How can varenicline help me quit smoking?

Howard J. Shaffer, PhD
Addiction Medicine
Varenicline (Chantix) is chemically similar to an extract from a medicinal plant that has been used in Europe for many years as a smoking cessation drug. Varenicline takes the "fun" out of smoking by latching onto the brain's nicotine receptors. When nicotine tries to influence these receptors, it can't trigger the flood of dopamine needed to activate the brain's pleasure center. Varenicline doesn't inactivate the receptors. Instead, it stimulates them to slowly but steadily release dopamine, which eases nicotine withdrawal symptoms.

Varenicline partially stimulates nicotine reception in the brain while blocking a cigarette's effect. It helps reduce the urge to smoke and may reduce withdrawal symptoms and minimize reinforcement of continued smoke. Some of the possible side effects are nausea, headache, insomnia and abnormal dreams. In order to reduce nausea, this medication should be taken with food and/or water.

Varenicline (name brand: Chantix) diffuses the pleasure of nicotine by blocking nicotine receptors in the brain so that smoking can't stimulate them in the way it used to. That makes having a cigarette much less pleasurable, and that, in turn, should make it easier to resist the desire to smoke.

Frank T. Leone, MD
Pulmonary Disease
Varenicline can be used to help you stop smoking, as it reduces the urge to smoke. It may reduce withdrawal symptoms and minimize the reinforcement of continued smoking. It works by partially stimulating the nicotine receptors in the brain while blocking the effect of cigarettes.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.