Nicotine, the psychoactive drug in tobacco products, has been ranked with heroin and cocaine as one of the three most addictive substances in the world. According to a panel of addiction experts tasked in 2007 with identifying the most addictive drugs available to man, nicotine is more addictive than either barbiturates or alcohol.
Like other highly addictive drugs, the nicotine in cigarette smoke activates reward pathways, increasing brain levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine and producing the pleasurable sensations associated with smoking. Within 10 seconds of your first puff on a cigarette, nicotine levels in the brain peak and begin rapidly dissipating, creating that longing for yet another shot of nicotine to the brain.
Quitting Is a Formidable Challenge
Because nicotine establishes such a powerful hold on smokers, breaking the smoking habit is a daunting proposition. For this reason, smokers trying to kick the habit can be forgiven for seeking all the help they can get to accomplish that goal. So powerful is nicotine’s hold that many smokers who manage to temporarily stop smoking find themselves relapsing when the desire for that nicotine fix overpowers their good judgment.
Many of the currently available smoking cessation products, including transdermal patches, chewing gum, and lozenges, work by delivering ever smaller doses of nicotine until, theoretically, the quitting smoker’s need for the drug has all but vanished. A nicotine-free alternative to these products is Chantix, an oral prescription drug that works by blunting the effects of nicotine on the brain, thus reducing a smoker’s urge to light one up.
The active ingredient in Chantix is varenicline, which is classified as a nicotinic receptor partial agonist, meaning that it latches onto the brain’s nicotine receptors but stimulates them far less vigorously than nicotine. As a result, far less dopamine is released and the pleasurable and addictive effects of nicotine on the brain are significantly reduced.
FDA Approved in 2006
Approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in May 2006, Chantix first became available to U.S. consumers in August 2006. The following month, the medication was approved for sale in member countries of the European Union.
Chantix is intended for use by smokers who have made a genuine commitment to kick the habit. It can be incorporated into a smoking cessation program — preferably one designed jointly by you and your doctor — in a variety of ways.
Select a Quit Date
WebMD.com suggests that smokers select a date to quit smoking before they begin treatment with Chantix. One week before their quit date, smokers should begin taking one 0.5-milligram dose of Chantix daily for the first three days. For the remaining four days before the quit date, the daily dose of Chantix should be increased to two 0.5-milligram tablets of Chantix. During this week leading up to the quit date, smoking is permissible. However, smoking should be stopped on the quit date. To minimize the need for a nicotine fix, two daily doses of 0.5-milligram Chantix should be taken for the remainder of the 12-week treatment period.
Another approach to quitting with Chantix, according to WebMD, is to begin taking a single 0.5-milligram tablet daily before a quit date is selected. The smoker can increase the dose to two 0.5-milligram tablets of Chantix as directed by the doctor. The smoker should then select a quit date somewhere between day 8 and day 35 of the treatment period. Smoking is permitted until that quit date but should be discontinued after that date. However, Chantix use should be continued after quitting to minimize the former smoker’s craving for nicotine.
How Long to Take the Drug
Ideally, Chantix use should be confined to a 12-week program of smoking cessation. However, it can be extended for an additional 12 weeks if the smoker has successfully kicked the habit but still needs the drug to reduce any nicotine cravings that might trigger a relapse. Chantix should be taken with a full glass of water after a meal.
The most common side effects of Chantix are changes in taste, constipation, drowsiness, gas, headache, nausea, trouble sleeping, unusual dreams, and vomiting. These side effects should disappear upon continued use of the drug. If they persist, consult your doctor. Although rare, Chantix can cause more serious side effects, including a burning sensation in the feet or toes, unusual pain in the legs when walking, and mental/mood changes. If you experience any of these side effects, seek medical attention immediately.
You’ll Need a Prescription
Chantix is available by prescription only. If you have a prescription from your doctor you can have it filled at your local pharmacy or opt instead to order it online from a reliable supplier, such as AccessRx.com. Along with your order for Chantix, you can fax your prescription or scan and email it to AccessRx.
If you don’t have a prescription and would prefer not to have the added expense of a doctor’s visit, AccessRx can set up a complimentary online consultation with one of its team of licensed U.S. physicians. If the doctor determines on the basis of your medical history that you’re an appropriate candidate for Chantix, he or she will authorize a prescription. To learn more about Chantix and possibly order the drug, click here to reach AccessRx’s Chantix page.