Chantix Helps Smokers Quit

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. – The first time Brian Kelly quit smoking, in the 1990s, he had nicotine cravings like crazy even though he was using a nicotine patch and nicotine gum.

This year when Kelly decided again to try to kick the habit he returned to the patch and gum, until he read on the Internet about Chantix, a prescription anti-smoking pill approved a year ago by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“It’s like a wonder drug as far as I’m concerned,” said Kelly, 63, of Martinsburg.

Kelly said he quit smoking in three weeks – a date he set through a quit-smoking class at Waynesboro Hospital in Pennsylvania – and didn’t face the withdrawal symptoms that occurred the first time he quit.

Chantix, made by Pfizer, blocks the nicotine receptors in the brain so people don’t get a buzz from smoking, nor do they suffer withdrawal symptoms when they stop smoking, said Dr. Paul Quesenberry, a family doctor with Cumberland Valley Family Physicians in Chambersburg, Pa.

“It’s been a really amazing addition to our regimen for getting people to stop smoking,” Quesenberry said.

Still, it’s not an immediate fix.

How long it takes to stop smoking with Chantix varies from patient to patient, but usually it takes weeks to months because people have to learn to break the habit as well, Quesenberry said.

According to Pfizer’s Web site, smokers should start taking Chantix one week before their quit-smoking date so the drug can build up in the body. They can keep smoking during that first week.

Dr. Dwight Wooster, a pulmonologist with Newman, Wooster, Kass, Bradford, McCormack & Hurwitz at Robinwood Medical Center, said he recommends his patients try to reduce how much they smoke before they start Chantix. Of the 22 patients for whom he has prescribed Chantix, about 17 already have quit smoking.

Most people take Chantix for up to 12 weeks, according to Pfizer.

The most common side effects include gastrointestinal problems such as nausea and constipation, and difficulty sleeping, doctors said.

Quesenberry said most people he’s prescribed Chantix to haven’t had problems with side effects.

Most people who experience side effects will tolerate them because the benefit of quitting smoking is so huge, he said.

Dr. Sanjay Saxena, a family doctor with Hagerstown Family Medicine, said he’s had patients ask about Chantix, whether they’ve tried other smoking cessation tools or not, because they’ve heard how successful the drug has been for others.

Health benefits

Kelly began smoking at age 7 when he was living in Brooklyn, N.Y., because it was a tough neighborhood and smoking was cool.

When he quit the first time, Kelly had been smoking as many as 4 1/2 packs a day.

He began smoking again around 2001 after several deaths in his family and got up to a pack and a half a day.

Since he quit with Chantix, Kelly feels terrific, he said.

His breathing has improved, and he no longer has a smoker’s cough.

The carbon monoxide that gets into the bloodstream from smoking can lead to heart disease and strokes, Quesenberry said.

Smoking also can lead to chronic lung diseases such as emphysema and cancers, including lung, mouth, esophagus, and cervical and bladder cancers, he said.

Lesa Spedden, 32, of Chambersburg, Pa., took Chantix to quit smoking so she would have more energy and to be an example for her children.

“I don’t want to be a hypocrite and say, ‘Now, you can’t do this.’ Meanwhile, I’m there huffing and puffing in front of them,” Spedden said.

Spedden said she truly enjoyed smoking and wanted something to help her not enjoy the habit. Chantix helped curb that desire. After taking the drug a few days, smoking cigarettes developed an unpleasant, bitter taste, she said.

Smoking didn’t appeal to her anymore.

The most immediate benefit is getting rid of the expense of smoking, Quesenberry said.

Chantix can be pricey and sometimes health insurance doesn’t cover it, but the flip side is the expense of cigarettes, Quesenberry said.

A one-month supply – a 1-milligram Chantix pill per day – would cost $60 to $65 without insurance coverage, said David Russo, pharmacist and owner of Russo’s Rx in Hagerstown.

Other options

Other options for smokers wanting to quit include the nicotine patch, nicotine gum, nicotine inhaler and the anti-smoking drug Zyban.

Saxena said Chantix has been more successful than other treatments, but there’s still a place for those other treatments. He’s had at least one patient who experienced bad nausea with Chantix.

For that person, he might recommend the nicotine inhaler, which gives smokers nicotine as well as something to do with their hands rather than handle a cigarette or turn to more food as a substitution.

Quesenberry said he typically hasn’t recommended the nicotine patch because it causes skin irritation, and smokers usually don’t like it because it doesn’t deliver that quick nicotine buzz as a cigarette does. Instead, the patch provides a slow release of nicotine.

While the taste of nicotine gum isn’t pleasant, it does a better job of providing a nicotine buzz, like a cigarette, he said.

Quesenberry said he would prescribe Zyban for smokers with significant co-existing anxiety or depression because the pill is actually an anti-anxiety medicine, marketed for the latter purpose as Wellbutrin. The drug, generically known as bupropion, was approved by the FDA in May 1997 as an anti-smoking medication and marketed under the name Zyban.

If someone specifically asked for Zyban because they knew someone who quit with it, Quesenberry would prescribe the person that drug, he said.

Wanting to quit is a big factor in succeeding quitting, local doctors said.

Quesenberry said he won’t prescribe Zyban or Chantix for smokers who don’t want to quit but say they want an anti-smoking drug because a family member wants them to quit, because they have to want to quit themselves.

A bit of psychology is involved, he said.

“Once it’s in the heart and they want to do it, it doesn’t take much. It’s getting people to where they’re ready to stop that’s the big deal sometimes,” Quesenberry said.

“If you’re not motivated, no medication is going to work,” Wooster said.

For more information about Chantix, check out this Web site:

U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s patient information sheet for Chantix:

Source: JULIE E. GREENE, The Herald-Mail Company

16 thoughts on “Chantix Helps Smokers Quit

  1. Jackie

    I am currently chewing nicotine gum 2mg/200 pcs.approx. every week, and have been since I quit cigarettes 1-2pk/day,5 years ago I decided it was “either smoke or breathe”,now, I have to quit the gum, I am definitely addicted to nicotine (picture book classic). I have to explain to grandchildren why they can’t chew my gum,why I’m always chewing,why Its a drug that I have to have, absolutely. Its embarrassing, I might as well be chewing tobacco,spitting in a cup or dipping snuff.So, now that you have the perfect image of me , I started Chantix today, I have great hopes and determination, I have other gum to chew and share with my family. I’ll let you know, I do not miss cigarettes at all, thats one good thing I can say about the gum,but thats all, because I was and probably still am for the time being addicted to nicotine. Thanks for listening.

  2. robbster

    Hi Jackie,

    Huge congrats on five years of smobriety. I have heard Chantix works wonders – I sincerely hope this will be the case for you. Please keep us posted on how you are doing and welcome to Ciggyfree!


  3. Mary Franchi

    This claim of Easyway  90% or so success rate is just untrue. Nearly everyone from one smoking cessation session went on to smoke again within a day to weeks. Also is must be made clear that qiutting all at once as they suggest can have some quite serious effects eg depression and anxiety leading to other symtons which  are equally unpleasant.See your doctor first I suggest.

  4. Mary Franchi

    Chantix is marvellous. Not prefect but by far the best solution ever. I’ve quit smoking. Now I need to get rid of the gum/sweets.

  5. Rebekah

    Today is day 8 on Chantix for me and I have to say it definately makes a difference. My doctor instructed me to stay on it for 10 days before my quit date. Yesterday I only had 4 and was pretty comfortable. I am used to 25 to 35 per day!! I feel ready for my quit day which is coming in 3 days. My husband of 17 years is also on Chantix, but not doing as well as I am. I’m concerned that if I am able to stop and he isn’t that it will cause a rift between us. Wish me luck or better yet prayers.

  6. robbster

    I wish you and your husband the best Rebekah – quitting together as a couple can be difficult but a highly bonding experience. Just remember that this quit means a new beginning for both of you!


  7. Pam

    Well I don’t want to burst anybody’s bubble but I am starting week 8 of chantix and I have had to stop using it. I have been smoke free since week 2 and so far being off the medicine hasn’t increased my cravings. I came down with the flu last week and while I was running a fever I had severe repeating dreams. I would wake up with my heart racing and just mad at the world. That lasted 4 days and the anxiety got worse everyday. I just felt like I was having a personality melt down. I am still very jittery and just in a pissy mood. So I hope I’ve been on it long enough as I haven’t had a craving for at least 2 weeks. I was glad to see on these blogs that other people have had these feeling also as they are not mentioned in the side effects. Good Luck to all

  8. josh korzi

    I quit smoking for three weeks with Chantix and doing great! I have had some side effects like weird dreams and nausea. But Chantix works that good they are worth it. Twenty years of smoking is enough.

  9. admin

    Hi Josh and Pam.. Josh congratulations on stopping smoking. You might want to wean yourself off Chantix as soon as you can and use an alternative method as you are able. This is a Research study on Chantix that you might want to read. Pam, this study emphasizes what you were sharing. Thanks for posting your experience.

  10. Shane

    Hello all, I’m a 32 year old married man that has smoked 1 1/2 packs a day for almost 14 years. I’m now on day 40 with Chantix and can tell you its the best thing that has happened to me, even with 2 very committed smokers (spouse included) living in the house there has been no desire to light up past week 1. Headaches are gone, the cigarette stink is gone, and I feel 10 years younger. I have exercised regularly for several years now and since quitting can exercise much near maximum intensity with very little to no breathlessness. I managed to lose 11 lbs this month by channeling all the extra energy into workouts. Now for the side effects, so far they have been quite livable with the following the most prominent: Transient Nausea lasting about 5-15 minutes after taking the pill, as several other people described, some pretty bizarre dreams. The most severe problem I have experienced would be a marked increase in sleepwalking and sleeptalking episodes. Overall, the medication is definitely worth trying considering the effects of tobacco products on your body.

  11. Sandy

    How unsafe is the anti-smoking drug Chantix? After 397 FDA cases of possible psychosis, 227 domestic reports of suicidal acts, thoughts or behaviors and 28 suicides, the government banned pilots and air traffic controllers and interstate truck and bus drivers from taking Chantix in 2008. Four months later, some military pharmacies banned the drug, which reduces both cravings and smoking pleasure. In addition to Chantix’ neuropsychiatric effects (immortalized by New Bohemians musician Carter Albrecht, who was shot to death in 2007 in Texas by a neighbor after acting aggressively), Chantix is linked to angioedema, serious skin reactions, visual impairment, accidental injury, dizziness, muscle spasms, seizures and loss of consciousness.

    In defending an increasingly indefensible drug, Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA Center for Drug Evaluation said last year, “Smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease, disability, and death in the United States and we know these products are effective aids in helping people quit.” True enough — but if you smoke cigarettes you can still drive an interstate truck.

  12. Orval

    No drug is perfect, but for me Chantix was a miracle. Tried to quit many times with everything. I promised myself that I would quit smoking the day I had a child. My two yr. old daughter never saw me smoking. I quit six months before she was born. It ook me eight weeks on Chantix. The common side effects that I attribute to the nicotine withdrawal were, cranky, moody , happened anyways when I didn’t have my nicotine “fix”. But it works like a charm. The urge to smoke just diminished with time until I threw away all the cigarettes, ashtrays, lighters etc. and on my sixth week I was smoke free ever since May 2008. I have seen so much Chantix bashing on the net, however, from my experience, I was saved from twenty-seven years of smoking one to two packs a day with no serious side effects. Anyways, it is safer than smoking!


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.