Thursday, November 16, 2000

UC studies medication to break smoking habit

By Tim Bonfield
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        In addition to searching for genetic links to lung cancer, University of Cincinnati researchers are delving into new ways to break nicotine addiction.

        UC's Center on Smoking and Alcohol Research is recruiting up to 60 heavy smokers to participate in a clinical trial of an unidentified medication intended to help people quit smoking.

        UC is one of six sites nationwide participating in the study, said Dr. Robert Anthenelli, an associate psychiatry professor at UC who is leading the study and serves as director of substance dependency programs at Cincinnati's VA Medical Center.

        “Smoking is a major problem. From 1970 through the early 1990s, we saw about a 1 percent decline in smoking rates a year. Now we've seemed to plateaued,” Dr. Anthenelli said.

        Beyond triggering most cases of lung cancer, researchers have linked smoking to heart disease, stroke and several other kinds of cancer.

        In the Tristate, smoking rates are among the highest in the country. For adult smokers in 1999, Kentucky ranked No. 2, Ohio ranked No. 3 and Indiana ranked No. 8 in the nation, according to a recent report from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

        Quitting smoking has never been easy. Roughly eight of every 10 who try to quit wind up smok ing again within six months. Those who have quit for years-long periods often had to try three or four times, Dr. Anthenelli said.

        But there are more ways to quit smoking now than ever, he said. In addition to traditional support groups and hypnosis therapies, people can buy nicotine patches, gum and inhalers. A prescription drug called Zyban can help.

        At the VA Medical Center, new thinking has emerged to encourage drug addicts and alcoholics to quit smoking at the same time they battle other addictions. For years, the conventional wisdom was that it was better for addicts not to bother with their smoking, Dr. Anthenelli said.

        But since starting a program called “Clean Break” in March, dozens of addicts have tried to give up smoking along with other substances. There have been some early signs of success but the program remains too new for long-term results.

        Meanwhile, more anti-smoking drugs, such as the one UC is studying, are in development. Dr. Anthenelli said the drug maker sponsoring the study has required that the compound remain unidentified.

       For information about the UC study, call 475-OHIO.


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