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Although even diehard smokers may insist that they "enjoy" their habit and don't fear the health consequences, don't believe them. Since smoking involves powerful physiological and psychological addictions, quitting is very difficult, and without help only a minority succeed. Even smoking cessation courses, nicotine gum and patches, while helpful to many, have been unable to keep the majority permanently away from cigarettes. Foreign studies have shown that despite treatment advances to help people stop smoking, 70% to 80% of smokers who stop relapse within six to 12 months. //

But now an anti-depressant drug called bupropion - known commercially here as Zyban and made by GlaxoSmithKline - is showing considerable promise in helping smokers butt tobacco out of their lives for good. In the study 784 participants took bupropion to help them stop smoking. After seven weeks of treatment 461 participants had successfully stopped. Half of that group continued with bupropion for a year, and the other half took a placebo. At year's end, 55% of the group continuing to take bupropion were abstinent, compared to 42% in the placebo group.

Zyban has been licensed as a prescription drug by the Health Ministry. But the dosage of the active ingredient in Zyban is significantly less than the amount taken for depression, he added. Two Zyban pills (totalling 300 milligrams) are taken every day for about nine weeks. The unsubsidized cost of the drug is about the same as the expense of buying a pack of cigarettes a day.

The drug poses possible side effects such as dry mouth, headache and insomnia, but half of users suffer none of them and in most of those who do the effects are short-lived and not serious. It should not be taken by pregnant or lactating women, or people who have epilepsy or anorexia or are alcoholics.


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