A recent UCLA clinical trial has shown encouraging results in helping daily smokers who are also heavy drinkers quit smoking and cut down their alcohol intake.
The study of 165 people tested two prescription drugs — varenicline, for smoking addiction, and naltrexone, which is used to treat alcoholism. Studies have shown that varenicline, marketed under the brand name Chantix, may also be effective in reducing alcohol consumption.
Participants, who ranged in age from 21 to 65, smoked at least five cigarettes a day, with male participants generally consuming more than 14 drinks a week and women more than seven per week.
Over the 12-week study period, each participant received 2 milligrams of varenicline twice a day. Roughly half the group — 83 participants — also received a 50-milligram dose of naltrexone daily, while the other 82 received placebo pills. They were all told to quit smoking and drink less.
When researchers followed up 26 weeks after the study’s conclusion, they found that nearly 36% — 59 participants — had quit smoking.
“The overall smoking quit rate in the trial is impressive,” said lead author Lara Ray, a professor of psychology and of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences who holds UCLA’s Shirley M. Hatos Chair in Clinical Neuropharmacology. She noted that previous studies have suggested varenicline has a success rate at six months of about 25% to 30%.
“We exceeded the overall expectation for this medication,” she said. “This is especially important in a diverse group of people.” Ray said that while some previous studies have shown lower-than-average smoking cessation rates among Black participants, that was not the case in the current trial, in which more than half of participants were Black.
Surprisingly, the researchers said, those who had received varenicline plus a placebo had a significantly higher smoking quit rate (45%, or 37 of 82 participants) than those who were given varenicline and naltrexone (27%, or 22 of 83 participants).
“The quit rate for varenicline alone in this sample is highly encouraging, as this is the first large-scale trial of …….