Stopping smoking is one of the most important things patients can do for themselves to improve their symptoms and improve their long-term survival. Two years ago, our Lung Disease Foundation acquired a grant from the American Lung Association to provide smoking cessation programs to Blair and Bedford Counties. These programs provide knowledge and support for those who demonstrate a desire to quit smoking. Smoking cessation is difficult but support from doctors, nursing staff and family can greatly increase the potential for quitting.
Several aids have been on the market to help patients quit smoking. These aids include nicotine replacement, Zyban (Wellbutrin) and Chantix (varenicline). One category of smoker that has not been singled out to any degree is the heavy drinker who is also a heavy smoker. These two habits often go together and it is difficult to attack one without the other. In the past there was concern expressed over the use of Chantix (varenicline) because of possible suicidal thoughts the patients might have while taking this drug. The data on varenicline suggests it is the most effective smoking cessation aide when taken properly. The previous concerns over psychiatric issues have now been disclaimed.
A recent drug trial of varenicline in heavy drinkers who are smokers has shown that varenicline not only helped with smoking cessation but also resulted in a significant decline in heavy drinking. Some things need to be studied further, such as which dependence is greater alcohol or tobacco, and are men or women better candidates for this therapy.