What is Chantix? It’s a nicotine-free pill that is taken for three months, and along with good support, it’s used to help individuals stop smoking. Since this is a prescription medication, a doctor must prescribe it. It’s only designed for individuals who are over the age of 18, and it’s quickly become the top prescription stop-smoking aid inside the United States. Here’s a closer look at this quit-smoking aid, how it works, how to take it, potential side effects, and more helpful information for individuals considering this medication.
How Does Chantix Work? *
Varenicline tartrate, which is marketed today as Chantix, works in two different ways to help smokers stop smoking. First, it helps to partially activate certain sites within the brain called nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, which are affected by nicotine. While no nicotine is included in the medication, it gives mild nicotine-like effects to individuals who are trying to quit, reducing many of the symptoms that come with nicotine withdrawal. The effect of this medication of nicotinic receptors is very similar to that of having a low or medium dose of nicotine.
Chantix also helps to neutralize the effects of nicotine when individuals smoke while they are taking this medication. Nicotine increases the level of dopamine, a brain chemical that offers feelings of well-being and pleasure. Since these effects wear off quickly, smokers continue to dose regularly to maintain these pleasurable effects. Chantix helps to block nicotine from stimulating dopamine, which means that smoking while on the drug won’t result in that “feel good” rush that normally comes with smoking. This often makes smoking feel unfulfilling, making it easier for smokers to quit the habit.
How Chantix Is Taken *
Like any other prescription medication, Chantix should always be taken as prescribed by a physician. However, this medication is recommended to be taken for three months. In most cases, the dosing will start with 0.5 milligrams each morning for the first three days. From day four through day seven, 0.5 milligrams is taken both day and night. From day eight on, 1 milligram is taken in the morning and at night.
This medication can be used in a couple different ways, and patients should talk to their physician about the method that will best fit their needs. The two methods include:
- Start taking Chantix without setting a quit date. After beginning to take the medication, a quit date can be chosen that is 8-35 days after the start of treatment.
- Set a specific date to stop smoking and then begin taking Chantix a week before the quit date. This lets the medication build up in the body. However, it’s important to stick to that quit date.
Varenicline tartrate should be taken with a full glass of water after eating. It’s important to take all doses of the medication to reap the most benefits. Prescriptions should be refilled before patients run out of the drug to avoid missed doses.
Talking to a Doctor about Chantix *
Before taking this stop-smoking medication, it’s important that patients talk to their physician about the medication. Patients should tell the physician if they:
- Have kidney disease or are on kidney dialysis. Lower doses of the drug may be prescribed for individuals with kidney problems.
- Have blood vessel or heart problems
- Plan to become pregnant or are pregnant. It’s not clear if Chantix harms unborn babies.
- Use other quit-smoking treatments. Taking Chantix when on the nicotine patch may result in upset stomach, vomiting, nausea, tiredness, dizziness, and headache.
- Consume alcohol
- Are breastfeeding. It’s unknown if Chantix is passed on to the baby via breast milk.
- Have other medical problems
- Have seizures
It’s also important for patients to inform their physician about all medications they take, including both over-the-counter medications, herbal supplements, vitamins, and prescription medications. Keeping a list of the medications taken can be helpful to the patient’s physician.
Potential Chantix Side Effects *
While Varenicline tartrate has been successful for many patients, the side effects of Chantix have the potential to be severe in some cases. Some of the more common Chantix side effects include:
- Sleep disturbances
Some individuals who take this medication have more serious side effects, such as:
- Depressed mood
- Changes in behavior
- Worsening or new mental health problems
- Suicidal actions or thoughts
It’s important to stop this medication and contact the patient’s physician immediately if patients, their family members, or caregivers notice any of the following symptoms:
- New or worse panic attacks, depression, or anxiety
- Acting on impulses that are dangerous
- Thoughts about dying or suicide
- Attempting to commit suicide
- Feeling that other people are against you
- Acting violent, angry, or aggressive
- Extreme increase in talking or activity
- Hearing or seeing things that are not there
- Feelings of confusion
- Feeling restless or agitated
- Abnormal sensations or thoughts
- Other unusual changes in mood or behavior
Although Chantix is designed to help reduce nicotine withdrawal symptoms, many people still end up dealing with certain nicotine withdrawal symptoms while on the medication. These symptoms may include:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Trouble concentrating
- The urge to smoke
- Weight gain
- Decreased heart rate
- Anxious feelings
- Depressed moods
- Increase in appetite
- Feelings of restlessness
In rare cases, allergic reactions may occur. Some of the symptoms of an allergic reaction include:
- Rash along with peeling skin
- Mouth blisters
- Swelling of the mouth, neck, throat, or face
- Difficulty breathing
Seek emergency medical attention if these symptoms occur.
How Much Does Chantix Cost? *
The cost of Chantix varies depending on an individual’s insurance plan. Many insurance plans now cover this medication. Patients should talk to their insurance provider to find out if the medication is covered by their plan. Eligible patients can get a Chantix Savings Card, which helps patients save as much as $75 per month on the medication, although the card is only accepted by certain participating pharmacies.
What Is the Chantix Success Rate? *
Many patients trying to stop smoking wonder if Chantix really works, and according to many Chantix reviews, patients experience great results with this medication. Studies also back up the success of this drug. In one study, Varenicline tartrate was shown to be nearly three times as effective as the placebo. It’s also been shown to work even better than Zyban, which is another medication that smokers often used to quit the habit.
Approved in May 2006 by the FDA, Chantix has been shown to help 44% of individuals quit smoking at three months. This is significantly higher than the 30% success rate of Zyban, a Chantix competitor. While some preliminary studies show that only about 20% of Chantix users stay abstinent for a year, this is still 60% more successful than the one-year abstinence rate for individuals who took Zyban.
Studies also show that taking higher doses of Chantix seems to be more effective. The four-week continuous quit rate for taking only 1 milligram of Chantix each day was 33%, while the quit rate for those taking 1 milligram of Chantix twice each day was 48%.
Chantix has the ability to be an excellent quit-smoking aid for individuals who are having a difficult time quitting. However, patients do need to consider the serious side effects that come with this medication. Always discuss the drug with a physician, including both the pros and cons, before deciding if this is the right medication to help you quit smoking.