YOUR HEALTH: Is smoking in your genes?
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Of the 45.3 million people who smoke, each metabolizes nicotine at a different rate of speed. Researchers know if they need more nicotine more often, they are genetically predisposed to finding it harder to quit. So, a Vanderbilt University study used enhanced treatment counseling, along with patches and gum, to see if more high metabolizers would quit.
“What happens, biochemically, when someone smokes a cigarette is that the nicotine is absorbed through the lungs and very quickly goes to the brain, which provides the pleasant effects of nicotine,” explained Dr. Scott Lee, an assistant professor of medicine at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
Some smokers who quickly metabolize nicotine are almost immediately looking for more. It’s also very hard for them to quit.
“Now, we’re starting to understand that genetics shapes parts of smoking,” Dr. Lee said.
Dr. Lee and his colleagues studied 321 smokers, of which 241 had the high-metabolizing gene. They used patches and gum, but added psychological and emotional support to see if more smokers would quit.
“Providing more behavioral support to fast metabolizers increased that quit rate to 17 percent,” Dr. Lee added.
That’s significant for long-time smokers like Elizabeth Jajko, who smoked a pack a day for 18 years.
“I had a blood clot in my leg. I’m prone to them,” said Jajko.
Dr. Lee says that combining the traditional patch and gum with emotional and psychological support makes all the difference. These health coaches remind smokers why they want and need to quit.
“It works, but it’s just like anything, you have to really want to, you know. You have to put your mind to it,” Jajko said.
Post-study, some participants received telephone calls from a state quit-line to continue cessation counseling and they were given free nicotine patches. Vanderbilt provided other participants with extra tobacco treatment counselors for emotional support. Dr. Lee advises checking with programs near where you live to increase your chances of quitting.
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