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QuitRx Research Study May Be a Prescription to Quit

Focused on Health - November 2008

By Rachel Winters

Why would nearly 21 percent of adults continue to smoke knowing that their habit may lead to cancer and for some, certain death? It’s because smoking is an addiction. It’s an uncontrollable dependence on cigarettes that causes emotional, mental and physical reactions in people who are trying to quit.

According to many experts, nicotine is as highly addictive as heroin and cocaine. Many smokers do want to stop and make the attempt to do so, but only one in three will succeed in permanently quitting before age 60. The good news is that once a smoker quits, their lungs start to repair themselves within hours.

Having quit smoking after almost 40 years with the help of QuitRx, Thomas Fitchett finally gets to stay dry.

Thomas Fitchett, 55, knows just how hard it is to quit smoking. Being married to a smoker and having been a smoker for almost 40 years prior to quitting, Thomas is no stranger to the potential health risks involved with smoking.

Thomas and his wife stopped smoking on the same day in September 2007, and have been smoke-free since. Although Thomas and his wife had different approaches to quitting, the fact that they both found a method that worked shows how quitting strategies must be tailored for the individual.

While his wife was successful in quitting “cold turkey,” Thomas joined QuitRx, a smoking cessation research study administered through MD Anderson Cancer Center’s Behavioral Science Department.  

QuitRx is an MD Anderson research study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. It is designed to better understand how the brain responds when people experience the negative emotions, such as agitation, irritability and sadness often associated with quitting. Participants volunteer in this laboratory-based study so that researchers can find out if people respond differently to smoking cessation medications based on the types of genes they have. 

QuitRx study participant Christie Mendolina
still can’t believe that she has quit smoking
for good. She credits her success to support
offered to her through the QuitRx program.

Another QuitRx study participant, Christie Mendolia, 29, a single-mother of a 9-year-old daughter and a merchandising assistant, started smoking at age 15. Christie attempted to quit on and off for seven years before joining the study.

“I joined the study because I knew somebody who had smoked for almost 30 years, and she was finally able to quit after participating,” Christie said. “I knew that if it could help her, it could help anybody.”

The market is flooded with quit-smoking programs. These range from medications, patches, pills and psychotherapy, to alternative treatments (such as acupuncture and hypnotism). As with many addictions, successful methods will vary depending on the person.

“I tried the gum, the patch, the inhaler and even medicines like Wellbutrin…I tried everything,” said Christie. “Nothing ever seemed to work.”

QuitRx provides participants a positive support system by offering medications coupled with a structured cessation program, personal screening exams and one-on-one counseling. The study is designed to determine whether positive support and ongoing counseling increase smokers’ chances of initial success.of staying smoke-free.

“I was able to quit smoking with QuitRx because of all of the support offered by the study,” said Christie. “Everybody was wonderful, and I knew that if I had a problem they would help me figure it out right away.”

Thomas also is pleased with his choice to participate in the QuitRx study, and credits MD Anderson with helping him take steps to improve his health.

“For those who want to quit and have tried cold turkey, the patch and other things, MD Anderson's QuitRx study works.  I never thought I could quit, but with the counseling and medication, it almost seemed easy,” said Thomas.

Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, killing more than 400,000 people and costing nearly $100 billion in health care bills every year. It is responsible for approximately 30 percent of all cancer deaths in the United States annually.

MD Anderson is working hard to help people stay healthy with research studies such as QuitRx, although it is important for individuals to understand that not every participant will experience the same results that Thomas and Christie did. Smokers are eligible to join QuitRx, if they are serious about quitting smoking.

To participate in the research study people should:

  • Be 18-65 years old
  • Smoke more than five cigarettes per day within the two months preceding the screening visit
  • Be able to follow verbal and written instructions in English and complete all aspects of the study
  • Provide informed consent and agree to all assessments and study procedures
  • Have a current address and home telephone number
  • Be the only participant in your household

For more information, call Quit Rx at 713-792-2265, or e-mail quitrx@mdanderson.org.

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