Discusses varenicline (Chantix), medicine that helps people quit smoking. Explains that it blocks the effect of nicotine and helps with cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Covers side effects and risks if you have depression or bipolar disorder.
Varenicline (Chantix) for Quitting Smoking
How It Works
Varenicline is a pill you take that acts
on sites in the brain affected by nicotine. Like nicotine medicines,
varenicline helps with craving and
withdrawal symptoms. But it also blocks the effects of
nicotine from tobacco. If you start smoking again while taking varenicline, the
medicine lowers the sense of satisfaction you get from smoking, improving the
chances that you will quit.
Varenicline does not contain nicotine
and does not help you quit smoking in the same way that nicotine replacement
You start taking varenicline about a week before you
quit smoking, and you take it for a total of 12 to 24 weeks.
Why It Is Used
Doctors prescribe varenicline to help
adults quit smoking. It is not available as an
has not been studied in children under age 18 and is not recommended to help
them quit smoking.
How Well It Works
Varenicline doubles or triples the
chances of quitting smoking.1 And it may work
better than other medicines for quitting smoking.
Some of the common side effects
Nausea and, in rare cases,
Vivid, strange, or unusual
Chantix may be linked with a small increase in risk for heart problems (including heart attack). Call your doctor if you have cardiovascular disease symptoms that are new or getting worse, such as chest pain or pressure, shortness of breath, calf pain when walking, or sudden onset of weakness, numbness, or difficulty speaking.
Stop taking this medicine and call your doctor right away
if you or someone around you notices that you:
Feel anxious or nervous.
upset, tense, or edgy.
Feel depressed or angry.
with unusual emotions.
Behave in ways that are not typical for
Have suicidal thoughts or actions.
Before you take varenicline, be sure to tell your doctor if
you have ever had a mental illness.
FDA warning. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns that people who are taking varenicline (Chantix) and who experience any serious or unusual changes in mood or behavior or who feel like hurting themselves or someone else should stop taking the medicine and call a doctor right away.
Friends or family members who notice these changes in behavior in someone who is taking varenicline (Chantix) for smoking cessation should tell the person their concerns and advise him or her to stop taking the drug and to call a doctor right away.
Varenicline is not addictive. Tell your doctor about side effects that
bother you or that do not go away.
See Drug Reference for a full
list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)
What To Think About
You start taking varenicline about
a week before you plan to stop smoking. You may notice that you do not get the
same satisfaction from cigarettes during that week. Try not to increase your
smoking to overcome this.
Varenicline (Chantix) for tobacco dependence (2006).
Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics, 48(1241/1242):
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.