Smoking Fatalities

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Nicotine dependence is a pandemic, a worldwide epidemic. At least 70 million Filipinos are willing victims to this calamitous tragedy, and 20,000 die prematurely each year from this illness. Just like dependence to heroin, cocaine/crack, marijuana, shabu, etc., cigarette-smoking is a disease and not only a behavioral defect. Since nicotine dependence is a medical illness, it must be treated as such with pharmacological aid as well as with counseling and behavioral modification. The medical community is now unanimous on this issue.

The drug bupropion hydrochloride (marketed as Zyban), the first non-nicotine tablet (in a sustained-release form), is currently available in the Philippines. This first-line therapy has been proven to be more effective than other aids to smoking cessation. More smokers quit cigarettes following use of Zyban because it helps quitting more bearable, reducing nicotine withdrawal symptoms as it breaks the cycle of nicotine dependence. Since it does not contain nicotine as some other anti-smoking aids have, there is no possibility of addiction to the nicotine patches or pills themselves.

This oral medication has been clinically proven as a safe and effective pharmacological aid to smoking cessation. It is indeed a welcome addition to the physician's armamentarium in the treatment of nicotine dependence. Since this drug is not for everyone, the smoker should consult a physician, who will screen the patient and plan an individually tailored strategy for each case.

Tomorrow: What actually happens when one quits smoking?

©2003Raoul R. Diez, M.A.O.D.