Chantix is the trade name for the prescription drug varenicline, which stimulates the brain to produce dopamine and also blocks the receptors in the brain which are activated by nicotine. Varenicline a one-two punch providing both a replacement in terms of pleasure that is produced when smokers consume cigarettes and also as a deterrent by reducing the dopamine produced by cigarettes.
How Chantix Differs from Nicotine Therapy Replacement Products
Most of the older stop smoking products provided nicotine to the body (chewing gum, patches) and were designed to help smokers reduce cigarette consumption by simply providing an alternate form of nicotine consumption. Chantix, on the other hand, provides a different pleasure stimulation while blocking the “high” produced by nicotine.
How the Chantix Stop Smoking System Works
Smokers are required to visit a physician and get medical counseling and a prescription in order to purchase Chantix. It is not an over-the-counter stop smoking aid like nicotine gums and patches.
The Chantix program is designed to last 12 weeks, with lower doses initially as the smoker cuts back and then higher doses as the smoker weans off and gives up cigarettes. The pills are color coded, marking the shift from the beginning level of the stop smoking program to the maintenance level of the drug when the smoker should be cigarette free.
Chantix includes a behavior modification or support program. This includes automated daily phone calls and/or daily emails set up by the smoker. There are required or suggested activities such as logging all cigarettes smoked before starting the program and reporting any cigarette smoking during a given day. Again, automated messages are provided based on information provided by the smoker.
How Successful is the Chantix Stop Smoking Program?
Pfizer previously claimed a 44% success rate, but that was at the end of the 12 week stop smoking program. Those quit smoking studies were based on closely supervised clinical studies with intense therapy and with the exclusion of “harder to treat” smokers.
After the initial publicity campaign touting extremely high success rates with Chantix and very little information provided on the negative side effects, Pfizer focused more on the 22% success rate noted at the one-year mark for those having completed the program and living a cigarette-free lifestyle.
Is the Cure Worse Than the Disease?
The side effects of Chantix have been downplayed during the three years the product has been on the market. As with all drugs, there are side effects, with some individuals experiencing few if any problems and others having very serious issues with the use of varenicline.
One of the most serious side effects with Chantix has been depression, which may not sound major to many, but clinical depression can be deadly. The Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began investigating in 2014 after 39 suicide deaths were attributed to the use of Chantix. In fact, at least two lawsuits are pending against Pfizer related to these unfortunate deaths.
In addition, mood changes and uncharacteristic behaviors are listed as possible side effects of Chantix as well as vivid, strange, and unsettling dreams or difficulties sleeping. Again, these side effects may often be seen as inconsequential but can be quite serious in some cases. Furthermore, Chantix users have reported aggression, anger, anxiety, nervousness and even “thoughts of hurting other people.”
Other side effects range from gas and increased appetite to tightness in the chest and peeling skin. Some users have even reported allergic reactions including swelling, hoariness, blistering, and seizures.
Chantix users may report these and any other reactions noted while using Chantix to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.
Still Want to Give Chantix a Try?
Some individuals have successfully stopped smoking using the Chantix program. It is a unique approach and one of only several products/programs aimed at helping smokers quit.
Anyone interested in trying Chantix needs to see a physician and get a prescription and also should research carefully and be aware of the possible side effects.
The average cost of the Chantix top smoking program is around $150 per month with some insurance companies covering all or part of the cost.