New Drugs, Vaccines May Help Quit Smoking

National Quit Smoking Day is today -- so to inspire you to become a quitter, "Good Morning America" and the American Legacy Foundation are bringing you the latest techniques and strategies out there to help you give up the habit.

There are several new drugs, vaccines and research studies that may give you the help you need.

Nicotine Replacement Therapy

A Duke University study looked at the PET scans of people before, during and after they went on nicotine patches or nic-free tobacco. When the research subjects were on nicotine-free therapies, their cravings were reduced. At the same time, their brain scans revealed a decrease of activity in the anterior cingulate, the part of the brain affected by feelings of attention and reward anticipation When the same people started smoking again, activity in the anterior cingulate shot right back up.

Duke researchers concluded smokers miss the act of smoking -- the inhalation, taste and smell -- rather than the nicotine. Duke's treatment programs work to disconnect the act of smoking from that nicotine reward. This information might help develop more effective ways to use nicotine replacement therapy. Some doctors, for example, have their patients start on the patch or gum before they stop smoking, or when they are trying to cut back.

Rimonabant

For many people, it is the fear of gaining weight that stops them from trying to give up smoking. Rimonabant, a new medicine awaiting FDA approval, may help them. This is the first drug to try to stop the craving before it starts, by blocking the trigger in the brain that makes a person crave food. Researchers believe it also curbs the craving for nicotine.

Varenicline

Varenicline, another drug awaiting FDA approval, also may help smokers quit. Varenicline works like a double agent, fooling the body into thinking it's nicotine. It mimics nicotine when it enters the body, so it's able to cozy up to the nicotine receptors and shield them from any real nicotine that may follow -- and prevent it from taking effect. Varenicline works to reduce cravings for nicotine and helps with the withdrawal symptoms.

Anti-Smoking Vaccines

The anti-smoking vaccines work in two ways. The first is how all vaccines work -- the patient receives an injection of nicotine molecules, which train the body to fight of any further invasions of nicotine. The second kind of vaccine would require dripping specially engineered virus into the patient's nose. The virus would then travel directly into the central nervous system and act like a sponge, soaking up the nicotine before it gives the patient the reward, or the high. NicVAX, a product from Nabi Biopharmaceuticals works on this idea. It has completed phase two clinical trials. The future could see an inoculation against all sorts of drug abuse.

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