As reported by the Farmington Patch, December 31, 2010.

Quit Smoking for the New Year

UConn Study Offers Free Treatment to Help Kick the Habit

By Kaitlin McCallum

The most prominent hallway intersection in the University of Connecticut's new Cell and Genome Sciences Building contains a cafe, some couches and a demo room with conference tables and a large screen.

At the edge of a new year people start thinking of how they can improve their health and their lives. Top on the usual list is quitting smoking and if you or someone you know is hoping to kick the habit, UConn Health Center is offering help.

Doctors at UConn's Pat and Jim Calhoun Cardiology Center are currently seeking smokers over 18 years old for a study funded by the National Institute of Health. Treatment is free and lasts three to six months, with researchers checking in on participants for a year.

"There are a number of goals for this study," said William B. White, M.D., principal investigator, professor of medicine and an expert in the treatment of hypertension and related complications. "We are studying how smoking and smoking cessation affects blood pressure and we'll also compare two types of counseling to help people stay away from cigarettes."

The study will examine fluctuations in blood pressure before and after participants quit smoking, as well as the success of two types of counseling. Both groups will be treated with Chantix, an FDA-approved smoking cessation medication, which studies have shown doubles the chances of successfully quitting.

The counseling participants receive is the variable in the study. One group will receive traditional, individual counseling and the other a "contingency management" approach.

Contingency management is essentially a reward system in which participants receive prizes for not smoking. The approach has gained national attention in the past few years for helping people overcome substance abuse.

"In essence, contingency management is the same technique that parents use with children every day by rewarding good behavior. It is behavior modification and behavior shaping," explained Nancy Petry, Ph.D., professor of medicine and researcher on the study. Sheila Alessi, Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine is also working on the study.

Petry is a prominent researcher in the field of addiction treatments, including drug and gambling addictions, and a leader in contingency management research.

"Several studies have indicated that combining medical approaches with counseling can vastly improve a smoker's chance to quit for good. This study will help to answer questions about the role of contingency management counseling in motivating smokers to say away from cigarettes over the short term as well as the long run," Petry said.

To learn more about the study, contact Karen at 860-372-8418.