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Anti-Smoking Drugs Alter Brain to Curb Cravings, Two Studies Suggest

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New research indicates smoking-cessation drugs may work by changing the way our brains react to seeing others smoke, HealthDay News reported Jan. 3.

In separate studies, researchers from the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) and the University of Pennsylvania (U Penn) in Philadelphia analyzed brain scans from more than 50 smokers exposed to both neutral and smoking cues via brief videos. Participants in the UCLA group received buproprion (Wellbutrin, Zyban) or placebo, while those in the U Penn group received varenicline (Chantix) or placebo.

In both studies, participants who received the anti-smoking medications reported less craving and showed less activity in the brain area associated with craving than those who received placebo.

“Treatment with bupropion is associated with an improved ability to resist cue-induced craving,” concluded Christopher Culbertson and colleagues, authors of the UCLA study.

The ability of brain scans to map drug effects “has relevance for the use of neuroimaging in the development of improved treatment strategies in cigarette and other drug addictions,” said U Penn study authors Teresa Franklin and colleagues.

Both studies – Effect of Bupropion Treatment on Brain Activation Induced by Cigarette-Related Cues in Smokers and Effects of Varenicline on Smoking Cue–Triggered Neural and Craving Responses – were published online Jan. 3 in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry.

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