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April 11, 2018

Study: Unexpected medication could help smokers fight nicotine withdrawal symptoms

Research Smoking
smoking cigarette PA Images/SIPA USA

A man smoking a cigarette.

It’s not easy for regular smokers to give up the addiction, though new research suggests one solution to combat withdrawal symptoms could lie in an unexpected treatment.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins Medicine and the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania found a connection between Metformin, a medication typically used for diabetes, and reducing the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal, according to Penn Medicine News.

In addition to diabetes, Metformin previously has been shown to help with the treatment of dementia and some cancers.

In a study recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers tested Metformin on mice, who exhibited reduced nicotine withdrawal symptoms after taking the medicine. In humans, those symptoms include sweating, nausea, cravings, depression, and anxiety, among others.

The study specifically measured anxiety in the mice, measured by two behavior tasks designed to trigger the animals and conflict with their natural tendencies.

Moving forward, clinical researchers are studying the effects of Metformin on smokers to see if withdrawal symptoms, specifically negative mood and cognitive deficits, are reduced with use of the drug. If those results are positive, a larger study will take place.

"Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States, with more persons dying from nicotine addiction than any other preventable cause of death," the study abstract reads. 

"Even though smoking cessation incurs multiple health benefits, the abstinence rate remains low with current medications." 

Check out the full report here.