By: Maayan S. Heller for Uterus1
As anyone who has ever been a smoker will tell you, kicking the tobacco habit is no small task. For women – who often find it harder to quit than men – a drug used to help recovering heroin addicts and alcoholics may make the difference, according to new research out of the University of Chicago.
|When smokers quit, the body begins a series of changes that last cigarette.|
At 20 minutes after quitting:
Blood pressure decreases, pulse rate drops; body temperature of hands and feet increases
At 8 hours:
Carbon monoxide level in blood drops to normal and oxygen level in blood increases to normal
At 24 hours:
Chance of a heart attack decreases
At 48 hours:
Nerve endings start to grow back; ability to smell and taste is enhanced
The benefits only increase as time passes.
The drug, naltrexone, may have worked better for women because it reduced the amount of weight gained after quitting, “which may be more important for women than men,” says Andrea C. King, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry and director of the Clinical Addictions Research Laboratory at the University of Chicago. She was also lead researcher in the study.
In the first month after quitting, women in the study who took naltrexone gained only about one pound, whereas those who were given a placebo gained approximately four pounds. The study, which involved 110 male and female adults who smoked between 15 and 40 cigarettes daily and had also tried and failed quitting several times, was published in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research. It was prompted by a long history of research by King and her colleagues.
“I have been studying the opioid system involvement in alcohol, nicotine, and addiction for the past 10+ years,” says King. Other studies have indicated “women may not do as well in smoking cessation treatment as men, and perhaps other strategies beyond just nicotine replacement may be needed.”
Naltrexone, which was given to about half of the study participants, blocks the effects of narcotics and has been proven to reduce the relapse rate in recovering alcoholics. It is believed that the drug reduces the pleasure sensations in the brain that are linked to consumption of alcohol or narcotics, and thus, diminishes the cravings for those substances.
There were no notable effects in terms of quitting for men who were given the drug, but it made a distinctly big difference for women who took it. Without naltrexone, 39 percent gave up smoking for a week; with it, 58 percent had quit by the first check of quit rates.
Success rates for quitting with other smoking-cessation tools, such as nicotine-replacement patches, gums, pills, and antidepressants, among others, range from 20 to 40 percent. King and her colleagues are already looking further into their findings. The results, she says, “are promising but quite preliminary since the sample size was relatively small.” Her lab is now conducting a larger, comparable study of naltrexone versus a placebo.
Naltrexone is already approved for treatment of alcohol and heroin addictions. In order for it to be prescribed for smoking cessation, it would need to be reviewed by the FDA. King is hopeful. “Perhaps when we complete our current trial, and if we replicate and extend these data, [FDA approval] will be the next course,” she says.
Anyone who smokes should consider quitting and should try to get support. It’s available. “Talk to your doctor or local hospital to see if there are programs,” suggests King. “Or the American Lung Association has programs and information to assist people in quitting.”
No one questions the difficulties of overcoming any addiction, but strides are being made in the effort to discover medical means to help defeat the addiction beast. Remember, warns King, “there is no safe level of cigarette smoking.”
Health benefits of quitting smoking: Oxygen level in blood increases to normal, making you feel less tired and more energetic
Chance of heart attack decreases
Ability to smell and taste is enhanced
Circulation improves and walking becomes easier
coughing, sinus congestion and shortness of breath decrease
Lung cancer death rate decreases by half in 5 years, and is similar to that of nonsmokers after 10 years.
Social benefits of quitting smoking:Fresher breath and brighter smile make you more attractive!
Fresher smelling clothing
As the country continues to move toward fully smoke-free, new non-smokers will be able to enjoy the smoke-free environments that support their new lifestyle and won’t have to worry about attending events where smoking and taking smoke-breaks might be a problem
Many smokers feel ashamed of their habit – quitting will eliminate that shame and will replace it with feelings of pride and self-respect.
Financial benefits of quitting smoking:Based on pack-a-day smoking (20 cigarettes) at $7.30 per pack, in one year you could save up to $2,657.20.
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