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Medication Can Help Quit Smoking

An American study compared the effectiveness and possible side effects of several drugs to help smokers fight the feeling of withdrawal.

The “Tobacco Free Month” operation ends. If you have not managed to quit your last cigarette in these 30 days, do not hesitate to ask for the help of your doctor, a nurse, a midwife or a pharmacist. Because, as Dr. Ivan Berlin, secretary-general of the French Society of Tobaccoology recalls: “Without help, only 5% of smokers manage to quit.”

All former smokers know this: tobacco is a hard drug that is not easily gotten rid of. “Smokers are victims of addiction. Not knowing how to stop is not a simple matter of will, ”said Professor Daniel Thomas, spokesperson for the French Tobacco Society. Today, there are several drugs to help smokers fight the feeling of withdrawal. Their effectiveness and their possible serious neuropsychiatric adverse effects were compared in a study, called “Eagles” and published last April by The Lancet. The results of this study were presented during a Pfizer symposium at the congress of the French Society of Tobaccoology in Lille in early November.

“The only risk of an overdose of nicotine is to be nauseous. So do not hesitate to supplement the patches with oral forms to cope with the irrepressible urge to smoke ”

Daniel Thomas, spokesperson for the French Tobacco Society

Nicotine substitutes, the most frequently used because over the counter, confirm their safety in use but their effectiveness remains disappointing. In fact, only 16% of smokers are abstinent after 24 weeks. These results should however, be qualified by specialists. “These studies only show the specific effect of the drug. However, we know that, in the case of smoking cessation, support will increase the chances of success, ”analyzes Professor Daniel Thomas. In addition, this specialist recalls that the doses of nicotine used in practice by tobacco specialists in the most dependent people are much higher than those defined by the marketing authorization. “The only risk of an overdose of nicotine is to be nauseous. So do not hesitate to supplement the patches with oral forms to cope with the overwhelming urge to smoke that can occur during the day. Just as it is useless to tear your nicotine patch off if you fall for a cigarette, ”says Professor Daniel Thomas.

At the same time, tobacco specialists recommend extending nicotine replacement for as long as necessary. “It can sometimes last several years,” says Dr. Ivan Berlin.

The “Eagles” study, conducted at the request of the American health authorities, also looked into the case of two controversial drugs for their psychiatric adverse effects: varenicline (Champix) and bupropion (Zyban). Against all expectations, the study, which included more than 8000 smokers, is reassuring for the two molecules. It also highlights the greater effectiveness of varenicline in stopping smoking, even if only one in five smokers is abstinent after 24 weeks.

Weaning aids are therefore essential tools for being able to quit smoking but in no case miracle solutions. As for the now essential electronic cigarette, if it appears to have its place in the anti-smoking arsenal, the proofs of its effectiveness have yet to be demonstrated. What doctor Ivan Berlin hopes to be able to do in the coming months by launching a study comparing electronic cigarettes, placebo, and varenicline.

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