A new study finds that the anti-craving drug, Naltrexone may lessen cessation-related weight gain and negative moods and women who are trying to quit smoking appear to benefit more than men. As a first step towards individualized medicine, scientists are focusing on gender differences in nicotine addiction and in treatment.
Researchers Andrea King and her colleagues of the University of Chicago have added a drug called Naltrexone to traditional methods of quitting smoking like the nicotine patch and counseling. Naltrexone is believed to block the chemical signals that relay pleasure to the brain. The study randomly assigned 110 adult smokers to receive two months of Naltrexone (brand name Revia) or inactive placebo pills in combination with six months of behavioral counseling sessions and one month of the nicotine patch.
But Naltrexone seemed to help the women more than the men. 58% of female smokers taking the drug were able to quit, compared with only 39% of those taking placebos. In contrast, the quit rates in men taking Naltrexone or placebo were almost the same.
"Women seem to be more sensitive to Naltrexone in terms of its decrease in their negative mood symptoms during withdrawal," King says. "Naltrexone also significantly decreased their craving. With men, there was no difference. The nicotine patch for men seems to do the trick." Naltrexone also prevented the weight gain that commonly comes with giving up smoking.
Though Nicotine replacement patches and other smoking cessation medications help most women smokers, scientists are wondering why the nicotine patch is less effective in women than in men. A future study will look at the association between hormones and women's success in quitting.
King said, "even though there is not a lot of statistical power behind the findings, still, the results do provide initial evidence of Naltrexone as a smoking cessation aid in women."