THERE is insufficient evidence to show that using nicotine patches for four weeks before a quit attempt — known as “preloading” — improves long-term smoking abstinence.
The news will be of interest to the one in five adults in Ireland who are smokers, and who want to quit.
The researchers found that nicotine preloading reduces craving intensity and seems to make quitting easier, but that this beneficial effect may have been masked by a concurrent reduction in the use of varenicline in the period after quit day.
As varenicline is the most effective smoking cessation drug, this may have undermined the benefit of preloading, the British Medical Journal reported.
If it were possible to overcome this unintended consequence, nicotine preloading “could lead to a worthwhile increase in long -term smoking abstinence”, they say.
Although there have been several new drugs for tobacco cessation since the 1970s, treatment has remained largely the same, with behavioural support to motivate and strengthen a person’s resolve to remain abstinent and drugs to reduce the strength of urges to smoke after quit day. The research team from the British Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies looked at 1,792 nicotine-dependent adults who smoked an average of 19 cigarettes a day. Most were middle aged.