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How can Chantix help me quit smoking?

Quitting smoking is one of the most important things you can do to lower your risk factors for serious cardiovascular disease. While many medications for quitting smoking contain nicotine, not all do. 
One prescription medication for smoking cessation that does not contain nicotine is varenicline (Chantix).
What It Does
Varenicline blocks nicotine receptors, which decreases symptoms of nicotine withdrawal and reduces the rewarding aspects of cigarette smoking, thereby decreasing nicotine dependence.
How to Take It
Start varenicline 1 week prior to your smoking quit date to reach adequate blood levels. Take the medication with food and a full glass of water to minimize nausea. First take 0.5 mg daily for 3 days. Then take 0.5 mg twice daily for 4 days. Follow up with your doctor within 1 to 2 weeks of starting the medication. Then take 1 mg twice daily for the remaining 11 weeks.
How Long to Use It
Continue taking varenicline for 12 weeks, plus another 12 weeks to prevent relapse.
Precautions/Contraindications
Varenicline can cause nausea, insomnia, abnormal dreams, constipation, flatulence and vomiting. Notify your doctor and stop taking varenicline if you have changes in behavior, agitation, depressed mood, or suicidal thoughts. A lower dose is necessary with moderate kidney insufficiency. 
Other Considerations
Some studies have shown that varenicline may be superior to bupropion, another nicotine-free smoking cessation medication. However, a review study published in July 2011 warns of an “increased risk of serious adverse cardiovascular events associated with the use of varenicline in tobacco users.” It is best to weigh the risks and benefits in conversation with your doctor.
Varenicline (Chantix) is a newer prescription medicine developed to help people stop smoking. It works by interfering with nicotine receptors in the brain. This means it has 2 effects: it lessens the pleasurable physical effects a person gets from smoking, and it reduces the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal.
Several studies have shown varenicline can more than double the chances of quitting smoking. Some studies have also found it may work better than bupropion, at least in the short term.
Varenicline comes in pill form and is taken after meals, with a full glass of water. The daily dose increases over the first 8 days it is taken. The dose starts at one 0.5 mg pill a day for the first 3 days, then the 0.5 mg pill twice a day for the next 4 days. At the start of the second week, the dose is raised to 1 mg each morning and evening. For people who have problems with the higher dose, a lower dose may be used during the quit effort. Varenicline is given for 12 weeks, but people who quit during that time may get another 12 weeks of treatment to boost their chance of staying quit.
Reported side effects of varenicline have included headaches, nausea, vomiting, trouble sleeping, unusual dreams, flatulence (gas), and changes in taste. There have also been more recent reports of depressed mood, thoughts of suicide, attempted suicide, and changes in behavior in people taking varenicline. People who have these problems should contact their doctors right away. These side effects may happen, but varenicline is usually well-tolerated.
Since varenicline is a newer drug, not much research has been done yet to find out if it is safe to use at the same time as nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products. A recent study has suggested that using varenicline along with NRT is well-tolerated and safe. But the company that makes varenicline noted that people who used the drug along with NRT had more side effects such as nausea and headaches. More research is needed.

Chantix does not contain nicotine. Your brain has receptors for nicotine. When you are addicted to cigarettes, the nicotine attaches to these receptors. Your brain responds by releasing a chemical called dopamine, which gives you feelings of pleasure. This is fleeting, which is why your body craves nicotine. It wants that pleasure again, and you become addicted. Chantix works by attaching to the nicotine receptors in your brain and blocking nicotine. It is believed that this causes less dopamine, compared to nicotine, to be released and helps cut down or stop the cravings.

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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.