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Study Finds Near-Bulletproof Quit Smoking Method

Researchers have found what they believe could be the most effective quit-smoking method yet.

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By Bryan Le

07/09/14

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People have tried numerous quit-smoking methods over the years—patches, gum, and hypnosis to name a few—but researchers believe they have discovered the most effective way: a combination of nicotine patches and the prescription drug varenicline.

"We found that in relatively healthy smokers, the odds of achieving successful smoking cessation after 12 and 24 weeks were significantly increased by using a combination of varenicline and nicotine patches compared to varenicline alone," said Professor Coenraad Koegelenberg, the author of the study and a professor at the University of Stellenbosch in Cape Town, South Africa. The study was published in the medical research journal JAMA.

Varenicline works by blocking nicotine's pleasant effects in the brain, which include feelings of relaxation, sharpness, and calm. Combined with nicotine replacement treatments, varenicline can actually help 50% more people quit, according to Koegelenberg.

Researchers randomly gave 446 South African smokers either varenicline and nicotine patches or varenicline with a placebo. They found that 65.1% of the group that received both drugs stayed smoke free for six months after, while only 46.7% of the varenicline-only group did the same.

"The combination [of varenicline and nicotine patches] appears to be safe, although further studies are needed to confirm this," Koegelenberg said. While all study participants experienced nausea, sleep disturbance, skin reactions, constipation, and depression, the varencicline-only group experienced more abnormal dreams and headaches.

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