For smokers, kicking the habit is probably one of the toughest calls to make, but now, a new study suggests that a class of FDA-approved medications used to improve cognitive impairments from Alzheimer’s disease can help them quit smoking once and for all.
There are several safe drug therapies available to help smokers quit, but three-quarters report relapsing within six months of a quit attempt. In the University of Pennsylvania study consisting of a rat trial and a human trial, researchers Rebecca Ashare and Heath Schmidt studied the effects of two acetylcholinesterase inhibitors, or AChEIs, called galantamine and donepezil on overall nicotine intake.
The rat component showed that pretreating the rodents with an AChEI decreased their nicotine consumption. Consistent with these effects, clinical trial participants taking the AChEI, not the placebo, smoked 2.3 fewer cigarettes daily, a 12 percent decrease, and noted feeling less satisfied with the cigarettes they did smoke.
Schmidt noted that they were very interested in screening potential efficacy of anti-addiction medications in the models. For this study, they looked at potential smoking-cessation medications.
For both drugs, “we were able to show a reduction in total nicotine self-administered,” Schmidt said.
There’s no data to suggest that a clinician treating a smoker should prescribe one of these AChEIs now. But Ashare and Schmidt are forging a path, and, if it leads where they think it might, it could provide smokers yet another option to help them quit.
The study appears in the Nature journal Translational Psychiatry.