Magazine article Drug Topics

How to Help Smokers Kick the Habit: 7 Tips for Pharmacists

Magazine article Drug Topics

How to Help Smokers Kick the Habit: 7 Tips for Pharmacists

Article excerpt

Not long ago, Robin Corelli, PharmD, stepped into a taxi with a chatty driver. Instead oí pondering the weather, the driver told her he'd been addicted to cocaine and cigarettes. Corelli asked him which habit was tougher to kick. No contest, replied the man. "By far, it was the smoking."

This news did not surprise Corelli, a professor of clinical pharmacy at the University of California, San Francisco, who specializes in tobacco cessation.

"People lend to think smokers are weak in character," Corelli told an audience at the annual meeting of the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) in San Diego. "But it's a physiological addiction. Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances that we know about."

Pharmacists can help

Fortunately, pharmacists are in a position to help smokers quit, said Corelli and fellow speaker Karen S. Hudmon, DrPH, MS, RPh, professor of pharmacy practice at Purdue University.

"Patients expect us to be able to address this, according to studies," said Hudmon, after questioning the audience and finding that several attendees had helped patients try to quit smoking. "Eight years ago, no one raised their hand," she said. Now, "our graduates are equipped to help patients quit."

The first step, she said, is to ask patients whether they smoke tobacco or other nicotine products, such as electronic cigarettes. If they want to quit, options include going cold turkey - which works less than 5% of the time - tapering use, and formal cessation programs.

Medications

Medications do help smokers quit, and most people will benefit from nicotine replacement therapy, Corelli said. The reason is simple: Tobacco withdrawal is extremely difficult for addicts to tolerate. In just 24 hours, it causes symptoms such as restlessness, anxiety, irritability, and difficulty concentrating.

But if patients manage to slay the course, in most cases withdrawal symptoms lessen after two to four weeks, Corelli said, adding that familiar nicotine replacement products such as nicotine gum and patches can help patients get through the withdrawal symptoms and focus on behavioral aspects.

Tips

Corelli provided several tips on use of these medications.

* Nicotine replacement products have not been shown to help people who use smokeless tobacco and electronic cigarettes. …

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