4.5 Nicotine Receptor Agonists

Open Resources for Nursing (Open RN)

Nicotine binds to and activates nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, mimicking the effect of acetylcholine at these receptors.

Indications: Nicotine patches are used as an aid to smoking cessation and for the relief of nicotine withdrawal signs and symptoms as part of a comprehensive behavioral smoking cessation program.

Nursing Considerations: Nicotine is a hazardous drug; use safe handling and disposal precautions. Apply one new patch every 24 hours on skin that is dry, clean, and hairless. Remove backing from patch and immediately press onto skin. Hold for 10 seconds. Wash hands after applying or removing the patch. Save pouch to use for patch disposal. Dispose of the used patches by folding sticky ends together and putting in pouch. The used patch should be removed and a new one applied to a different skin site at the same time each day. Do not wear more than one patch at a time. Discontinue use and call provider if an allergic reaction occurs, such as difficulty breathing or rash, or symptoms of nicotine overdose occur, such as nausea, vomiting, dizziness, weakness, and rapid heartbeat.  It may also cause vivid dreams or sleep disturbances.  If these occurrences occur, patients should be counseled to remove the patch at bedtime and apply a new one in the morning.

Patient Teaching & Education: Emphasize that the patient should stop smoking completely while on nicotine replacement therapy to avoid additive nicotine levels higher than smoking alone. Advise patients that participating in a comprehensive smoking cessation program improves success.  If using a nicotine patch, patients should be aware that skin sensitivity at the site of patch placement typically resolves within one hour.[1]

Alert: Advise patient to keep all nicotine products, including used inhaler cartridges, nasal spray bottles, and patches out of the reach of children and pets.

Now let’s take a closer look at the medication grid on nicotine patch in Table 4.5.[2] Medication grids assist students to learn key points about each medication class.  Basic information related to a common generic medication in this class is outlined, including administration considerations, therapeutic effects, and side effects/adverse effects.  Prototype/generic medication listed in the medication grid is also hyperlinked directly to a free resource from the U.S. National Library of Medicine called Daily Med.  Because information about medication is constantly changing, nurses should always consult evidence-based resources to review current recommendations before administering specific medication.

Table 4.5 Nicotine Patch Medication Grid

Administration Considerations
Therapeutic Effects
Side/Adverse Effects
Nicotinic Agonist nicotine patch Hazardous drug; use safe handling and disposal precautions

Check for allergy to adhesives

See administration guidelines in packaging

Use cautiously in patients with recent myocardial infarction, serious arrhythmias, coronary artery disease, severe or worsening angina, hypertension, vasospastic diseases, or peripheral vascular disease

Patients taking monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) require lower dosage

Can cause fetal harm

Used for nicotine addiction by slowly reducing dose and avoiding withdrawal effects Discontinue use and call provider if:

-Allergic reaction such as difficulty breathing or rash

-Irregular heartbeat or palpitations

-Symptoms of nicotine overdose such as nausea, vomiting, dizziness, weakness, and rapid heartbeat


  1. uCentral from Unbound Medicine. https://www.unboundmedicine.com/ucentral
  2. This work is a derivative of Daily Med by U.S. National Library of Medicine in the public domain.


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Nursing Pharmacology Copyright © 2020 by Open Resources for Nursing (Open RN) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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