A Genetic Clue to Quitting Smoking

An new direction for pharmacotherapy:

Reporting this week in the Archives of General Psychiatry, scientists describe for the first time a set of genes, about 100 in all, that seem to predict how well a smoker will respond to two different types of quitting programs — nicotine replacement or bupropion (Zyban). Nicotine-replacement methods, including the patch, pill and gum, work by weaning the smoker off nicotine gradually, usually over a period of weeks or months. Bupropion, on the other hand, is an antidepressant, which does not contain nicotine; instead, it works to curb nicotine cravings by interfering with the reward circuit in the brain, where addictions — to nicotine and other drugs, or behaviors — are reinforced. Nationally, about 70% to 80% of smokers say they want to quit, but any single attempt, regardless of the quitting method, is on average only 30% successful.