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The Effects of Long Term Nicotine Gum Use

by
author image Lori Newell
I hold a Master's degree in exercise physiology/health promotion. I am a certified fitness specialist through the American College of Spots Medicine and an IYT certified yoga teacher. I have over 25 years experience teaching classes to both general public and those with chronic illness. The above allows me to write directly to the reader based on personal experiences.
The Effects of Long Term Nicotine Gum Use
Close-up of gum pieces on blue counter. Photo Credit Graça Victoria/Hemera/Getty Images

Overview

Nicotine gum is one of the many products, tools and programs available that can help smokers stop smoking. While challenging, quitting smoking will enhance overall health. Within a day of quitting, heart rate and blood pressure drop to healthier levels and carbon monoxide levels in the blood return to normal. Within weeks, circulation and lung function improve. Within one to five years, the risk of heart disease and stroke is reduced, and in 10 years, the risk for lung cancer is decreased by half. To make quitting easier, nicotine gum can help manage the withdrawal symptoms and cravings that can occur. However, it is only meant for use on a short term basis as there can be negative effects from long-term nicotine gum use.

Decreased Insulin Sensitivity

Smoking raises the risk of developing diabetes. Nicotine can reduce the amount of insulin the body releases and can damage the cells, making them less sensitive to insulin. Over time, this can cause high blood sugar levels and diabetes. While a nicotine replacement product, such as gum, can be helpful in the short term, it appears that long-term use can cause the same sensitivity to insulin as smoking does, claims the American Heart Association. This complication can be exacerbated in individuals who also consume alcohol. However, more research is needed to determine the exact effects of nicotine gum on insulin resistance and how long nicotine gum can be safely used.

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Dependence

Long-term use of nicotine gum can addicting and habit forming, just like smoking, warns Drugs.com, which recommends using this gum for no longer than 12 weeks. Nicotine gum works by delivering only small amounts of nicotine into the body to help control the symptoms and cravings while quitting. However, if used for longer than recommended, an addiction to the gum may occur. Some patients end up using it for years.

To date there is limited research on the health effects of chronic low level nicotine exposure; however, it is important to break the addiction to nicotine altogether. Substituting regular chewing gum occasionally until the nicotine gum can be stopped completely can help. It is not advisable to stop abruptly as this can cause withdrawal symptoms. Since nicotine gum does not address the behavioral reasons why a patient starting smoking, it is important to combine the use of nicotine gum with a comprehensive smoking cessation program.

Cardiac Problems

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. Nicotine gum exposes the body to much lower levels of nicotine than cigarettes; however, the National Institutes of Health suggests that after three months of use, it is important to try to slowly discontinue using nicotine gum. Those with known heart conditions should not use nicotine gum unless under a doctor's supervision. For those without heart disease, long-term use of nicotine gum may contribute to arrhythmias, or irregular heart rhythms, which can lead to a heart attack.

Damage to Dental Work

Using nicotine gum may be contraindicated in those with temporomandibular joint disorders or extensive dental work. The American Cancer Society recommends talking with a dentist or doctor first, to help avoid complications. Chewing the gum too fast, having an improper bite or swallowing the nicotine can all lead to jaw pain and loosening of dental work. This risk increases when using the gum beyond the three to six month recommended period.

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References

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