Most people know the negative effects that smoking has on their lives, but quitting smoking is difficult. The latest answer could be a vaccine.
Smoking is addictive mainly because of the nicotine in the cigarette smoke. Cigarette smoke is inhaled into the lungs of a smoker; it then enters the blood stream and eventually crosses the blood brain barrier. In the brain, nicotine stimulates the brain to release dopamine which makes the smoker feel euphoric. It is therefore difficult for most smokers to give up smoking because of the positive reward system that nicotine delivers.
Ways to Quit Smoking
Quitting smoking is difficult. A smoker with a significant nicotine addiction suffers from unpleasant withdrawals symptoms when they attempt to stop smoking. Smokers are aware of the negative effects of smoking such as lung diseases, heart diseases, and fertility issues among others. This has driven a new market of aides designed to help people quit smoking, including specialist hypnotherapy.
Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)
The nicotine patch, nicotine gums, nicotine nasal and oral sprays, nicotine inhalers, and nicotine lozenges are all designed as nicotine replacement therapy aides. These aides deliver the nicotine the smoker craves. They do so in diminishing doses. The idea is to slowly wean the smoker off nicotine. This way withdrawal from smoking is not as intense. NRT has some success, but relapse rates are high.
Other Smoking Cessation Techniques
Drugs: Certain medications can be used to help in smoking cessation. Zyban helps reduce the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal, and Chantix interferes with the nicotine receptors in the brain.
E-cigarettes: These electronic gizmos are supposed to mimic cigarette smoking. The gadget is shaped like a cigarette down its artificial lit end. The e-cigarette blows harmless smoke but delivers nicotine to the smoker. This cuts back on the smoker inhaling the dangerous carcinogenic chemicals in cigarette smoke but does not help with nicotine addiction.
Herbs and supplements and some other medications have been used to help smokers quit with limited success. Most of the quit smoking aides have high relapse rates with some having some unpleasant side effects.
Anti-smoking Vaccine Promises Fewer Relapses
The vaccine called NicVax (Nicotine Conjugate Vaccine) contains nicotine bound to a protein. Once NicVax is injected into the body, it causes an immune response in. This resulting antibody-nicotine conjugate cannot cross the blood brain barrier. The nicotine antibodies stay in the body for a while after vaccination, effectively blocking the effect of nicotine. The vaccine’s effect is irreversible lasting up to 12 months after vaccination.
Vaccine NicVax in Phase III Trials
In November of 2014 the creators of NicVax, Nabi Pharmaceuticals, announced that the vaccine has entered into Phase III clinical trials (Nabi Biopharmaceuticals “Nabi Biopharmaceuticals Initiates Pivotal 3rd Phase Study for NicVAX as an Aid to Smoking Cessation and Long-term Abstinence ” Press release. Retrieved 2009-11-5). During this clinical trial phase the researchers will determine the efficacy of the vaccine. This phase is the last phase before the vaccine is made available to the public; it is however, the longest phase of clinical trial phases.
Quitting smoking for many people is difficult because of the addictive nature of nicotine. NicVax is not a magic bullet abut it may help stop the craving that drives people to relapse, and it does it over a lengthy period. Many smokers will be waiting to see the results of this clinical trial.