Naltrexone Helps Ex-Smokers Keep Weight Gain To A Minimum
December 11, 2012

Naltrexone Helps Ex-Smokers Keep Weight Gain To A Minimum

Connie K. Ho for — Your Universe Online

You start off by kicking the smoking habit. Then you try to curb the hunger aches you have. For those who have suffered this situation in the past, researchers recently discovered a drug that can help ex-smoking women keep weight gain to a minimum.

The study, conducted by the University of Chicago Medical Center, focused on naltrexone and is the first medication in a study that has shown to help women decrease weight gain a year after they stopped smoking. Naltrexone is an opioid blocker that can reduce the want of alcohol, heroin, nicotine, along with the desire to eat. The findings were recently published in the December issue of Biological Psychiatry.

The University of Chicago Medical reported that over 80 percent of people who are able to quit smoking put on a minimum of five pounds a year after they stop smoking. Furthermore, up to 25 percent of individuals can also gain over 15 pounds.

For women who were involved in the study, naltrexone helped decrease their weight gain by over half. Following a three-month period, the participants who took the drug had a weight increase of 2.3 pounds as compared to participants who took the placebo and had a weight 5.1 pounds weight increase.

"When trying to stop smoking, women tend to gain more weight than men and to be more concerned about gaining that weight," explained the study´s author Andrea King, a professor at the University of Chicago Medicine in psychiatry, in a prepared statement. "Women who try to quit may be so worried about putting on weight in the process that they soon give up, and this is less commonly found in men. Adding naltrexone to standard treatment might help women get through that difficult early period."

In the study, the scientists included data from the two largest trials on naltrexone to assist volunteers in quitting smoking. 700 individuals participated in the study, with 315 from the University of Chicago and 385 from Yale University. The participants were required to take either naltrexone or a placebo for six to 12 weeks after they stopped smoking. For the first month, they also utilized nicotine patches and went to counseling for smoking-cessation.

The report provided a number of statistics: Six months following the study, 159 of the 700 participants (23 percent) continued to be smoke-free; however, only 115 women stayed smoke-free 12 months after the study. During the first 12 months, the participants reported difficulty with weight gain but those who used naltrexone noticed the benefits of the drug.

"Naltrexone has produced the most promising results to date for helping women who quit smoking gain less weight," remarked King in the statement. "It is possible that the opioid blocker reduces women's tendency to eat high fat and sweet foods when they quit smoking."

Even with the somewhat effectiveness of naltrexone, the researchers believe that there still are not sufficient tools to help smokers quit and smoking is still a major health issue.

“Our study demonstrates that naltrexone may be a promising medication to treat tobacco dependence and unlike the other approved medications, appears to help reduce weight gain for many."

This study comes at a particularly important time, as tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S.; Obesity follows as the second leading cause of preventable death.