What Is Chantix (Varenicline)?

A Prescription Stop Smoking Aid With High Success

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Chantix (varenicline) is a prescription medication that is commonly prescribed to help people quit smoking. It has shown to be rather beneficial for many people. However, it does have a number of well-known side effects.

Whether or not it is right for you is a discussion you need to have with your doctor. Yet, it is a good idea to learn how Chantix works and why it may help you break a nicotine addiction.

Overview

Chantix is the brand name for varenicline tartrate, a smoking cessation drug developed by Pfizer, Inc. It was developed specifically to help people quit smoking and it has two very unique qualities.

Chantix mimics a low dose of nicotine, which eases the symptoms that are common when going through withdrawal. It also blocks nicotine from binding to receptors, essentially rendering it ineffective. If a person smokes while taking Chantix, they do not get the normal nicotine boost and smoking actually becomes bland.

Studies indicate that your chances of success are two to three times higher with Chantix than if you used no medication. Researchers also found that it is more effective than Zyban (bupropion) and other nicotine replacement therapies, such as patches and lozenges.

As with all of these options, the best success rates are found in people who receive counseling or support while attempting to quit.

Prescriptions

Chantix is available by prescription only. You will need to see a doctor in order to receive it. It's very important to have an honest conversation about your medical history and non-smoking goals as well because Chantix is not recommended for everyone.

When discussing Chantix with your doctor, be sure to mention any of the following if they pertain to you:

  • Other quit aids you're using.  
  • All other prescription medications you're using, including insulin, asthma medicines, and blood thinners.
  • Non-prescription medications you use, including vitamins, pain relievers, herbal remedies, and supplements.
  • Kidney problems, including dialysis treatments.
  • If you drink alcohol.
  • Any history of seizures.
  • Any known heart or blood vessel problems.
  • If you're pregnant or planning on it. It's not known whether Chantix can hurt an unborn child. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), animal studies have indicated decreased birth weights.
  • If you're breastfeeding. It's also not known whether Chantix passes through human breast milk, though the FDA does note that animal studies indicate that it may to some degree. You and your doctor should evaluate whether you should take Chantix or breastfeed. It is not advised to do both.

Dosage and Use

It's recommended that you start taking Chantix while you're still smoking. This allows the drug to build up in your system, making it much easier to stop smoking when your quit date arrives. There are two ways to start Chantix therapy:

  1. Choose your quit date and then start taking Chantix seven days before you quit smoking.
  1. Begin taking Chantix and choose a quit date that is between eight to 35 days of treatment.

Chantix comes in two strengths, .5 mg and 1 mg.

Following your physician's specific instructions, you will likely begin with a low dose of Chantix once a day and gradually increase the dosage until you're taking 1 mg tablets twice daily. Always take Chantix with a full glass of water and after eating.

If you miss a dose, take it as soon as you remember. However, if it's close to the time when you should take the next dose, just wait and take that dose, skipping the missed one.

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.

Typically, Chantix is prescribed for up to 12 weeks. Your doctor will be able to create a treatment plan that suits your needs best. 

Side Effects

You may have heard that Chantix comes with side effects. Among the most common are nausea, gas, vomiting, constipation, and a disruption in dream patterns. There are other less common and potentially serious side effects associated with Chantix. It is not recommended for people with certain medical conditions or who are taking particular medications. 

Only your doctor will be able to help you decide whether Chantix poses a significant risk to you. It is best to talk to him before making a decision based on other people's experiences, particularly stories you read online.

A Word From Verywell

It's important to remember that quit aids are exactly what the name implies—aids. Without resolve and determination to quit smoking, as well as additional support, a quit aid may not be able to help you. On the other hand, with those other elements, any quit aid you choose can be of great help. When you're ready, talk to your doctor about Chantix to see if it's a good fit for your smoking cessation program.

Source: 

Cahill K, Lindson-Hawley N, Thomas KH, Fanshawe TR, Lancaster T. Nicotine Receptor Partial Agonists for Smoking Cessation. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2016;(5):CD006103. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD006103.pub7.

Rigotti NA. Patient Education: Quitting Smoking (Beyond the Basics)UpToDate. 2016.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration.  Medication Guide Chantix (Varenicline) Tablets. 2016. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2016/021928s040lbl.pdf

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