Drug May Help Smokers Quit

After 10 years of research, Stephen Dewey, a scientist at the Department of Energy's Brookhaven labs, believes he's found the key to giving up smoking. CBS News Correspondent John Roberts reports.

"Based on what I've seen in the animal data, it could be a major step forward in helping break the addiction," says Dewey.

Dewey is talking about GVG, an epilepsy drug used around the world, but not approved in the United States.

Dewey found when rats and monkeys were given GVG, it blocked both nicotine's effects in the brain and behaviors associated with its use. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson hailed GVG as a breakthrough Tuesday.

"In the campaign to protect our national health, this is a case where animal studies may one day help humans go cold turkey," said Richardson.

The market for a drug that blocks the process of addiction in the brain would be huge. Every year in this country, 35 million people try to quit smoking but at the end of 12 months, less than 10 percent have been successful.

Addiction specialist Robert Millman says nicotine is one of the hardest drugs to give up.

"I think of nicotine as similar to crack in many ways, because there is a very rapid onset and a very rapid falling off effect. Those are the type of drugs that are most dependency producing," says Dr. Robert Millman of NY Hospital-Cornell Medical Center.

It's a long way from animals to humans, particularly when studying addictions, but scientists believe that when human trials of GVG begin next year, breaking the habit may get a little easier.

Reported By John Roberts