Nicotine patches, gums, and smokers’ nasal sprays can also help people stop drinking

NASHVILLE, Tennessee – Nicotine patches, gums, and nasal sprays prescribed to help people quit smoking can also reduce drinking.

Originally designed as the control arm of a clinical trial to see if prescription anti-smoking drugs would help people consume less alcohol, the study found that these common remedies work just as well. After three months, participants reduced their alcohol consumption, regardless of whether they were taking nicotine replacement therapy or prescription drugs – such as varenicline or cytisine.

Scientists say these drugs can simultaneously play an important role in reducing drinking and smoking.

“A single drug to treat both high-risk drinking and smoking can effectively and significantly improve health. High-risk drinking and smoking often coexist and both endanger health, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and other important health effects, ”said lead author Dr. Hilary Tindle of Vanderbilt University Medical Center in a press release.

Together with colleagues from the Boston Medical Center and First Pavlov State Medical University in Russia, Dr. Tindle studied 400 people living with HIV. Scientists are increasingly focusing on treating other conditions in people with HIV as effective treatments for the virus exist today.

They recruited volunteers who identified themselves as drinking and smoking hazardous amounts and watched them for a year. The researchers looked for participants who drank five or more days a month (defined as drinking five or more drinks one day for men and four or more for women) and who smoked five or more cigarettes a day.

The study involved placebo-controlled medications, so neither the participants nor the researchers knew what medications they were taking. Posted in The JAMA network is openThe study found that after three months, alcohol consumption dropped regardless of which anti-smoking therapy participants were taking.

“We were delighted to see how participants in high-risk studies were included in the NIH-funded research,” says lead researcher Matthew Freiberg, MD, M.Sc.

“Not only do they live with HIV, but they also have a heavy burden of hepatitis, multi-substance use, and mental health problems. Such participants are often excluded from drug trials. If a cure as simple as nicotine replacement could help them, it would be a win. ”

Nicotine replacement therapy – patches, gums, and sprays – are widely available at relatively low cost. However, scientists rarely saw them as a deterrent to drinking. Cytisine has been available since the 1960s.

“Another important observation in our post hoc analysis was that rates of alcohol consumption were lower and rates of alcohol abstinence higher among those who quit compared to those who continued to smoke. These results require further research to understand if the results were caused directly by drugs, quitting smoking, or both, ”adds Jeffrey Samet, MD, MA, MPH, of Boston University Schools of Medicine and Public Health.

Dr. Tindley adds that there is much to learn about how the drugs under study – known as nicotinic acetylcholine receptor agonists – can work to reduce alcohol consumption, but research has shown that these drugs act on receptors in the nervous system that encourage voluntary abstinence.

South West News Service writer Danny Halpin contributed to this report.

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