WASHINGTON, July 9 (UPI) -- More and more Americans quit smoking every year. Still, many others try to shake the habit and fail.
But a new study may offer hope for on-again-off-again smokers, as researchers claim to have found the most effective treatment for weaning oneself off the cancer-causing tobacco product.
The winning treatment, researchers say, is a combination of a drug called varenicline and the use of nicotine patches.
In a study published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, health researchers at the University of Stellenbosch in Cape Town, South Africa, recounted how patients who received active nicotine replacement therapy while taking varenicline were more likely than a control group (trying different quitting techniques) to abstain from smoking for at least six months.
Varenicline effectively blocks the receptors in the brain that receive nicotine, so that nicotine isn't rewarded with the same dopamine release and thus dulls the positive, relaxing effects smokers are used to.
"We found that in relatively healthy smokers, the odds of achieving successful smoking cessation after 12 and 24 weeks were significantly increased by using a combination of varenicline and nicotine patches compared to varenicline alone," said study author Coenraad Koegelenberg.
"The combination (of varenicline and nicotine patches) appears to be safe, although further studies are needed to confirm this," Koegelenberg added.