Trying To Quit Smoking? These 8 Natural Ways Kill Nicotine Craving


Share on Facebook Select Language ▼ Smoking is a highly harmful habit, which causes 90% of all lung cancer deaths. More than 1.1 billion people in the world smoke tobacco, and it kills up to 50% of them (ASH). The deadly consequences of tobacco use are due to the inhalation of more than 7,000 ingredients, like arsenic, carbon monoxide (it displaces oxygen on hemoglobin in red blood cell, so cells do not get the needed oxygen), butane (in lighter fluid), and tiny glass particles ( which cut up the lungs to improve nicotine delivery).

The inhalation of these chemicals causes lung-related issues, like lung cancer or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and the plaque deposits might also cause heart diseases, like heart attacks or congestive heart failure, as they damage the heart and blood vessel integrity. Moreover, nicotine also increases cortisol (the stress hormone) and DHEA (the ‘all is good’ hormone) levels, but chronically elevated cortisol levels weaken the immune system. This detrimental habit also contributes to: Insomnia Infertility Hormone imbalance Gastrointestinal issues Blood sugar issues Osteoporosis Nicotine easily becomes addictive, and the withdrawal symptoms which appear quickly after you extinguish the cigarette are edginess and irritability, so you reach for a new one. It actually crosses the blood-brain barrier and leads to pleasant feelings by releasing dopamine.

8 Natural Ways To Kill Nicotine Cravings For Anyone Who Is Trying To Quit Smoking

This addiction is extremely powerful, and some even claim that it is more difficult to quit smoking than to give up the use of cocaine or heroin (ACS, 2015). Many of the negative effects of smoking might be due to the depletion of essential antioxidants, like vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, glutathione, ubiquinol, and alpha-lipoic acid, which collect the additional free radicals and other oxidant species which result from smoking. Additionally, the negative effects of smoking cannot be relieved with the use of supplements, as the best way to supply the body with the needed nutrients is through the consumption of healthy foods.

There are several methods which can help you in the struggle to quit smoking and soothe the withdrawal symptoms. Here are the 8 most effective ones: 1. Magnesium Magnesium reduces the nicotine addiction by antagonizing NMDA receptors, which stimulate the release of the dopamine. This mineral also lowers the effects of nicotine on the NMDA receptors by improving GABA (our relaxing neurotransmitter) synthesis. This means that magnesium will reduce the satisfaction you get from smoking. 2. Hypnotherapy Hypnosis is an altered state of consciousness where one bypasses certain aspects of reality and feels compelled to follow cues from an external source. Therefore, it can help you relate smoking to unpleasant stimuli, and thus accelerate the process of quitting. 3. Acupuncture Acupuncture has been found to help people who try to give up smoking, and the insertion of needles on certain places linked to the mouth, lungs, and airways, lowers the cravings for the taste of tobacco. 4. Exercise Studies have shown that 5-minute moderate-intensity workout causes a short-term reduction in the desire to smoke. 5. Nicotine Patch Numerous people have tried nicotine patches and claim they are really helpful. It has also been found that these patches are even more effective when combined with drugs like varenicline and bupropion. The doses are determined by the number of cigarettes one smokes daily, and how frequently one smokes. 6. Lime Chewing the skin of a lime slice when the cravings hit, will help you reduce them, as they are high in vitamin C and antioxidants. 7. Olfactory Training Researchers exposed smokers to the smell of cigarettes and rotting eggs or fish while they are in Stage 2, non-REM sleep for a week, and they smoked less during this period. 8. Mindfulness Studies have shown that the practice of ‘sitting’ through difficult scenarios, like cravings or withdrawal symptoms, helps smokers give up smoking more easily.

How Behavioral Economics Can Produce Better Health Care


Handwashing is important for doctors, and sometimes they need nudges to do it.

Consider the following.

I’m a physician at the end of more than a decade of training. I’ve dissected cadavers in anatomy lab. I’ve pored over tomes on the physiology of disease. I’ve treated thousands of patients with ailments as varied as hemorrhoidsand cancer.

And yet the way I care for patients often has less to do with the medical science I’ve spent my career absorbing than with habits, environmental cues and other subtle nudges that I think little about.

I’ll sometimes prescribe a particular brand of medication not because it has proved to be better, but because it happens to be the default option in my hospital’s electronic ordering system. I’m more likely to wash my hands — an activity so essential for safe medical care that it’s arguably malpractice not to do so — if a poster outside your room prompts me to think of your health instead of mine. I’ll more readily change my practice if I’m shown data that my colleagues do something differently than if I’m shown data that a treatment does or doesn’t work.

These confessions can be explained by the field of behavioral economics, which holds that human decision-making departs frequently, significantly and predictably from what would be expected if we acted in purely “rational” ways. People don’t always make decisions — even hugely important ones about physical or financial well-being — based on careful calculations of risks and benefits. Rather, our behavior is powerfully influenced by our emotions, identity and environment, as well as by how options are presented to us.

People overwhelmingly tend to stick with default options when given a choice (organ donation rates are over 90 percent in countries where citizens need to override a default and opt out of donation compared with 4 to 27 percent where they much choose to opt in). People are more sensitive to losses than commensurate gains (losing $100 feels twice as bad as winning $100 feels good). We tend to overvalue the present (most of us prefer one free coffee now to two free coffees next week). And more choice isn’t always good (people are less likely to buy a product if they’re given dozens of options instead of just a few).

We in the medical community have only recently started to explore how behavioral economics can improve health. As with any hot field, there’s always the possibility of hype. But these insights might be particularly valuable in health care because medical decision-making is permeated with uncertainty, complexity and emotion — all of which make it hard to weigh our options.

A leader of this movement is Dr. Kevin Volpp, a physician at the University of Pennsylvania and founding director of the Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics. He designs randomized trials around some of health care’s most important challenges: nudging doctors to provide evidence-based care; ensuring patients take their medications; and helping consumers choose better health plans.

“There’s starting to be a broad recognition that decision-making environments in health care could better reflect how doctors and patients actually make decisions,” he said.

Dr. Volpp, whose work is used by both the public and private sector, recently collaborated with CVS Caremark to test which financial incentives are most effective for getting employees to quit smoking. Employees were randomly assigned to one of three groups. The first was “usual care,” in which they received educational materials and free smoking cessation aids. The second was a reward program: Employees could receive up to $800 over six months if they quit. The third was a deposit program, in which smokers initially forked over $150 of their money, but if they quit, they got their deposit back along with a $650 bonus.

Compared with the usual care group, employees in both incentive groups were substantially more likely to be smoke-free at six months. But the nature of the incentives mattered. Those offered the reward program were far more likely to accept the challenge than those offered the deposit program. But the deposit program was twice as effective at getting people to quit — and five times as effective as just pamphlets and Nicorette gum.

Getting the incentives right is important in helping people quit smoking. 

Parting with your own money is painful. But it is effective.

That’s also a lesson in Volpp-led research on getting people to lose weight and exercise more. One recent study gave incentives to patients by entering them into lotteries or into deposit contracts for meeting weight loss goals. Those in the lottery group were eligible for a daily lottery prize with frequent small payouts and occasional large rewards — but only if they clocked in at or below their weight loss goal. People in the deposit group invested their own money (generally a few dollars a day), which was then matched by researchers. They’d get their money back — and then some — if they met their goal at the end of the month.

At four months, both incentive groups had lost more than three times as much weight as the control group (about 14 pounds versus four pounds), but the deposit group lost slightly more than the lottery group. A similar study found that patients were more likely to walk 7,000 steps a day if they were given an upfront payment — part of which had to be returned each day that they didn’t meet their exercise goal — compared with lotteries, rewards or old-fashioned encouragement.

Other work has highlighted the power of defaults — which in health care can have life-or-death consequences. And perhaps nowhere is doctors’ default tendency more apparent than in our bias toward aggressive end-of-life care that favors quantity over quality of life.

With this in mind, researchers studied whether the type of end-of-life care patients choose is influenced by how we present the options. Terminally ill patients were randomly assigned to complete one of three advance directives: The first group received a form with the comfort-oriented approach preselected; the second had the aggressive care box checked; the third had both options left blank. Patients were free to override the default and select any option they preferred.

Nearly 80 percent of patients in the comfort default group chose comfort, while only 43 percent in the aggressive care default group did. (Sixty-one percent of patients without an embedded default opted for comfort.) It seems, then, that even critically important decisions about how we want to live our final days are affected by what comes pre-ordered on the menu we’re given.

Health insurers are also betting that behavioral economics can improve quality and lower costs. Blue Cross Blue Shield (B.C.B.S.) of Massachusetts is using a variety of behavioral economics concepts to pay its doctors — including peer comparisons and bonus payments for continuous improvement instead of absolute thresholds. In Hawaii, B.C.B.S. is experimenting with joint incentives for doctors and patients to meet diabetes care goals.

Start-ups are jumping into the nudge game, too.

The Brooklyn-based start-up Wellth, for example, has developed an app to reward patients for taking their medications. Nearly a third of prescriptions in the United States are never filled, and about half of all patients don’t take their medications as prescribed — even after life-threatening illnesses like heart attacks. Every year, medication nonadherence causes 125,000 deaths and costs the health system up to $289 billion.

Wellth thinks it can help patients manage themselves.

“We want to give them immediate, tangible rewards for healthy behavior,” said Matthew Loper, the company’s C.E.O. and co-founder. “But ultimately, we’re in the business of habit formation. We want behaviors to stick.”

Say a patient is discharged from the hospital after a heart attack. She downloads the Wellth app, and the company deposits $150 into her account, which she gets to keep if she takes all her medications for three months. Every morning, Wellth sends her a reminder to take her pills. If she snaps a selfie while taking her medicine, she keeps the money.

If she forgets, she gets additional notifications over the course of the day, and maybe a text or two. If she misses the day’s assignment altogether, she loses $2. If she misses several days in a row, she loses $2 for each day and gets a phone call in addition.

A more complete view of human behavior seems necessary for more effective medicine. Health is fundamentally the product of myriad daily decisions made by doctors and patients, and by uncovering what truly motivates us, we may be able to nudge one another toward wiser decisions and healthier lives.

Source:www.nytimes.com

Lime Juice and 8 Other Natural Ways To Quit Smoking


Lime Juice and 8 Other Natural Ways To Quit Smoking

Compelling reasons to stop smoking far outnumber effective ways to do so. Even with recent revelations that tobacco is contaminated with the highly carcinogenic radioisotope polonium-210, the addictive hold it maintains on millions of smokers worldwide who already know it causes premature death and cancer is far more powerful than the desire for self-preservation, it would seem.

This is why effective, natural interventions for smoking cessationare so needed today and why we are excited to report on a new study involving a solution that can be found not at your local pharmacy, but at your local grocer’s fruit stand.

In a new study published in the Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand titled, “Efficacy of fresh lime for smoking cessation,”[i]researchers from the Department of Medicine, Srinakharinwirot University, Thailand tested the effectiveness of fresh lime as a smoking cessation aid compared with nicotine gum.

100 regular smokers aged 18 or older who were willing to quit were entered into a six-month long randomized, controlled trial, receiving either fresh lime (47) or nicotine gum (53) over the course of the study. Smoking reduction was confirmed through measuring exhaled carbon monoxide (CO), with measurements at weeks 9-12 being the primary outcome. Severity of craving was also measured using a visual analogue scale.

The results of the trial showed that there was no significant difference in abstinence rates between the groups during weeks 9-12, although they did observe that “7-day point prevalence abstinence at week 4 of the fresh lime users was statistically significant lower than those using nicotine gum (38.3% vs. 58.5%; p = 0.04). They also found fresh lime users tended to report more intense cravings than the nicotine gum group, but the number of cravings were found not to differ significantly between the groups.

The report concluded, “Fresh lime can be used effectively as a smoking cessation aid, although not as good as nicotine gum in reducing cravings.”‘

Lime

Lime, of course, is an easily accessible and non-toxic alternative to nicotine gum, and physiologically has a number of ‘side benefits,’ including alkalinizing the tissues, which are normally more acidic in tobacco users to begin with.  It is also an anti-infective agent, having been demonstrated to have significant antimicrobial activity against multiple strains of drug resistant E. coli,[ii] and inhibiting the survival of Vibrio cholera, the pathogen that contributes to cholera, in foods;[iii]another nice ‘side benefit’ considering smokers often have compromised immunity.

Lime Juice and 8 Other Natural Ways To Quit Smoking


Lime Juice and 8 Other Natural Ways To Quit Smoking

Compelling reasons to stop smoking far outnumber effective ways to do so. Even with recent revelations that tobacco is contaminated with the highly carcinogenic radioisotope polonium-210, the addictive hold it maintains on millions of smokers worldwide who already know it causes premature death and cancer is far more powerful than the desire for self-preservation, it would seem.

This is why effective, natural interventions for smoking cessation are so needed today and why we are excited to report on a new study involving a solution that can be found not at your local pharmacy, but at your local grocer’s fruit stand.

In a new study published in the Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand titled, “Efficacy of fresh lime for smoking cessation,”[i] researchers from the Department of Medicine, Srinakharinwirot University, Thailand tested the effectiveness of fresh lime as a smoking cessation aid compared with nicotine gum.

100 regular smokers aged 18 or older who were willing to quit were entered into a six-month long randomized, controlled trial, receiving either fresh lime (47) or nicotine gum (53) over the course of the study. Smoking reduction was confirmed through measuring exhaled carbon monoxide (CO), with measurements at weeks 9-12 being the primary outcome. Severity of craving was also measured using a visual analogue scale.

The results of the trial showed that there was no significant difference in abstinence rates between the groups during weeks 9-12, although they did observe that “7-day point prevalence abstinence at week 4 of the fresh lime users was statistically significant lower than those using nicotine gum (38.3% vs. 58.5%; p = 0.04). They also found fresh lime users tended to report more intense cravings than the nicotine gum group, but the number of cravings were found not to differ significantly between the groups.

The report concluded, “Fresh lime can be used effectively as a smoking cessation aid, although not as good as nicotine gum in reducing cravings.”‘

Lime

Lime, of course, is an easily accessible and non-toxic alternative to nicotine gum, and physiologically has a number of ‘side benefits,’ including alkalinizing the tissues, which are normally more acidic in tobacco users to begin with.  It is also an anti-infective agent, having been demonstrated to have significant antimicrobial activity against multiple strains of drug resistant E. coli,[ii] and inhibiting the survival of Vibrio cholera, the pathogen that contributes to cholera, in foods;[iii] another nice ‘side benefit’ considering smokers often have compromised immunity.

Additional evidence-based natural aids for smoking cessation include:

Lime Juice and 8 Other Natural Ways To Quit Smoking


Lime Juice and 8 Other Natural Ways To Quit Smoking

Compelling reasons to stop smoking far outnumber effective ways to do so. Even with recent revelations that tobacco is contaminated with the highly carcinogenic radioisotope polonium-210, the addictive hold it maintains on millions of smokers worldwide who already know it causes premature death and cancer is far more powerful than the desire for self-preservation, it would seem.

This is why effective, natural interventions for smoking cessation are so needed today and why we are excited to report on a new study involving a solution that can be found not at your local pharmacy, but at your local grocer’s fruit stand.

In a new study published in the Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand titled, “Efficacy of fresh lime for smoking cessation,”[i] researchers from the Department of Medicine, Srinakharinwirot University, Thailand tested the effectiveness of fresh lime as a smoking cessation aid compared with nicotine gum.

100 regular smokers aged 18 or older who were willing to quit were entered into a six-month long randomized, controlled trial, receiving either fresh lime (47) or nicotine gum (53) over the course of the study. Smoking reduction was confirmed through measuring exhaled carbon monoxide (CO), with measurements at weeks 9-12 being the primary outcome. Severity of craving was also measured using a visual analogue scale.

The results of the trial showed that there was no significant difference in abstinence rates between the groups during weeks 9-12, although they did observe that “7-day point prevalence abstinence at week 4 of the fresh lime users was statistically significant lower than those using nicotine gum (38.3% vs. 58.5%; p = 0.04). They also found fresh lime users tended to report more intense cravings than the nicotine gum group, but the number of cravings were found not to differ significantly between the groups.

The report concluded, “Fresh lime can be used effectively as a smoking cessation aid, although not as good as nicotine gum in reducing cravings.”‘

Lime

Lime, of course, is an easily accessible and non-toxic alternative to nicotine gum, and physiologically has a number of ‘side benefits,’ including alkalinizing the tissues, which are normally more acidic in tobacco users to begin with.  It is also an anti-infective agent, having been demonstrated to have significant antimicrobial activity against multiple strains of drug resistant E. coli,[ii] and inhibiting the survival of Vibrio cholera, the pathogen that contributes to cholera, in foods;[iii] another nice ‘side benefit’ considering smokers often have compromised immunity.

Additional evidence-based natural aids for smoking cessation include:

 

How to Quit Smoking and Using Tobacco


Many treatments and resources can help you stop using tobacco, including medications and counseling. But the first step in quitting is to commit to quit. Then, you need to set a plan. Having a plan increases your chances of quitting successfully. A strong plan will include:

  • A quit date
  • Plans for dealing with situations that make you to want to smoke or use tobacco
  • A support network

Talk with your doctor about putting together a treatment plan to help you quit. Remember, it may take several attempts to successfully quit tobacco use. Don’t give up.

Medications

Using medication can at least double your chances of quitting smoking. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved several medications to treat nicotine addiction. If you have health insurance, medications to help you quit tobacco use may be covered.

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). NRT is the most widely used medication for quitting. It has mild side effects and is available over the counter and by prescription. NRT lessens the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal and cravings. Your doctor will help find the best dose for you based on your current smoking habits. NRT comes in several forms:

  • Gum
  • Lozenges
  • Skin patches
  • Inhalers
  • Nasal sprays

Bupropion (Wellbutrin, Zyban). This medication can reduce withdrawal symptoms. Common side effects include dry mouth and difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep.

Varenicline (Chantix). This medication reduces withdrawal symptoms and keeps you from enjoying nicotine if you start smoking again. Common side effects include nausea, vivid dreams, constipation, and drowsiness.

Counseling

In addition to medication, counseling can be used to help with stopping tobacco use. Counseling increases your chances of successfully quitting. Your doctor can refer you to a professionally trained counselor or mental health therapist. A counselor can help you set up a tobacco-free environment and change behaviors and identify triggers that make you want to use tobacco. It is helpful for people who:

  • Have tried several times to quit but have not been successful
  • Experience severe feelings of anxiety or depression
  • Do not have enough support from family and friends to quit
  • Are dependent on alcohol or other substances

Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurers cover different types of tobacco-quitting programs and offer different coverage levels. Talk with a nurse, social worker, or other member of your health care team to learn what may be covered through your insurance policy. If you do not have insurance, these people can help you explore other options.

Mobile apps

If you want a little extra help in stopping your tobacco use, you can try using a mobile app for your smartphone, laptop, or other mobile device. Studies have shown that using app  like this can help motivate you to reach your goal. There are a lot of apps available, but only some of them offer reliable, science-based support. Some apps actively try to encourage people to smoke more! Be sure to choose apps carefully, and when in doubt, ask your health care team for guidance. A list of a few mobile apps is located in the Resources to Help You Quit section.

Electronic cigarettes and other forms of tobacco

Some people think that switching to smoking electronic cigarettes will help them quit smoking tobacco cigarettes. Electronic cigarettes are also known as e-cigarettes and vapor cigarettes. E-cigarettes vaporize a nicotine fluid, which mimics the smoke that comes from burning tobacco in traditional cigarettes. This is why some people refer to using e-cigarettes as “vaping.”

E-cigarettes are a relatively new product, and the market is changing rapidly. There are thousands of e-cigarette devices and liquids available. E-cigarettes are currently not regulated by the FDA. There are also no regulations or quality controls guiding the manufacturing of the devices. The FDA does not approve their use as a way of quitting smoking. In 2015, ASCO and the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) issued a joint statement on electronic nicotine delivery systems or ENDS. ASCO and AACR agree that there is not enough scientific research to say that this is a safe and effective way to quit tobacco use and do not endorse their use as a quitting aid. More research is needed to understand if e-cigarettes can harm or improve health.

In addition to e-cigarettes, some people think about going from smoking cigarettes to smoking pipes or cigars instead. This is not an effective way to stop smoking. All forms of smoking tobacco, including pipes, cigars, and cigarillos, contain carcinogens and are not safe alternatives to cigarettes. Waterpipes, or hookahs, present the same dangers as other forms of tobacco smoking, even though the smoke is first passed through water. In fact, smoking through a waterpipe can expose you to higher amounts of toxins than smoking cigarettes.

Smokeless tobaccos, such as chewing tobacco, snuff, snus, and dissolved tobacco, are also not an effective way to stop tobacco use. Many people feel that smokeless tobacco is less dangerous than smoking cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and cigarillos. However, even smokeless tobacco products contain nicotine and other chemicals that increase the risk of cancer, particularly oral cancer.

Have realistic expectations

Different people will have different experiences with stopping tobacco use. However, it is helpful to prepare yourself for the reality of what it is like to stop using tobacco.

When you first stop, you will likely experience the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal. Common symptoms of nicotine withdrawal include:

  • Urges to smoke
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Restlessness
  • Increased appetite
  • Anxiety
  • Feeling depressed

These symptoms are usually at their strongest in the first few days after quitting. About 1 to 2 weeks after stopping, the symptoms will usually lessen. However, if you have a strong addiction to nicotine, these symptoms may last for weeks or months. Some people have mild withdrawal symptoms, whereas others have moderate or severe symptoms. The uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal often draw people back to tobacco use. Even many years after successfully quitting tobacco use, people have gone back to a smoking habit because they’ve been exposed to other people smoking. Overcoming a nicotine addiction can be a life-long process. Do not be afraid to ask for help and support coping with the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal.

The Best Way to Quit Smoking, According to Science


Quitting cold turkey was 25% more effective than gradually cutting down on cigarettes

Three Cigarettes
Researchers have long sought for answers on the best way to help people quit smoking. Often, it comes down to two options: quitting cold turkey or gradually tapering a smoking habit. But which one works better?

“A lot of people think that the common sense way to give up smoking is to reduce the amount they smoke before quitting,” says Nicola Lindson-Hawley of the University of Oxford, who led a new study published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

But the results suggested just the opposite: quitting cold turkey is best.

Lindson-Hawley and her colleagues looked at almost 700 people in England who smoked at least 15 cigarettes a day but who were planning to quit. They all set a quit date for two weeks. Half of them were randomly assigned to smoke normally until their quit date, then to stop abruptly. The other half gradually reduced their smoking over the two weeks leading up to the appointed day. Both groups had behavioral counseling, nicotine patches and nicotine replacement therapy from products like gum, lozenges and mouth spray.

The way the researchers measured success was by looking at smoking abstinence for four weeks after the quit date, and then six months later.

Those who quit abruptly stuck to it the best—about 25% better than the gradual-cessation group. And 49% of the abrupt group were successful, while 39% of the gradual group were.

At the half-year mark, 22% of the cold-turkey group were still smoke-free, while 15% of the gradual group were.

Interestingly, more people said they preferred to quit gradually rather than abruptly. But a person’s preferences didn’t make much of a difference in their success. “Even if people wanted to quit gradually, they were more likely to quit if they used the abrupt method,” Lindson-Hawley says.

The research didn’t look at other potential forms of smoking cessation, including e-cigarettes, which have yet to be definitively proven as an effective smoking cessation tool. And even though quitting cold was better, Lindson-Hawley says, “the quit rates we found in the gradual group were still quite good.” In future research, she plans to explore the methods of gradual quitting to see if they can be made more effective. “If there are people who really feel they can’t quit abruptly, and they want to quit gradually—otherwise they won’t try to quit at all—we still need to support them to do that.”

This Vaccine Could Help You Quit Smoking .


Quitting smoking is really hard—even with the advantage of medication, just 25 percent of people can stay smoke-free for six months. That’s because nicotine, the primary chemical in tobacco that can act as both a stimulant and a sedative, is one of the most addictive substances there is. To help those trying to quit, scientists came up with the idea of a nicotine vaccine that can train a smoker’s body to attack nicotine molecules before they reach the brain, eliminating their effect and, thus, the person’s desire to smoke. Now researchers from the Scripps Research Institute in California have developed a more effective nicotine vaccine, according to a study published recently in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.

Smoking
Nicotine vaccines aren’t a new idea—a few years ago, two were tested in clinical trials. But those ended because the vaccines weren’t very effective, working in just 30 percent of patients. A few years ago, the same Scripps scientists created a more effective vaccine by slightly tweaking the molecules to which the body forms an immunity. All molecular compounds have a “handedness,” which refers to how the different chemical components fit together, and the researchers created a vaccine for only the left-handed nicotine molecule, which is by far the most common. That change made the vaccine 60 percent more effective in mice, according to a study published last year.

Now the researchers have worked to further improve the vaccine by altering the molecules that alert the immune system, over time training it to attack nicotine. They determined that, with just the right concentration of carrier proteins and nicotine molecules, the mice developed a robust antibody response, showing that the vaccine was working. In addition, the mice showed a “severely blunted” response to nicotine when dosed with the vaccine.
In future studies the researchers plan to investigate the physical dynamics between the various molecules in the vaccine and the immune system to determine the concentration of antibodies necessary to make the vaccine work. They also plan to test the vaccine on rats, which they say will provide them with “better insight” into how the vaccine could be clinically feasible.
Though a nicotine vaccine hasn’t made it to the market yet, studies like this one show that it’s possible for one to be more effective. They may also open the door to the idea of using a vaccine to treat other addictions; the same researchers are also working on a vaccine against the opioid fentanyl. If they make it to the market, these new treatment methods could eventually help many people dealing with addiction.

Nicotine-Chomping Bacteria may help smokers quit smoking.


An enzyme from a bacterium that lives on tobacco plants may be the key to a new type of “vaccine” to help smokers quit

http://www.scientificamerican.com/video/nicotine-chomping-bacteria-may-help-smokers-quit/

Do You Smoke to Cope With Pain? Research Finds Surprising Effect


If you find yourself lighting a cigarette when you’re in pain, you’re not alone. Many people smoke to cope with chronic pain. But here’s the kicker: Research shows that tobacco use overall – both smoking and chewing tobacco – can actually trigger pain. It also can make pain medication less effective.

The situation is complicated for smokers. More than half of chronic pain sufferers who seek pain management therapies smoke.

Tobacco use plays an active role in a wide variety of pain types, says pain management specialist Benjamin Abraham, MD.

In many cases, if you stop smoking, you can reverse the impact. In other cases, the damage is permanent.

The many pains of smoking

Tobacco use affects different areas of the body and the body’s systems in different ways.

Circulatory system: The nicotine in cigarettes and chewing tobacco decreases circulation, a condition also called peripheral artery disease (PAD).

The condition leads to atherosclerosis, a stiffening of the arterial walls that contributes to coronary artery disease. PAD also starves the heart muscle of needed oxygen and causes chest pain, called angina.

Lower back: Research shows that current and former smokers are 2.7 times more likely to have pain in the lower back than people who have never smoked. This link is strongest among adolescents, Dr. Abraham says.

Several factors contribute to the link between smoking and back pain:

  • Constricted blood vessels make it harder for necessary nutrients to reach the intervertebral discs responsible for spinal movement.
  • Decreased blood supply can cause degenerative lesions on these discs.
  • Smoking increases the risk for osteoporosis, which can cause fractures and deformities in the lower spine.

Joint pain: Smoking also contributes to joint pain linked to other conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), Dr. Abraham says.

Recent studies label smoking as one of the biggest contributing environmental risk factors for developing RA.

Male smokers are twice as likely to develop RA, and female smokers are 1.27 times as likely as non-smokers. Smokers who have a genetic risk for RA are four times as likely to develop the condition.

Central nervous system: Smoking increases the level of pro-inflammatory cytokines floating in the blood stream.

Cytokines trigger the central nervous system, amplifying existing pain from the very first cigarette, Dr. Abraham says. Consequently, smokers require greater amounts of both over-the-counter and narcotic medications to control pain.

Menstrual cycle: According to a study in the British Medical Journal, women who begin smoking by age 15 are 50 percent more likely than non-smokers to have cramps that last two or more days during their period.

Tooth pain: Research shows smokers face a 30 percent increase in the risk of tooth pain. Researchers suspect the pain develops because tobacco reduces saliva and also leads to progressive tooth decay and poor wound healing.

Headache: Smokers are also 1.5 times more likely to get headaches than people who have never smoked.

Cluster headaches – severe headaches that last between 15 minutes and three hours – are common among smokers. Eighty percent to 90 percent of cluster headache sufferers have a significant history of smoking tobacco, Dr. Abraham says.

Can the painful damage be reversed?

The medical industry currently doesn’t know if there is any safe level of cigarette use, Dr. Abraham says. Much depends on gender, age and other contributing factors of disease, but some research suggests that as few as 10 cigarettes can induce an increase in general pain, slower healing, worse surgical outcomes, and more pain after surgery.

Tobacco-induced damage to structures linked to long-term pain, such as degenerative disc disease, does not heal on its own. However, in some areas, including the circulatory system, smoking cessation can reverse tobacco’s effect on pain, Dr. Abraham says.