ROCHESTER, Minn. -- A Mayo Clinic pilot study shows bupropion, an antidepressant known to help smokers quit, could help spit tobacco users kick the habit too. Study participants were randomly assigned to take either bupropion or a placebo for 12 weeks. At the 12-week mark, 44 percent in the bupropion group were abstinent compared with 26 percent in the placebo group.
Another striking result: Participants who took bupropion gained less weight during the 12 weeks than those who took the placebo -- an average of 1.54 pounds compared with 9.7 pounds.
"The results are good news for spit tobacco users trying to quit," says Lowell Dale, M.D., a Mayo Clinic specialist in nicotine dependence and lead researcher on the study. "None of the other agents that help smokers quit -- patches and gum -- have been shown to be as effective for spit tobacco users. Until now, spit tobacco users haven't had proven tools available to help them stop," he says.
"While the results are promising, more research is needed," says Dr. Dale. The study included 68 participants, too few to be statistically significant.
At a 24-week follow-up, the abstinence rates were the same for both the placebo and bupropion groups, about 29 percent, indicating that spit tobacco users may benefit from taking bupropion longer than 12 weeks.
Results of this pilot study will be published in the August issue of the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research. The Mayo Nicotine Research Center plans to launch a larger double-blind study on bupropion for spit tobacco users later this year.
"We know that 12 percent to 16 percent of the adolescent male population uses spit tobacco," Dr. Dale notes. "It's becoming a much more significant problem. We really need to find treatment options for these people."
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