University of Virginia Addiction Expert Says “No More Excuses” for Not Quitting Smoking

August 14, 2006

Aug. 14, 2006 -- International addiction medicine expert Prof. Bankole Johnson, chairman of the University of Virginia Department of Psychiatric Medicine, was chosen to write an up-to-the-moment overview of new anti-smoking treatments for the current issue of Archives of Internal Medicine (Aug. 14-28, 2006).

In his editorial, “No More Excuses to Delay Treatment,” he notes that medicine is making a sea change in anti-smoking treatments from nicotine replacement therapies to a “novel and potent class of pharmacological agent as an aid to smoking cessation.”

The results of the studies by the Varenicline Study Group demonstrate that varenicline is a novel medication to aid in smoking cessation, he writes.

Dr. Johnson also summarizes other approaches to treating nicotine addiction now in development, including medications and a vaccine. The UVa Center for Addiction Research and Education (UVA CARE) investigated whether topiramate would be effective at reducing nicotine use among alcohol-dependent smokers. (Topiramate is being studied as a drug to curb alcohol urges, as well, at UVA CARE). Those who received topiramate, compared with placebo, during the 12-week treatment period, were significantly more likely to abstain from smoking. These results, which were gathered without advice or counseling to quit smoking being provided, “indicate that topiramate may be a promising agent for the treatment of those who are codependent on nicotine and alcohol,” Johnson writes.

Overall, in terms of nicotine reduction, he writes, “pharmacological and immunological studies are opening up new vistas for safe, efficacious and potent treatments for nicotine dependence.” He notes that “Molecular genetic studies also are investigating how to identify those individuals vulnerable to becoming nicotine dependent and, once they are dependent, the treatments that might work best for them.

“All these advances will deliver real aid to curbing smoking. Now, a smoker who wants help to quit no longer has a legitimate excuse to delay seeking treatment.”