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Study: Genetics plays role in need for nicotine addiction treatment

May 30, 2012
by Gary Enos
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 Genetics can help determine whether a person addicted to nicotine will need medication to improve their chances of quitting smoking, according to research published this week in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

The research, supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and other branches of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), focused on specific variations in a cluster of nicotinic receptor genes that studies have shown to have an impact on heavy smoking and nicotine dependence. The study found that individuals with this high-risk cluster reported a two-year delay in median age of quitting smoking compared with individuals who had low-risk genes.

Researchers subsequently found in a clinical trial that individuals with the high-risk gene cluster were more likely to remain abstinent from smoking when receiving medication treatments such as nicotine replacement therapies or bupropion, and less likely to remain abstinent when receiving placebo.

“This study builds on our knowledge of genetic vulnerability to nicotine dependence, and will help us tailor smoking cessation strategies accordingly,” said NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, MD. “It also highlights the potential value of genetic screening in helping to identify individuals early on and reduce their risk for tobacco addiction and its related negative health consequences.”

The full study is available at