Thursday, July 19, 2007

Stop Smoking Medications

In this day and age, we all want a cure-all pill that will solve all of our woes. We want a stop smoking pill, a diet pill, a little blue sex pill, a heartburn pill an anti-stress pill and an anti-depression pill. Heck if you could make one pill that did all that, you would make Bill Gates look like a pauper! But what stop smoking medications are there available to us?

For the purposes of this article, I am only going to look at the stop smoking medications that have some merit about them and have actually been tested. The herbal, shaman, snake oil remedies and secret formulas are not getting a mention!

The first of the stop smoking medications I want to mention is the nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) approach to quitting smoking. This comes in main forms of 24-hour patch, 16-hour patch, chewing gum, lozenge, microtab, inhalator (a plastic nicotine only 'cigarette'), or nasal spray. The idea is to use this source of nicotine as a replacement to keep your cravings for tobacco under control. The process does not wean smokers from nicotine (which in my opinion, is the only reason why people smoke).

Of the stop smoking medications I am reviewing, this has the least side effects and normally only leaves an unpleasant taste or sensation with the smoker. The nicotine is absorbed through the mucosal linings of the mouth and nose and can cause irritation because these parts of the body are not used to nicotine.

NRT is said to double the rate of success in quitting smoking when compared to people quitting using will power or going cold turkey. That success rate is between 3% and 5% so NRT has a long term success rate of around 6-10%. Not great odds! Of the stop smoking medications I am looking at here, this is by far the weakest medication.

The second of the stop smoking medications I want to mention is zyban, which is often known as wellbutrin or bupropion hydrochloride. Zyban was initially developed as an anti-depressant (which it is still used as) but during clinical trials, researchers found that smokers stopped without any intervention at a statistically improbable rate. In other words, one of the side effects of taking zyban was an increased likelihood of quitting smoking.

Zyban is an incredibly popular drug with over 21 million prescriptions in the US in 2006. The beneficial side effect of zyban helping people quit smoking is countered by the many negative side effects. In larger doses, zyban can cause seizures and there is little tolerance for alcohol too.

Because zyban interacts with a subjects brain chemistry, there is a need for doctors to assess a patients mental health very carefully before prescribing. There are also implications when prescribed with high blood pressure (prevalent in smokers!) and people with heart problems (again, prevalent in smokers!). Zyban was initially seen as the potential 'cure-all' pill but in truth, this is not the case.

Studies have shown zyban is about 15% effect when used in combination with NRT and stop smoking support groups.

Of the three stop smoking medications I am looking at, Chantix is the final and most promising of the three. Chantix is the trade name for varenicline which is also traded as Champix in the UK. But just because is is a promising stop smoking medication, it does not mean it is 'the cure-all'.

Again, like zyban, chantix interferes with the brain chemistry of a smoker, although the exact mechanism as to how this happens is not known. It is thought the chantix blocks off the receptors in the brain where nicotine normally attaches. As a result, the normal smoke and reward cycle associated with smoking doesn't work because the nicotine doesn't get a chance to do what it normally does. As a result, the smoker finds that smoking does not have the benefits it once did so they are inclined to stop.

Pfizer, the manufacturer claims a 44% success rate but other studies have shown a much lower success rate in the order of 20%.

Of all the stop smoking medications out there, chantix is probably the most effective but all of these approaches lack one common requirement. When you quit smoking, no matter which of the stop smoking medications you use, if any, you need to get your mental attitude to smoking and tobacco sorted out. It is possible to stop smoking without any of the stop smoking medications available, as many millions of people do every year - why not try and be one of them.

As ever, if you want to stop smoking, never stop trying. Failing to achieve something only really happens when you stop trying to achieve it.

Pete Howells has written the EasyQuit System that will help any smoker quit tobacco. He also blogs quit smoking advice at Visit to find out more about his incredible process for quitting smoking that boasts 96% customer satisfaction.