Warren Bickel and Pearl Chiu join in on the conversation about addiction

Pearl Chiu, Ph.D.

Pearl Chiu, Ph.D.

Warren Bickel, director of the Addiction Recovery Research Center at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, and Pearl Chiu, an assistant professor at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, talked with May Lily Lee, host of Virginia Conversations on WVTF Public Radio, about their research on addiction on September 20, 2013.

Bickel discussed the $3.2 million grant he received from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to research ways to help people quit smoking. He mentioned that the purpose of the grant is to try to figure out how to make existing treatments more effective since, on average, only about 30 percent of people are able to quit smoking with the current treatments. One of the most important questions to be asked is why people fail in treatment, and Bickel remarked that those who need immediate gratification fail more often in treatment than those who do not.

“One of the things that traps people with addiction is the immediate effects of whatever the addictive substance or behavior is versus the long-term effects,” Bickel said. “And we are so often trapped by a sort of bias toward the immediate event that we sometimes lose track of where it all leads.”

Chiu discussed the frequency and patterns of addiction transfers and how people addicted to smoking can also be addicted to other substances as well.

“What’s been striking to us over the course of doing research in smoking and depression is how many people come in with alcohol problems as well,” Chiu said. “They’re all addictions, and mood and anxiety can be connected. If someone has a stressful life at home, you might pick up alcohol or smoking to try to counteract those effects.”

Bickel and Chiu took questions from callers from around the state on various topics such as the effects of secondhand smoke, the ingredients in e-cigarettes, the effectiveness of prescription medications to help people quit smoking, and the role genetics plays in addiction.

The interview is available on Virginia Public Radio’s website.