Varenicline (Brand name: Chantix)

What it is?

Varenicline is sold under the brand name of Chantix. It is a prescription drug that helps people quit smoking or chewing tobacco. Varenicline does not contain nicotine and it is not addictive.

Varenicline works two ways. First, it helps take away nicotine withdrawal symptoms that occur when you no longer get the nicotine from tobacco. Second, if you do use tobacco after starting varenicline, it prevents the nicotine from acting in your brain the way it did before. Both of these actions help you quit using tobacco.

Benefits of Varenicline

  • It is easy to use. It is a pill that you take once or twice a day.
  • It has no nicotine in it which may be important to some people.

How to use it

  • Your healthcare provider or pharmacist will tell you how much to take and how to use it.
  • Varenicline may cause drowsiness in some people. Before driving see how you respond to Varenicline.
  • Take Varenicline daily for a full 12 weeks unless your healthcare provider tells you to stop sooner or take it longer.
  • Let your healthcare provider know how much you drink when you ask for your prescription.
  • It is important to swallow the Varenicline tablet whole. Do not chew or crush tablets.

Before using Varenicline, let your healthcare provider know if you:

  • Are pregnant or breastfeeding. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not take varenicline.
  • Are under age 18. People under 18 should not take varenicline.
  • Have kidney disease. People with severe kidney disease may need to use special caution when taking varenicline.
  • Have depression or other mental health problems like bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, mania, suicidal thoughts, or a drug or alcohol dependent.

Cost

Varenicline costs no more per day than a pack of cigarettes. Remember to check with your employer or health plan to see if they pay for all or part of your varenicline prescription.

Contact your local pharmacist or healthcare provider if you experience any of these common side effects:

  • Upset stomach (nausea)
  • Vomiting after taking Varenicline
  • Strange dreams
  • Constipation

These side effects are not common, but seek medical attention right away if you have any of them:

  • Mood changes (feeling more aggressive or angry than usual. Feeling irritable or angry after quitting may be a symptom of nicotine withdrawal, but let your doctor know anyway.)
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or others
  • Severe headache
  • Severe nausea or vomiting
  • Irregular heartbeat or palpitations
  • Mental confusion or dizziness
  • Fainting spells or "blackouts"

Important: The FDA has issued an alert that there may be an association between varenicline use and mood changes like agitation, depression, suicidal thoughts, and thoughts about hurting others. Some people taking varenicline may also experience drowsiness that could affect their ability to drive and operate heavy machinery. If you have ever been diagnosed or treated for a mental health condition like depression or bipolar disease you should tell your doctor before using varenicline. If you experience any side effects that concern you while using varenicline, please contact your healthcare provider right away.