Israeli Researchers Discover New Method to Quit Smoking

August 7, 2019

3 min read

As one of the most addictive substances in the world, nicotine imprisons and endangers hundreds of millions of people around the world who want to kick the habit but find it difficult to give up tobacco. 

Using one’s willpower, taking smoking-cessation courses, using nicotine gum and patches are various ways to succeed, but for those who fail, taking pills such as varenicline (commercially known as Champix) can be an effective way to escape the clutches of nicotine. 

A new study conducted at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center and just published in The Lancet journal has shown that changing the method of smoking cessation using pills doubles the percentage of long-term smoking cessation. 

Today, the standard treatment method in the world for varenicline is taking pills for three months, after which the patient stops lighting up all at once in the second week of using Champix. The drug is meant for people who are motivated to give up smoking but have not yet been successful.

The new study proposes changing the method of treatment by adding another six weeks of taking the drug combined with a gradual break in the number of cigarettes.

In a study led by Prof. Gabriel Izbicki, director of the hospital’s lung institute, it was decided to examine whether extending the drug- treatment time and changing the smoking cessation process would affect the success of giving up smoking.

Every year, in Israel, more than 8,000 people die from smoking or being exposed to others’ tobacco smoke. The average life expectancy of smokers is 12 years shorter than nonsmokers, but Israel is among the few Western countries where smoking is stable or even on the rise.

Champix is ​​a drug designed to quit smoking. According to Prof. Izbicki, this is the first drug that works on the neuropsychological basis of nicotine dependence. The drug binds to nicotine receptors and inhibits the release of dopamine in the brain, thereby reducing the pleasure of smoking as well as nicotine withdrawal symptoms. “We have at my hair justice clinic for smoking cessation and dealing with its damage and I have only one recommendation: do not smoke.”

A total of 242 patients were included in the study. All patients received the drug for an additional six weeks beyond the usual three months. Half of the patients were given Champix drug and the rest an inert placebo. All patients were advised to stop smoking gradually rather than all at once.

“The results showed that for the group who took the drug and gradually reduced the number of cigarettes each day, the long-term withdrawal rate was higher,” Izbicki noted. “The detox rate in the placebo group was 15.7%, while in the group that received extra Champix therapy and a gradual decline in cigarettes per day, the cessation rate was 36.4%. This is a very significant difference statistically and clinically,” he continued. 

Giving up smoking with or without treatment can cause various symptoms including changes of mood such as feeling depressed, irritable, frustrated or anxious. It can cause sleeplessness and difficulty concentrating, decreased heart rate and increased appetite or weight gain.

The most common side-effect associated with Champix is nausea. Other common side effects include headache, difficulty sleeping, and abnormal dreams. Champix use may also produce dizziness and sleepiness. 

In addition to publication in the medical journal, the study was presented before an international conference attended by approximately 18,000 pulmonary physicians worldwide. 

A smoking-cessation clinic has been functioning for a decade at the hospital’s lung institute. Both groups and individuals have been treated, with more than 40% succeeding in kicking the habit. The unit also leads many studies on smoking cessation. In addition, all of the institute’s physicians have for 15 years been speaking as volunteers to youngsters in schools about the dangers of tobacco. 

Smoking is the most common preventable cause of death in the world. Each cigarette contains about 4,000 chemicals and 50 carcinogens, including cadmium, arsenic, formaldehyde, lead, benzene DDT and cyanide. Contrary to the prevailing myths, there is no form of nicotine that does not cause damage to health. Hookahs and rolling tobacco cause the same damage to cigarettes. Electronic cigarettes are addictive and can turn young people into chronic smokers. 

Lung cancer is a disease that would almost disappear from the world if nicotine did not exist. Fully 85% of lung cancer patients have a history of smoking.  

About one-quarter to one-third of smokers will eventually develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), in which patients feel as if they were breathing underwater. Initially, patients feel short of breath with exertion and cough. Smokers who started lighting up at 18, on average and are today about 40 or 45 years old do not always associate smoking with their cumulative damage but tend to attribute the sensations to other causes and their age. Some patients become dependent on oxygen balloons as the disease progresses. 

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