News Release

September 29, 2010

Contact: Maureen McGuire, 860-679-4523

Need Help Quitting?

UConn Health Center Recruiting Smokers for NIH-Funded Study

FARMINGTON, CONN.– Doctors at the University of Connecticut Health Center are looking for smokers who want to stop smoking and participate in a study comparing two approaches to help them kick the habit for good.

Through a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to the Health Center’s Pat and Jim Calhoun Cardiology Center, smokers over age 18 will be treated actively, free of charge, for at least three to six months, and followed for one year.

"There are a number of goals for this study," said William B. White, M.D., principal investigator, professor of medicine and an internationally recognized 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."

All participants will undergo clinic and 24-hour blood pressure monitoring to look for fluctuations before and after they stop smoking. In addition, the study will randomly divide participants into two treatment groups. Both will be treated with varenicline, also known as Chantix®, an FDA-approved smoking cessation medication. Several studies have shown that varenicline can more than double the chances of successfully quitting, compared to other types of treatment.

The difference between the groups will be the type of counseling participants will receive in conjunction with the medication. One group will participate in traditional, individual counseling and the other will receive a "contingency management" counseling approach.

Contingency management is an incentive-based intervention in which participants receive prizes such as vouchers or small gifts for compliance – in this case, for not smoking. It has been used to treat of variety of addictive disorders and in recent years, its success rates have gained national attention, as well as increased credibility in the medical community.

"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 an investigator of the study along with Sheila Alessi, Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine.

Dr. 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," Dr. Petry added.

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

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