Atropine and scopolamine combination therapy

A few smoking cessation clinics offer a program using shots of the drugs atropine and scopolamine, sometimes along with other drugs, to help reduce nicotine withdrawal symptoms. These drugs block the action of acetylcholine, a signal transmitter in the nervous system. Called anticholinergics, they are more often prescribed for other reasons, such as digestive problems, motion sickness, or Parkinson's disease. People who are pregnant or have heart problems, glaucoma, or uncontrolled high blood pressure are not allowed to take part in these programs.

The treatment usually involves shots given in the clinic on one day, then a few weeks of pills and wearing patches behind the ear. Other drugs may be needed to help with side effects. Side effects of this treatment can include dizziness, constipation, dry mouth, changes in the sense of taste and smell, problems urinating, and blurry vision.

Some clinics claim high success rates, but the available published scientific research does not back up these claims. Both atropine and scopolamine are FDA-approved for other uses and have not been formally studied or approved for help in quitting smoking. Before going into such a program, you may want to ask the clinic about long-term success rates (up to a year). These medicines are directed only at the physical aspect of quitting, so you may also want to find out if the program includes counseling or other methods aimed at the psychological aspects of quitting.