Does Chantix Actually Work To Quit Smoking?

Today, despite more public attention to its harmful effects, smoking is still around, and though you may not smoke, you probably know someone who does. Its persistence is likely because of how hard it is to stop regardless of how or why you started smoking initially.

Cigarettes contain nicotine which is highly addictive (via Healthline). Smoking releases neurotransmitters in the brain that make you feel good mentally and physically. Once you aren't smoking, this feeling wears off quickly, and you are left craving it and, therefore, a cigarette. If you don't fill that need, unpleasant feelings follow, such as irritability, anxiety, headaches, and fatigue.

The problem is that cigarettes contain other harmful substances that can cause cancer and other health complications, such as stroke, diabetes, heart disease, and emphysema. According to a study published in Patient Preference and Adherence, tobacco dependence is the leading cause of preventable death in the US. Luckily no matter how long you have smoked, once you stop, the health benefits begin, reports Healthline. Hence, many tactics and medicines are employed to combat smoking and nicotine addiction (per Mayo Clinic). One of these, called Chantix, may be the answer those trying to quit have been looking for.

Medication for quitting smoking

There are two methods to address the physical addiction aspect of smoking (per Healthline). One of these is nicotine replacement therapy which provides nicotine without the harmful effects of cigarettes. This method requires time, with cessation achieved by slowly lessening the nicotine consumed. The non-nicotine method instead works by targeting the management of the feel-good chemicals in the brain.

Chantix is the brand name of varenicline, a non-nicotine smoking cessation medication taken daily as a tablet by mouth (via MedlinePlus). Varenicline works by blocking the pleasant feelings you receive from smoking; therefore, when you smoke, you don't physically feel good or associate smoking with pleasure. Varenicline is usually taken for 12 weeks, and by the end of the treatment, smokers should be completely abstaining from smoking, including after treatment ceases. You can either take varenicline a week before your planned quit date, take varenicline and then quit within 35 days after beginning treatment, or slowly reduce smoking monthly during the 12 weeks on the medication.

Chantix debuted in 2006 and has had good success rate numbers according to Patient Preference and Adherence. Unfortunately, adverse side effects can occur with Chantix which caused a severe drop in its use per a 2019 study by JAMA Network Open. In 2009 the FDA required a warning label be placed on Chantix due to the dangerous possible side effects, including the risk of depression symptoms like depressed mood, agitation, hostility, and suicidal thoughts. Is Chantix safe enough for use?

Chantix can safely help smoking cessation

In 2016, Evaluating Adverse Events in a Global Smoking Cessation Study (EAGLES) determined there were no significant increases in neuropsychiatric adverse events in those prescribed varenicline (per Royal College of Psychiatrists). Within 12 months of this study's publication, varenicline use increased, and it was once again considered safe, reports JAMA Network Open.

This testing proved to be highly beneficial as experts have since deemed varenicline as the most recommended treatment method for those wishing to stop smoking, according to the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. Varenicline was found to significantly reduce the urge to smoke, craving scores, and measures of smoking enjoyment via Patient Preference and Adherence. While other cessation medicines and placebos had 30% and 18% abstinence rates, respectively, for four weeks after 12 weeks of treatment, varenicline had a 44% rate. Likewise, one year later, 22% of smokers who used varenicline remained abstinent, while only 10% of the placebo group did. The Royal College of Psychiatrists reported in 2018 that 1 in 4 people in the United Kingdom who quit smoking were using Chantix.

The studies show that Chantix is a powerful tool for quitting smoking. While there are possible side effects like mood changes, seizures, or cardiovascular issues, these should be weighed against the damage done by smoking (via Pfizer). It's important to note as well that Pfizer, the manufacturer of Chantix, advises that patients receive education and counseling support along with their medication to ensure its success.