July 28, 2006

Study to explore effectiveness of quit-smoking aids

by Sun Min

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Why do people smoke? What happens when they try to quit? How does it affect the mind and body? Who benefits from different quit-smoking methods such as nicotine patches and the medication Zyban? The National Institute on Drug Abuse awarded Southern Illinois University Carbondale psychology Professor David G. Gilbert a $2.8 million grant to search for answers.

"We're always trying to find better ways to help people quit smoking. Success is difficult for most people, so if we find out what helps them succeed, it would be very exciting," said Gilbert, who is internationally renowned for his work on the psychological and biological bases of nicotine use.

Gilbert established the Smoking Laboratory at SIUC in 1985 and has received more than $6 million in grants. He has been researching nicotine, emotions, attention, brain waves and genetics. This latest award is his fourth major smoking-cessation grant.

Over the next five-years, Gilbert and his team will study 220 men and women as they quit smoking over 67 days. They will evaluate the effects of a nicotine patch versus the use of Zyban. Participants will be paid $300 if they complete the study. They are also eligible for a bonus of up to $500 if they remain smoke-free for the entire 67 days.

Gilbert wants "to understand how the two most common forms of quit-smoking aids work on how you feel and how well you concentrate. We're also looking at how the nicotine patch and Zyban act on the brain."

During previous Smoking Laboratory studies, 80 percent of participants remained smoke-free. Many attributed their success, at least in part, to weekly monitoring, the supportive environment provided by trained staff and the added incentive of being paid for their time. Participants also draw motivation from knowing their success will help others succeed in the future.

Scientists will use the findings to come up with new ideas for helping smokers quit permanently and improve current products on the market. "The better we understand the psychological and brain mechanisms involved, the better we can come up with more effective behavioral therapies. We can also find out what kinds of medications might be helpful for people trying to quit smoking," said Gilbert.

Smokers interested in quitting smoking and participating in the study can call 618/453-3561 between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, to learn more about the study.

Leading in research, scholarly and creative activities is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence through Commitment, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.