Quitting smoking is no easy feat with estimates suggesting just six per cent of those who attempt to give up the habit actually succeed.
Help may be at hand, however, after scientists discovered the basis for a potential treatment that could not only stop people smoking but also nicotine addiction.
At present, around 600 million people across the world consume betel quid, a substance containing betel leaf, areca nut, slaked lime and tobacco.
However, it’s a practice that has been linked with a higher risk of contracting any number of health issues.
But scientists now reckon that the same areca nut contains a compound that could tackle nicotine addiction and smoking issues.
It comes from the humble areca nut, which was found to contain a compound capable of helping treat the addiction.
Roger L Papke one of the lead researchers on the project said:
“There’s a commonality to the two addictions, so we thought we could develop drugs that target both.”
The compound could offer up a better alternative to current medications like varenicline which came with several side-effects including depression and cardiovascular issues, which have prompted many to return to smoking.
The areca-based solution is different though. While products like varenicline bind to other receptors in the brain not involved in addiction, this treatment does not.
“The molecules that we’re developing are more specific -they do not target those other receptors at all, so our compounds should be safer,” Papke noted.
Their claims are based on a study involving the psychoactive compounds arecoline, found in areca nuts, which is known to stimulate the receptors involved in nicotine addiction and no others.
Having developed a range of compounds with a slightly different structure to that of arecoline, the scientists were able to bind to addiction-related receptors while others were left alone, resulting in a major reduction in side effects.
The next step will be to test the compounds on animals with a view to creating a more efficient, safe treatment for those looking to quit smoking.