Tobacco Research Center at Yale Seeks People Who Want to Quit Smoking

Two new studies by the Center for Nicotine and Tobacco Use Research at Yale (CENTURY) will seek answers to questions such as "why do some women, people who drink, and people who are depressed, find it so hard to quit smoking?" and "why do some smoking cessation drugs work when others don't?"

One study will examine the novel use of an existing drug as a possible treatment for smoking. The other will examine why treatment-resistant smokers find it hard to quit. Both studies are seeking participants who want to quit smoking.

According to published research, a significant percentage of those who smoke a pack or more a day report failure in trying to quit or cut back. Those who are able to quit usually require several attempts.

Both Yale studies address that reality. One study, led by Stephanie O'Malley, professor of psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine, will investigate whether the drug naltrexone, used in combination with the nicotine patch, can help people quit smoking. In addition, the study will look at the effects of naltrexone on the craving for cigarettes, weight gain following quitting, and alcohol consumption.

Suchitra Krishnan-Sarin, assistant professor of psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine, is the lead investigator on the other study, which will try to determine the best treatment for smokers who have a particularly hard time quitting, such as women, drinkers and people who are depressed. Krishnan-Sarin said research shows that these are the subgroups that often relapse.

Participants in this study will join a one-month intensive smoking cessation program that will teach them how to quit, and prevent relapse. It also will reward abstinence from smoking with increasing amounts of money. This program will not use any drugs to assist smoking cessation.

"Rewarding people for not smoking has been shown to successfully reduce smoking rates," said Krishnan-Sarin. "Our experience to date indicates very high quit rates, approximately 90 percent at the end of the first week of not smoking."

O'Malley noted that November 15 is the 25th anniversary of the Great American Smokeout. She said people who are interested in participating in the studies could mark that day by finding out more about the projects.

"The campaign to combat the dangers of smoking and tobacco use has come a long way in the last 25 years, but there are people out there who still need help," said O'Malley, who is also director of the Division of Substance Abuse Research at Yale School of Medicine. "These studies could provide additional information to help those who still have difficulty quitting."

The two studies are part of a five-year $10 million grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The grant has been used to create the Transdisciplinary Tobacco Use Research Center at Yale (TTURC).

Both projects will be supported by an interdisciplinary effort involving investigators with a broad range of expertise. Team members include Yale experts in smoking cessation (Tony George, M.D.); naltrexone and alcohol treatment (O'Malley and Bruce J. Rounsaville, M.D.); weight management (Kelly Brownell); laboratory medicine (Peter Jatlow, M.D.,); and the neurobiology of nicotine dependence (Krishnan-Sarin); cue exposure (Rajita Sinha); and smoking urges in nicotine-dependent people (Ned L. Cooney)

People who are interested in participating in the study should contact Michelle Land at 203-974-7588.