New hope for the hopelessly addicted

If you’re like most of those still smoking, who have tried pretty well everything and decided to “quit quitting”, a new study may give you some hope of beating the weed. A study published yesterday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) indicates that nicotine replacement therapy linked with counselling is effective in helping one-quarter of smokers butt out once and for all. Big deal, you might say, but these are actually very impressive results.

“There are 6.7 million Canadians dependent on tobacco and the vast majority of them want to quit,” says Dr. Robert Reid, Health Promotion Consultant at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute. “Most people try to quit without any assistance, even though fewer than five percent will succeed in the long term.”

The study involved approximately 400 smokers using the nicotine replacement therapy patch. Results demonstrated the success rates of the patch and how they improved when the patch was combined with counselling sessions, either in person or over the telephone.

Phone counselling is an increasingly important option for many smokers. The results of this study have helped shape the structure of phone couelling programs. The University of Ottawa Heart Institute has a longstanding program to help smokers with the Stop Smoking Now! program. Immediately after calling the toll free number listed on the package of Nicotrol patches, smokers receive an information booklet and “coping card,” followed by a phone call from a registered nurse trained in addiction counselling.

Over the next 10 weeks, they get four pre-scheduled calls from their counsellor, and a series of bulletins timed to coincide with the challenges commonly faced by someone who is quitting smoking. The bulletins address the following topics: Urges and Cravings; Weight Wellness; Managing Stress; Getting Help from Others; Handling Lapses & Relapses. The entire counselling structure, including the materials and calls, are provided free of charge as part of the Nicotrol smoking cessation program.

Smokers should know that Nicotrol and other patch products as well as nicotine gum is now available without a prescription in most provinces.