Varenicline tartrate, brand name Chantix, is a smoking cessation medication that was developed by Pfizer, Inc.
In May of 2006, Chantix was approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In the years since however, a number of serious concerns involving changes in mood and behavior for people taking Chantix have surfaced.
Let's take a closer look at how Chantix works, and address the most frequently asked questions about this quit aid.1. What Is Chantix and How Does It Work? Chantix is a medication that was developed specifically for quitting tobacco. It has two very unique qualities that make it an effective quit aid:
- Chantix binds with nicotine receptors in the brain. This mimics a low dose of nicotine for the user, which eases symptoms of nicotine withdrawal.
- Chantix blocks nicotine from binding with receptor sites. If a person smokes while using Chantix, they get none of the nicotine boost that smokers call "smoking satisfaction." Smoking becomes bland and unappealing, making it easier to quit.
More About How Chantix Works
2. Where Can I Get Chantix?
Chantix must be prescribed by your doctor. He/she will give you a prescription that you can fill at your local pharmacy.
3. Should I Tell My Doctor About Other Medications I Use?
Absolutely. When discussing Chantix with your doctor, be sure to mention:
- all other prescription medications you're using, including insulin, asthma medicines and blood thinners
- all non-prescription medications you use, including vitamins, pain relievers, herbal remedies and supplements
- are pregnant
- are breastfeeding
- have kidney problems, including dialysis treatments
4. What Side Effects Are Associated with Chantix?
Typical Chantix side effects include:
- disruptions in dream patterns
There are other more serious, but less common side effects associated with Chantix involving changes in mood and behavior that should be discussed with your physician.
5. Should I Use Chantix if I Suffer from Depression?
Chantix works by altering brain chemistry, and as such, carries a set of risk factors that involve changes in mood and behavior.
If you have been diagnosed with depression or any other mental health condition, it is very important to carefully review, with the help of your doctor, whether Chantix is a good fit for you.
Safety information from the Chantix Website:
- Some people have had changes in behavior, hostility, agitation, depressed mood, suicidal thoughts or actions while using CHANTIX to help them quit smoking. Some people had these symptoms when they began taking CHANTIX, and others developed them after several weeks of treatment or after stopping CHANTIX. If you, your family, or caregiver notice agitation, hostility, depression, or changes in behavior, thinking, or mood that are not typical for you, or you develop suicidal thoughts or actions, anxiety, panic, aggression, anger, mania, abnormal sensations, hallucinations, paranoia, or confusion, stop taking CHANTIX and call your doctor right away. Also tell your doctor about any history of depression or other mental health problems before taking CHANTIX, as these symptoms may worsen while taking CHANTIX.
Additionally, on July 1, 2009, the FDA mandated that the manufacturers of Chantix, Zyban® and Wellbutrin® carry a new Boxed Warning on product labels that inform health care providers and the public of the potential risks associated with the use of these drugs. Zyban (bupropion hydrochloride) is a non-nicotine prescription quit aid similar to Chantix. Wellbutrin is bupropion that is marketed as an anti-depressant.
The FDA issued a public health advisory as well:
- People who are taking Chantix or Zyban and experience any serious and unusual changes in mood or behavior or who feel like hurting themselves or someone else should stop taking the medicine and call their healthcare professional right away. Friends or family members who notice these changes in behavior in someone who is taking Chantix or Zyban for smoking cessation should tell the person their concerns and recommend that he or she stop taking the drug and call a health care professional right away.
6. Is Chantix Safe for Me to Use?
While the side effects of Chantix (and Zyban) are potentially serious, it is important to note that they affect a small percentage of the people who use these medications. So yes, it is likely that this type of quit aid is safe for you to use -- just be sure to review the side effects carefully with your doctor before starting either Chantix or Zyban.
7. How Do I Use Chantix, and How Long Do I Take It?
You'll start Chantix therapy a week before you quit smoking. Following your doctor's specific instructions, you'll begin with a small dose of Chantix once a day, gradually increasing dosage until you're taking 1 mg tablets twice daily. Always take Chantix with a full glass of water on a full stomach.
The standard recommended length of treatment is 12 weeks.
8. What if I Smoke While Taking Chantix?
If you slip up and smoke a cigarette, continue using Chantix and try again. It can take a few weeks for this therapy to take hold for some people, so don't give up.
It's a tragic fact that a human life is snuffed out every 8 seconds somewhere in the world because of tobacco use today. And if trends continue unchanged, estimates put death by tobacco at one billion this century.
If you're a smoker who would like to use a quit aid to help you over the hump of nicotine withdrawal, have a chat with your doctor to weigh the pros and cons of the various quit smoking products on the market today.
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Public Health Advisory: FDA Requires New Boxed Warnings for the Smoking Cessation Drugs Chantix and Zyban. 01 July, 2009. U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Chantix Prescription Information. July, 2009. Pfizer Labs.
Chantix Side Effects and Important Safety Information. 01 July, 2009. Chantix.com.