According to research, as many as 60% of people who try to quit smoking will start again within the first week. Some experts believe that by measuring how quickly a person breaks down nicotine, they could help boost their chances of success. Others argue that the cost-effectiveness of extra tests need to be assessed and considered.
It is the addiction to nicotine that typically keeps a smoker hooked, and interestingly different people break down nicotine at different rates. Some scientists believe that those who break the drug down quicker are more likely to crave nicotine and therefore start smoking again.
A study carried out by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania (US) enlisted 1,240 volunteers who wanted to quit smoking. The participants had their blood tested to see if they broke nicotine down at a normal or slow rate, before being given either a nicotine patch, a prescription drug called varenicline or a placebo.
All participants were also given access to behavioural counselling. The researchers found that those who broke nicotine down at a normal rate had better chance of success using varenicline than those using the patches. Those who broke nicotine down more slowly had similar results whichever method they chose, although they reported more side-effects when using varenicline.
One of the lead researchers, Prof Caryn Lerman, said the following:
“If these tests are used, people could have a sizeable chance of success.
“For some people, with normal metabolism of nicotine, the chance of success might be low on the patches but could double if they take the pill while for a third of the population with slower breakdown, cheaper patches might be best.”