So, you want to quit smoking, but the nicotine patch your doctor prescribed has not worked for you – you quit for awhile, but started up again. Or the doctor prescribed bupropion (brand name Zyban), but you still couldn’t quit smoking. Quitting smoking – and the effectiveness of these therapies – could be in your genes.
“We have long known that smoking cessation treatments that help some people fail to help others,” says National Institute of Drug Abuse Director Dr. Nora Volkow. “This knowledge may help make it possible to match smokers with the type or intensity of smoking cessation treatment most likely to benefit them.”
The multi-institutional team’s research indicates that for either nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) or for bupropion to work effectively and help a person beat the addiction to nicotine, the individual needs to have a specific variation within their very genes.
“These findings suggest that we may be able to improve the success rate for smoking cessation by using results of simple DNA tests,” said Dr. George R. Uhl of the NIDA, lead researcher of the study released in the June edition of the Archives of General Psychiatry. “Our results provide the first genome-wide evidence that the genetics of successful smoking cessation with bupropion are different from the genetics of successful smoking cessation with NRT.” Uhl is based in the NIDA’s facility in Baltimore, Maryland.
Uhl’s earlier research also indicates there is a relationship between genes he has identified for a vulnerability to drug addiction – and an overlap between those “addiction genes” and the very genes that help a person overcome an addiction. Other genes identified in the study include several expressed in regions of the brain important to learning and memory.
Three smoking cessation facilities were part of the study, at Brown University’s Medical School, the University of Pennsylvania’s Abramson Cancer Center, and Butler Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island.
Nicotine is a highly addictive substance, and the use of tobacco products is linked to the deaths of nearly half a million Americans every year. The NIH projects as many as 25 million currently-living Americans will die from using tobacco such as coronary-artery disease, heart attacks, lung cancer and a variety of other diseases. For more information on the dangers of nicotine and tobacco use, you should visit the NIDA’s website at DrugAbuse.Gov.
The research was supported by the National Institute of Drug Abuse and the National Cancer Institute, and involved multiple research institutions.