 months, but am still experiencing all of the above effects.Since reading this site today, I am going to work to get off the gum (if I can) over the next few weeks. Please, has anyone experienced any reversal?? Thank you and I wish everyone success in getting off of nicotine. Signed: D
03/25/11 - I have recently been reading alot of your articles, and must say they make me feel better. I have been using the Nicorette Gum for almost three years now..(SICK)! I have quit a few short moments in there in between, but relapsed with it right away. I have made it seven days without the gum, but am very antsy to say the least. I am a marathon runner, and eat healthy and I am just soooo sick of taking care of myself in all aspects but can not break away from something I know is not good for me. The money alone is ridiculous, and I am spending all this money to eat organic and healthy and then put that crap in my mouth. I am writing to you to see if you had any other suggestions as to help me get through this. I associate so much with this gum, its like a demon in my head ... a gum after a meal, a gum with coffee, the gum to deal with any emotion? Its driving me insane but I am determined this time. Five years ago I broke the bonds of addiction to ETOH that was a complete walk in the park compared to this. I was 215 pounds then and a mental mess. Since then I have lost 90 pounds am running marathons and mentally feel better than I ever have ... except this darn gum. Can you offer any other techniques or anything? Just wanted to thank you for all your articles of posting the truth. They truly are helpful. Elizabeth
12/05/11 - I recently quit Nicorette gum (2 mg, icy white) after 17 years of continuous chewing in 6 countries and four languages. Quite suddenly, as I could no longer face being enslaved. I was out on a run before attending a Remembrance Day service in University Parks, Oxford, when I decided that it was over. That was on November 13th. I have not chewed since. I have had major withdrawl symptoms – and it's been brutal because I have not really had any support. If you can believe this, my husband is not really aware I have had this addiction as I am a covert chewer. My kids don't know. Only a few friends have found out because I was in a lot of discomfort the first few weeks. I then began reading about NRT -- a subject that I could not address directly while I was addicted because it was too disruptive to my fantasy identity (ie, I AM AN ATHLETE NOT A SMOKER). I wanted to tell you that your research and writing on the subject has been very enlightening. I have tried to talk to the Nicorette people. Johnson and Johnson sent me a medical release form — they want some info from me about symptoms I had on the product. They were completely useless about engaging with the true topic — that I replaced one addiction with another and remained hopelessly addicted to nicotine for 17 extra years. There is not much literature out there about effects of Nicorettes — though I developed a salivary stone, often had a racing heart, high blood pressure and palpitations. In any case, I wanted to thank you. I have not read everything you have written, obviously, but wanted you to know that I now read you each time I hear a nasty little voice suggesting that a half a piece of gum would clear my head and help me focus on my work. Thank you, FreeAtLast!
04/18/12 - First study proving that nicotine causes cancer and hair loss - Injecting mice for two years with levels of nicotine sufficient to cause 30 percent hair loss caused 78 percent of mice to develop cancer.
07/04/12 - After 5 years of addiction to this gum I am currently approaching 72 hours of being gum free and the withdrawal has just about subsided. I thought it would be much more difficult as when I originally tried to quit pipe tobacco but apparently withdrawal from Nicorette is not as intense. I decided to quit after reading a number of stories by people (google: "long term effects of nicorette gum use") who were also long term users and who expressed the same symptoms I was starting to have (i.e. loss of hair, acne, shortness of breath, heart palipitations, fatigue, elevated blood pressure, dry skin, intestinal problems and problems with my eye's). So after only 3 days of quitting Nicorette I have experienced the following: very sleepy as my brain and body tissue is getting much more oxygen concentration in my blood, TINGLING SENSATION IN MY FACE AND EXTREMITIES which after 44 years are finally getting blood flow to those areas, easier breathing, no more sore throat or cough. I do feel out of focus. As I said, it has not been that difficult and I was always highly addicted to nicotine in the past. Ron Overholt
12/03/12 - I was chewing the gum for over 15 yrs. It ruined my teeth ... then I got off of the gum and am now addicted to the lozenges, and have discovered I now have ulcers on each side of my cheek. I've been smoke free for all of these years, but now need to find a way off of the mints. I've tried to suck on other mints....without the nicotine...but can't seem to keep myself off of the lozenges. Now I believe that is the cause of my ulcers in my cheeks. Wish there was more help other than the other aids available, I do not want to go backwards...nicotine is highly addictive....any which method you get it. From, Phyllis, An Addict.
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