In this video learn how a new drug activates and blocks nicotine to wean smokers off tobacco.
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Jennifer Matthews: Diana Smith breathes easier these days, which is a big change for the former pack-a-day smoker. Diana Smith: I got to the point where I couldn't breathe. I just couldn't breathe anymore ... down the driveway and down the stairs, up the stairs, I was out of breath. Jennifer Matthews: So, Diana signed up for a new trial testing a drug called varenicline. The drug weans smokers off tobacco by attaching to a specific receptor in the brain. Researchers say the drug activates and blocks nicotine's chemical reactions. Dr. Cheryl Oncken: So, it sort of evens you out. You don't get necessarily the sort of highs of smoking, but you don't get the cravings and the withdrawal. Jennifer Matthews: The only side effect appears to be mild nausea. About 50 percent of people in one study were able to quit. Dr. Cheryl Oncken: And the other interesting thing that we found, we had a study that was 12 weeks, and the quit rates seemed to improve as the study went on, and that's unusual for smoking cessation studies. Jennifer Matthews: It's exciting news, but researchers caution that Varenicline is no magic bullet for smokers, who still need some old-fashioned willpower to kick the habit. This is Jennifer Matthews reporting.