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Genes Might Help Determine If Smokers Can Kill Addiction With Drugs

Update Date: Jun 01, 2012 11:50 AM EDT

Now whether you can kick the butt with the help of drug treatments will be predicted with the help of genes, say researchers.

A new study, after an analysis of 6000 smokers, has concluded, that the genes which make it difficult for a smoker to quit, can also increase the chances that a heavy smoker will respond to nicotine-replacement therapy and drugs.

"People with the high-risk genetic markers smoked an average of two years longer than those without these high-risk genes, and they were less likely to quit smoking without medication," study first author Dr. Li-Shiun Chen, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Washington University of Medicine in St. Louis, said in a university news release.

"The same gene variants can predict a person's response to smoking-cessation medication, and those with the high-risk genes are more likely to respond to the medication," Chen said.

The research further suggested that only those smokers who had the high-risk variants were three times more likely to respond to treatments such as nicotine gum and nicotine patches, when compared to those who did not have the variants.

The study, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, suggests that eventually, it may be possible to predict if a person will benefit from drug treatments to quit smoking by analyzing his/her genes.

"Smokers whose genetic makeup puts them at the greatest risk for heavy smoking, nicotine addiction and problems kicking the habit also appear to be the same people who respond most robustly to pharmacologic therapy for smoking cessation," senior investigator Dr. Laura Jean Bierut, a professor of psychiatry, said in the news release.

The gene variants are an important finding, since apart from determining the addiction and quitting possibilities of a person, it also plays an important part in the whole nicotine-addiction puzzle itself, the researchers said.

"These variants make a very modest contribution to the development of nicotine addiction, but they have a much greater effect on the response to treatment," Bierut said. "That's a huge finding."

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