Drug may help spit tobacco users quit

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 11, 2002

A drug that has shown to help cigarette smokers quit also helps those who chew tobacco kick the habit, according to the results of a recent study by the Mayo Clinic.

Bupropion, an antidepressant, is prescribed to cigarette smokers and Dr. Lowell Dale and researchers thought it may also work for chewing tobacco users.

"We know that the common denominator is nicotine," Dale said. "Even though they're delivered differently, the nicotine affects the brain."

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In a 12-week study, participants were randomly assigned to take bupropion or a placebo. At the end of the study, 44 percent of the participants taking bupropion had quit using tobacco, while 26 of those who did not stopped using it.

The study also found that those using bupropion gained less weight than the other participants. Dale said there could be several reasons for this, including a change in metabolism or change in eating habits.

"This is good news for tobacco users trying to quit," he said. "None of the other agents that help smokers quit -- patches and gum -- have been shown to be as effective for spit tobacco users."

Dale said these results were promising, but is planning another study with more participants next year. The clinic will work with West Virginia University and recruit 220 participants from both areas.

"We are going to be studying this drug in more detail," Dale said.

The drug does not yet have Food and Drug Administration approval for spit tobacco users. However, doctors can still prescribe it for off-label use and make the patient aware that it has not received FDA approval for treatment of their condition, Dale said.

The Mayo Clinic prescribes it for some spit tobacco users in its Nicotine Dependence Center.

The drug has side effects such as insomnia, tremors and heightened anxiety and those prone to seizures should not take it, he said. But the drug is safe for most people, Dale added.

"This opens new ways for people to stop spit tobacco use," he said.

Cari Quam can be reached at 434-2235 or by e-mail at :mailto:cari.quam@austindailyherald.com