Naltrexone Opiate Blocker for Quitting Smoking

There are many methods to assist a person with quitting smoking and more are being tried all the time. With the huge number of smokers, over forty million in America this year, it is not a surprise that researchers are working hard to find methods that will work better to help them quit.

One new method being looked at, still in the study process, is the use of a drug that most often works for those addicted to heroin or alcohol. So far this medication, an opiate blocker called naltrexone, has had some surprising results. It appears to work better for women smokers than for their male counterparts.

Unusual Study

The drug was not administered in the average test situation. Before the study all the participants were asked to use the patch for a month once they quit smoking. They were also asked to spend six weeks with a counselor to help them deal with some of the issues that caused them to smoke. Smoking is a complex problem and is not merely a physical addiction.

Beginning three days before they were to quit smoking and for the following eight weeks they were given the naltrexone. As with all medication tests there was one group given the opiate blacker while the others were given a placebo and that is where the interesting discovery comes from.

Placebo Effect?

With all test groups a certain number of those using the placebo often have some success. In the case of the study done on this medication the men using it and those using the placebo actually had similar positive results. Of the men using the medication sixty two percent were able to quit smoking.

Oddly the men using the placebo had a better rate with sixty seven percent of them quitting effectively. But for the women, those using the placebo had a much lower rate; only thirty nine percent were successful in giving up smoking while those using the naltrexone had a fifty eight percent success rate. This is a significant improvement.

Gender Differences Not Clear

Once researchers saw these results they tried to explain why is worked better for women than men. This was not clear to them. For one thing they know the drug works because it appears to block the production of happy signals that are sent to the brain when people use various drugs; this includes nicotine.

They suspect that it may work better for women because of hormonal differences between the sexes. It was noticed that the medication also seemed to ease the symptoms of withdrawal in women including depression, irritability and diminished ability to concentrate. The women using the opiate blocker also had a significant difference in weight gain to those who used the placebo.

The second group of women gained four times the amount of weight in a month. For women this is a big issue as everyone knows that weight gain can be a side effect of quitting smoking. Although research must continue it looks like there may be something out there that will help women quit smoking without side effects.