(Clarifies attribution in final paragraph, adds dropped word in
Sept 5 Trying to stop smoking? Smokers have
considerably more success when they use nicotine patches or
prescription medications than when they try to go it alone, an
international study found.
Past research has yielded conflicting evidence on the
effectiveness of such aids since they seem to work in clinical
trials, but less so in a real-life setting.
But the current researchers, whose findings appear in the
journal Addiction, found that some quitting aids were linked to
four-to-six-fold higher success rates.
"Smokers in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and the
United States are more likely to succeed in quit attempts when
they use (drugs) or nicotine patch," wrote study leader Karin
Kasza, a statistician at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in
Buffalo, New York, and colleagues.
Kasza and her team surveyed more than 7,400 adult smokers in
the United States, Britain, Canada and Australia on their quit
attempts, including whether they even remembered every time they
resolved to give up cigarettes.
They then tracked these people to see how many had succeeded
in staying smoke-free for at least six months.
About 2,200 people used a prescription medication or
nicotine replacement therapy, but the rest did not.
Among those who used no medication to quit, five percent
managed to stay smoke-free for six months.
In comparison, 18 percent of nicotine patch users, 15
percent of people who used buproprion - an antidepressant - and
19 percent of people who used a medication called varenicline
stayed off cigarettes for six months.
After taking into account factors that could affect people's
success, such as how long and how heavily they had smoked, the
researchers determined that buproprion and the nicotine patch
were each tied to a four-fold increase in quitting success
compared with those who used no medications, and varenicline to
a nearly six-fold increase.
Eight percent of people who used oral nicotine replacement
products, such as gum, stayed abstinent for six months.
Overall, the researchers found, people who tried to quit
without any aids were likely to be younger, have lower incomes,
be less addicted to nicotine and have higher confidence in their
ability to break the smoking habit than those who used aids.
The study does not prove that the medications are
responsible for the greater success in quitting, merely that
people who use them are more likely to quit.
"The disappointing reality is that even when people use
these medications to help them quit, relapse is still the norm.
It's better than nothing, but it's by no means a magic bullet,"
(Reporting from New York by Kerry Grens at Reuters Health;
Editing by Elaine Lies and Paul Tait)