Small Matter with Big Potential for Smokers Trying to Quit

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Image of carbon nanotubes

There’s been a lot of talk about nanotechnology lately—like what does it take to be able to control things as small as atoms or molecules. Now, scientists funded by NIDA are trying to use nanotechnology to help people quit smoking.

How, you ask? By delivering small amounts of nicotine via skin patches into a smoker’s body to help with cravings. That should be a lot safer for people than inhaling it into their lungs!

Patches are good ways to deliver some medicines to the body, but they do have limitations. For example, everyone who wears these patches receives exactly the same dosage of medicine. That dosage may not be right for everyone. For instance, when doctors prescribes a medication for a patient, they adjust the dosage depending on your age, size and weight, for starters.

Now, NIDA scientists are discovering how to use nanotechnology to do something similar. The key components are carbon nanotubes—tiny “tubes” bonded together chemically, also known as “buckyballs” (weird). They are about 1/50,000th of the width of a human hair! Scientists can put tiny nets made of carbon nanotubes onto the skin patch, and actually program it to deliver nicotine at the right dose for the person trying to kick the habit. Pretty cool.

So size can matter…and sometimes super small is best!

Find Help Near You

Use the SAMHSA Treatment Locator to find substance use or other mental health services in your area. If you are in an emergency situation, this toll-free, 24-hour hotline can help you get through this difficult time: call 1-800-273-TALK, or visit the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. We also have step by step guides on what to do to help yourself, a friend or a family member.

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