Want to stop smoking? New research suggests you may have more success if you start taking a smoking cessation medication several weeks before you actually try to quit.
A clinical trial at the University at Buffalo Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) found that smokers who took the medication varenicline, marketed as Chantix, for four weeks before they actually tried to quit smoking achieved more success than those who took the medication for just one week before quitting, which is the standard treatment.
The study, recently published in Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics, focused on 35 women and 25 men from Western New York who smoked a pack of cigarettes a day.
“Varenicline was designed to make smoking less rewarding, and our data suggests that it does that better when people take it for a few extra weeks before quitting,” says Larry W. Hawk, Jr., PhD, lead author and associate professor of psychology in the University of Buffalo College of Arts and Sciences.
“If this finding holds up in larger studies, it could have a major impact on public health.”
“We saw nearly full compliance, which suggests that this is not only a well-tolerated therapy, but one people can realistically stick with,” adds co-author Martin C. Mahoney, MD, PhD, associate professor of oncology in RPCI’s Departments of Medicine and Health Behavior.
Mahoney notes that many of the study participants reported mild nausea — which may have helped reduce the desire to smoke. The nausea typically goes away after a few weeks, he adds.
“Whether through changes in taste or nausea, it seems this extra varenicline reduces smoking rates before people try to quit,” Hawk says. “These changes should make it easier to quit smoking, but we also know that it takes some period of time for this new learning to occur. That’s why we decided to see if a longer period of treatment with varenicline before smokers tried to quit would result in better outcomes, and it did in this small study.”
The researchers also found that women who took varenicline for four weeks were more likely to reduce their smoking, possibly because they reported more nausea. After three weeks of treatments with varenicline, women reduced their smoking by more than 50 percent, on average.
The men who took the varenicline for four weeks reduced their smoking by 26 percent. The researchers say that much larger studies are needed to tell whether the gender differences are real.
“This study suggests we may be able to take the most effective smoking-cessation treatment we have and make it work 50 percent better, just by giving the medication for a few weeks before smokers attempt to quit,” concludes Hawk.
Source: University at Buffalo