Meg Farris / Eyewitness News
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NEWORLEANS- The addiction to nicotine is as strong as dangerous street drugs. It's hard to stop because smokers' brains are full of nicotine-craving receptors.

But there is a free study that can help.

For a couple of years now, smokers here have been part of a worldwide study to quit. Last year, Casandra Spiers said it worked for her.

'The cravings did kind of go away. My sensations got a lot stronger. Even today when I'm around cigarette smoke, I'm, it really annoys me, the smell of it,' Spiers said last year.

'We've had extreme effectiveness with this program. Out of 111 people who are enrolled to date, only five have not either completely stopped smoking or significantly decreased smoking,' explained Dr. Eileen Palace, the study director in Metairie.

The study is continuing with a year of free medical exams, mental therapy and medications. But in this phase, they are looking for smokers with mood or anxiety symptoms, post traumatic stress, or depression, because these patients have different needs.

'(They) are more likely to smoke, probably because they use it as a coping mechanism, have more difficulty quitting, and are more likely to have withdrawals, side effects and relapse,' said Dr. Palace.

Everyone in the study will get free therapy. Some will also get one of three other medications or patches that are already on the market and proven effective for smoking cessation.

'All of us in New Orleans, you know, who doesn't have some history of depressed mood or anxiety or post traumatic stress, and I think this is a really great opportunity to really make a change following Lent. Pick something that is going to cause a permanent and durable improvement in your life and happiness,' she added.

The study is looking for smokers 18 to 75 years old. Call 504-834-4500 to see if you qualify. Dr. Palace runs The Center for Sexual Health in Metairie.

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