Chantix was a brand product containing varenicline, a medicine to help you in the initial stages of quitting smoking as you suffer nicotine withdrawal effects and cravings. The brand has been entirely discontinued by the manufacturer because of unacceptable levels of nitrosamines. Generic versions are still available.
Varenicline acts on the nicotine receptors in the brain but doesn't reward you with dopamine, the feel-good hormone that nicotine produces. It, therefore, blocks nicotine from having its effect, breaking that pleasure-reward association while simultaneously reducing cravings and withdrawal symptoms. This all works towards reducing the pleasurable effects of smoking and nicotine.
This hopefully breaks the cycle to urge you to smoke again and avoids feelings of depression or irritability that can accompany nicotine cravings and any difficulty sleeping.
The usual treatment course of varenicline tablets is 12 weeks, starting one week before the date you intend to quit. You can continue to smoke and gradually wean down during this week and should notice that the cravings for cigarettes reduces each day.
From the quit date onwards, you continue to take the tablets for the remainder of the course.
The initiation pack of varenicline contains 25 tablets with doses varying between 0.5 mg and 1 mg. There is a maintenance pack containing only varenicline 1mg tablets.
For week 1: The dosage is one 0.5 mg tablet daily for the first 3 days, then increased to one 0.5 mg tablet twice daily (morning and evening) for the remainder of the week.
For weeks 2 to 12: One 1 mg strength tablet is taken twice daily. After completing the course, you will have stopped smoking for at least 11 weeks. The theory is that you will no longer have nicotine cravings or withdrawal symptoms, and you will have broken the habit and behavioral cues that keep people smoking.
If you are not able to quit smoking right away, you should have been able to reduce smoking during the first 12 weeks of treatment. If you have not been able to completely quit smoking by the end of that treatment period, discuss with your pharmacist or stop smoking adviser on what to do after this.
Like all medicines, varenicline can cause side effects in some people. Giving up smoking with or without treatment can cause various symptoms, including feeling depressed, irritable, frustrated or anxious, sleeplessness, difficulty concentrating, decreased heart rate, and increased appetite or weight gain.
Rarely severe mental health symptoms can arise, either from varenicline or stopping smoking, including severe agitation, depression, or changes to behavior. You should see your doctor urgently if this occurs.
It can be difficult to tease apart whether varenicline or stopping smoking is to blame for some symptoms. Varenicline often causes inflammation in the nose and throat, abnormal dreams, difficulty sleeping, headaches, and nausea. A full list of possible side effects is available in your medicine pack.
*In case of overdose or taking too much😙
You should contact your pharmacist, doctor, or urgent care immediately, call 911 or go to the Emergency Department.
It suits most people, but caution should be added if you have a kidney or heart problem or if you have certain mental health conditions, as your doctor may suggest a more suitable alternative. It makes some people less tolerant of alcohol, so be cautious in alcohol consumption when first starting varenicline, and speak to your doctor if you have an alcohol dependency, as there may be a better option for you.
Varenicline is not recommended in pregnancy or breastfeeding, as there is too little research to say whether it is safe. However, smoking during pregnancy carries significant risk to your baby, so it’s worth choosing this time to quit: nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is usually a safer option.
Varenicline tablets are suitable for adults over 18 years only.
If any of the common side effects are intolerable or not subsiding after a few weeks, speak to your stop-smoking adviser, doctor, or pharmacist, and consider together any alternative methods to help you stop smoking. Additionally, any of these professionals may be able to help with a continuation course or alternative if you have relapsed or continue to feel the urge to smoke after your 12-week treatment course.
You should also speak to your doctor urgently if you feel severely agitated, anxious, depressed, or have thoughts about hurting yourself.
Seek immediate medical attention for any of the rare but serious adverse effects listed in your product information, such as chest pain, difficulty breathing, mouth or throat swelling, a blistering or peeling skin rash, or a suspected seizure.
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