Over two million people attempt to quit smoking each year in the United States. Popular methods of quitting include using smoking cessation aids, such as nicotine replacement products or anti-nicotine medications.
Common effects of smoking cessation include increased levels of irritability and anxiety as the body adjusts to the lack of nicotine.
One common smoking cessation aid, anti-nicotine medication Chantix, has been linked to abnormal levels of aggression and violence amongst its users.
Pfizer’s Smoking Cessation Aid Chantix
Chantix is a smoking cessation aid manufactured by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer. First approved by the FDA in 2006, this pill is intended to reduce users’ positive associations with smoking. It works by blocking in smokers’ brains the receptors that are stimulated by nicotine. It has been used by millions of people around the world as its popularity grows. In 2007, Chantix profits reached over $883 million.
Reports indicate many users experiencing aggressive behavior and thoughts, including self harm and suicide, and lashing out at friends and family members when unprovoked. This has even occurred for people with no previous aggressive or violent behaviors. Pfizer has many lawsuits pending against it on the basis that the company did not disclose the risks of psychological side effects.
Study Documents Adverse Side Effects of Chantix
Chantix now leads the list of prescription drugs that are associated with acts of violence. Results of a study published in PLoS ONE medical journal revealed that Chantix played a role in 408 cases of FDA reported adverse events. The second highest rate of incident was with the anti-depressant medication Paxil, with 177 cases. Not only are the reported rates of violence the highest, but the rates are proportionate to the number of people taking the medication.
Researchers speculate that the increased acts of violence are due to extra dopamine or serotonin released to the smoker’s brain while using the prescription medication, resulting in neuropsychiatric side effects. For people taking Chantix, the violent urges begin shortly after starting, and end quickly after discontinuing its use.
In 2009, manufacturers added to Chantix packaging a warning label depicting the potential hazards, including severe behavior changes and bouts of depression. Pfizer has also been required to do scientific trials on people with these symptoms to help determine their causes.
If you or someone you know has made the decision to quit smoking, talk about all your cessation options and strategies with your doctor.