a closeup of a man smoking a dangling cigarette

Q. The story about the person who became depressed on Chantix caught my eye. My husband and I were both on Chantix to quit smoking back in June. Neither of us has a history of depression, but after he was on it he tried (with no warning) to take his own life.

I tell everyone thinking about taking Chantix to make sure they talk to the doctor about ALL of the possible side effects. In rare instances, suicidal ideation and psychotic episodes may happen. That is stated in the prescribing information, which also says that depression and anxiety are frequent side effects.

A. Chantix (varenicline) is a relatively new oral prescription medicine to help people quit smoking. Separating drug side effects from nicotine withdrawal can be tricky.

When people quit smoking it is not unusual to feel angry and irritable. Other symptoms may include anxiety, depression, impatience, and problems concentrating.

Some readers have noted similar experiences to yours, though. One person reported:

“Two weeks after being on Chantix my emotions have been off the scale: from crying to yelling to feeling totally helpless. I have, twice before, quit smoking cold turkey and NEVER felt so depressed.

“After 48 hours without Chantix I am full of energy and ready to fulfill my responsibilities. I think, for me, that the depression must be a side effect and not just the nicotine withdrawal, based on my cold-turkey experiences.”

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  1. chels
    United States

    I am 26 years old. I have been smoking half a pack per day, of menthol 100 cigarettes, for 8 years. I am on day 14 smoke-free. After the 3rd day on Chantix, I couldn’t even force myself to smoke a cigarette. Completely disgusted, even by the smell of second-hand smoke now! I only take half of the adult daily dose, and I still have zero urges. I have many vivid dreams at night, but nothing terrifying or crazy. My mood is very stable. The first few days I felt a little agitated and felt some rage, but that could just be nicotine withdrawal. Now, I feel fine and I am a non-smoker. The only side effect that was bad, was the nausea. Felt it the first week, very strong, but now I feel fine as long as I eat when I take Chantix. So thankful for this medication, it very well could have saved my life. I am just weary of the long-term effects of taking Chantix, which is why I will discontinue use after a full month and see how it goes.

  2. connie
    evansville in

    Wow, I just woke up wanting to hit something. I knocked the smoke alarm off the wall and killed it with the broom. Real bad dreams. I have got to quit smoking in order to get a new kidney. These dreams make me mean. I dont know what to do I want a smoke bad. God what can I do? I just want to die. How long will this last? Connie

  3. Cindy

    I am taking chantix with the only symptom being nausea upon swallowing the pill.
    I try to eat a bit before – does not help
    It does subside after about an hour
    Other than that, no issues and no desire to smoke

  4. leesa
    south dakota

    Well I’ve only been on chantex a few days but I feel as though I am not right. I can’t see straight and feel stuck like I can’t make decisions or even talk. I’ve been stuttering and in a daze cigarettes taste like chemicals now and aren’t very tantalizing but I dont know if it’s worth it to tell you the truth.

  5. Amber

    I started taking it 3 days ago and today I am itching all over. Does anyone know if that is normal?

  6. Mike
    New Zealand

    3rd time on Chantix over 4 years, 1st time all good no side effects at month 9 got stressed and started smoking again. 2nd time 6 months same deal. This time side effects galore after only a week and a half… Nausa bad, sore back, hives, tight feeling across my chest, no energy, broken sleep. Stoped taking about 30 hrs ago very slowly coming right and off to the Doc’s on Monday.
    From my experience this time, this stuff is bad!!!

  7. Kimberly

    Eat 30 minutes prior and then eat a little something after you take the medicine. Also, call your physician that prescribed it and ask for nausea meds. Zofran can be given if you can take it and it won’t give you the side effects phenergan can. Also, I found that as long as I continued to smoke on Chantix…..I felt really bad. Once I stopped (took me 2 weeks and going a full week now smoke free) the side effects eased up. Good luck and hang in there!

    • Kimberly

      Sorry! My last commented was for Loren.

  8. Loren

    My husband took chantix for 2 weeks and started having skipped heart beats, it scared us both and after stopping the med he felt great, no issues! I have the heart condition with pacemaker. I have been on it 2 weeks+ and have eased the smoking to a minimum but I am so sick on it and yes, I eat before and still lose my meal and the medicine. I need it to work but 2 weeks like this is not ideal.

  9. Terry

    I just started my third week of chantix and stopped smoking the first week. It’s now been 8 days since I’ve had a cigarette and little to no side effects from the drug. However, after reading all the negative things that have happened to people i am afraid to continue taking this drug. I did wake up with a broken blood vessel in my eye for no apparent reason and am a little worried that it might be a serious side effect. I think im going to stop taking this drug and just hope that I’ve taken it long enough to not want to go back to smoking.

    • Kimberly

      Terry, I would wean yourself off of Chantix. It does state not to suddenly stop taking medication. I have several friends who stopped without lowering dose and they experienced major depression for several days.

      I am on week 3 of Chantix. I stopped smoking 4 days ago. My side effects are: nausea off/on, sleep issues, vivid dream (no nightmares), restless leg syndrome and increase in appetite. In the first week I had brain fog and “just not feeling good”, after the first week or so those symptoms disappeared and was replaced by the ones mentioned above.

      Pfizer is giving purchase price refunds to users experiencing reactions and unable to continue taking varenicline per website: http://whyquit.com/pr/082506.html
      Scroll down towards bottom of page.

  10. Brandi
    Wailuku, HI

    I started Chantix on 11/19/14, and my quit date was 12/14/14. I continued taking Chantix until 12/24/14, and got off of it. The only side effects I had while on the pill were the vivid dreams, and nausea IF I didn’t take it on a full stomach. I’ve been off of Chantix for a week now, and am noticing that I’m constantly thinking about food, and that I’m really irritable. Can anyone else relate? I’ve been reading up on it, and want to attribute it to the loss of feel-good chemicals, dopamine and serotonin… looking for a supplement for this now. Any advise would be greatly appreciated! Also, I have not so much as craved a cigarette since about two days after quitting!

  11. pat
    north country

    My husband was a 2-3 pack a day smoker for 30 yrs. Decided to go the Chantix route. That was 5 yrs ago & hasn’t smoked since. States after a week, he chose not to even make an effort to smoke another. No side effects other than strange dreams for several wks. He advocates it to others who seriously want to quit.

  12. Brian e
    elmira ny

    I am a 22 year old male. Smoked for three years. Wanted to quit bur enjoyed it. Took Chantix quit smoking 14 days into it. I had great days and never an issue. When I quit taking the pill I complete have lost control. I’m sad and feel blah. But everyday gets a little better. The good thing is I could care less about smoking again

  13. Randy
    Portland, Or.

    Just took my first pill this morning and read thru some of your comments. I’m hoping this goes smoothly, and pray it works. I will post here to try to help others in my process of quitting.

  14. ron
    fresno ca

    Wow, what an eye opener.
    About me: 50 yr old male, 6’3″, 342 lbs. smoked for 35 yrs. Have not lived the healthiest life style.
    Just got my starter pack of Chantix today. Now I’m scared to start it.
    Don’t know if my abused body can take all the side affects and definitely don’t want something that takes years to get over to happen.
    Rethinking it now.

    • cindy

      I also got my starter pack of Chantix & was hesitant on taking the drug for over a week. I read thru all the info on it & opted out because it said if you are experiencing chest pains & other pains see your doctor first, so I did 3 days ago. See….I also, unfortunately have Fibromyalgia, was diagnosed 15 yrs ago. The weather here in Wisconsin has my Fibro all blown out of proportion, what ever that means! In other words, cold weather does my Fibro no good & I am am living in the wrong state. Ant how…getting back on track. I have smoked for over 35 yrs & want to quit. Both my parents died of lung cancer & cancer has taken all of my relatives. A year ago I got my first e-cig, but its not the same as a real cig. I took my first dose of Chantix yesterday and again today. I sure hope this Chantix works without bad side effects! I am 53 and time keeps ticking!

  15. Barbara

    How long do you need to take Chantix after stopping smoking?
    How do you taper off? It is definitely not a fun medicine!

  16. Cellie

    I’ve been on it a week and tomorrow is my quit day. I have vivid dreams but not nightmares yet. I am definitely apathetic and hope this doesn’t slip into depression. If it does, I’ll quit as I’ve been clinically depressed before and don’t want to relive that period. A lot of pressures at work currently so strangely the apathy is helping me cope by not responding to stuff or letting things get to me, so a plus for me.

    I do have low grade nausea but that’s okay as it is helping me watch my wait. The hardest thing is feeling off. Since I’m apathetic it is hard to genuinely get excited about good things or feel down about bad things. I love comedies and would love to laugh out loud again but it’s like I laugh in my head. I’ll keep on it for while longer as the cigs are starting to taste nasty and I really want to stop.

    I was extremely sleepy so may cut dose in half to equal the starter dose if it continues as I have be alert to read contracts at work. Also, If I start getting the other side effects I’ve read about, personality disorders, headaches etc. I’ll stop but so far not so bad especially considering the smokers cough and obsession has left.

  17. Bridget
    United States

    I came online to search for any info on Chantix and headaches.. I didn’t see severe headaches as a side effect in my paperwork. I have every side effect listed and although the nausea is hard for me, it’s the headaches that are making me want to quit taking it. My mood swings are embarrassing and I can’t help the way I feel. Does anyone else have bad headaches while taking this?

    • ROBIN

      I’m on my second week fourth dose, third time using it. The nausea and head aches are so bad I’ve been vomiting today. As far as bad dreams and depressive disorder I have not had a single problem with this. I really want to quit for good, the last time I quit for almost a year but this is horrible !! I’m really starting to fear for my physical health at this point and do not know what to do.

    • Rachel P.
      United States

      Cut the dose in half or less and the headaches should go away. My headaches were terrible during the day so I switch off between .5 mg and 1 mg at bedtime only. I never take it during the day. Been quit almost 4 weeks. I figure the nausea is better than chemo someday! The nausea goes away after about 2 weeks and is much better if you eat carbs for breakfast even if you only take it at night.

    • ranij
      United States

      I have a splitting headache right on the top of my head since taking Chantix. Also, depression and uncontrollable crying, about 1 1/2 hours after taking it all I want to do is sleep. Sticking with it, but skeptical about so many side effects.

  18. Mike

    Today is my second day at 2 pills a day. I have decided I am not going to continue with it. There are just to many side effects. I experience insomnia, anxiety, depression, stomach cramps, dizziness, lethargy, apathy; and though the smoke now tastes like bleach, I’m actually smoking more because the side effects make me feel so awful. For me this is definitely a case where the cure is worse than the disease. I can’t subject myself to 4 months of that. I’ll have to find another way, will power or something else. I can’t wait until the drug works its way out of my system. I Really want to feel like me again.

    • Bridget

      I know exactly how you feel. The only reason I am not quitting is because I am hopeful that the side effects will be worth it in the end. I’m trying so hard to hang on.. I posted the comment about the headaches because I feel like they are killing me! :/

  19. Mike

    I’m new to Chantix. I’m only on my 3rd day, and tonight I’m supposed to be moving up the dose to 2 a day. I’m nervous about it. I’m already noticing all the side effects.

    I’m experiencing nervousness, its harder to breath, and I feel a tightening in my chest. Its kind of scary, I guess my biggest fear is it may cause a cardiac problem. Reading other’s experiences is an eye opener. It sounds like a hard drug to be on in many ways. I haven’t stopped smoking yet, and may even be increasing due to the uncomfortable and persistent nervous feeling. Yet I feel strongly I should quit.

    I don’t know if I will be able to tolerate Chantix at the high doses, it also bothers my stomach a lot. I wish I’d received more forewarning from health care professionals who pass it off as being harmless. I’m not sure if quitting smoking is worth a heart attack. I think I am going to proceed with caution, but am already very discouraged with the serious side effects I am experiencing at even the lowest dose. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me. This was helpful. I hope we can all quit smoking, and stay safe at the same time.

  20. kh

    I began taking Chantix about a month ago. I just found this site today. I woke myself up screaming at the top of my lungs at someone(don’t remember who it was in the dream) about someone trespassing onto my property and being disrespectful. I was pissed in my dream, and feel very pissy today.
    Even after I was awake, I was still screaming for a few more statements. I knew I was awake and was aware I had just had a bad dream, and this disturbed me for the amount of time it took me to snap out of it. This was the second time I woke myself up hollering mad at someone or something.
    I’m through with Chantix. I just got back from a wonderfully planned trip to visit family from out of state, and am wondering what all I may have said wrong. I’m feeling sure that I wasn’t myself. Saying things I would never say ordinarily. I have a very good trait of self control, but have realized that my self control is out the window on this medicine.
    I’m wondering if my behavior will ever be forgiven, and what I’ve said will ever be forgotten. The later, probably not. I’ve had the vivid (and many times nightmarish) dreams, cried, feel very depressed, constipated, some nausea, feeling like I need to apologize to everyone(but I haven’t yet because I don’t know where to start), and my stomach rumbling so loud at night that I actually got up to see what was outside.
    I’ve smoked for 34yrs., and quit one time for a couple of months. Chantix has help curb the cravings for cigs a lot. Have smoked daily about 2-6 cig. while on medicine as compared to a pack or so a day. I have been diagnosed with COPD, so I felt very good about starting this medicine after telling my PCP doc how bad I wanted to quit.
    Now I feel very good about quitting Chantix, and having normal relationships with family again, and feeling okay with myself, too! I’m writing this from my bed, and as soon as I finish, I’m going to lay back down. Tired. I feel like I should be locked up and in isolation like a rabid animal.
    I have to second think about trying to quit cold turkey again. I have decided that might be the best way for me. But first, I want to feel normal again. I don’t want to discourage anyone that this med. is working out for them. I just want to help someone not to feel alone in the way I’ve been feeling, if you relate to anything I have shared. God Bless everyone trying to quit, and thumbs up to the ones that have been successful.

  21. Jim

    Hi, I have been taking champix (Canadian version of Chantix) as well as zyban together for the last 3 or 4 weeks now. I have completely quit smoking and have no urges to smoke. I have no depression or thoughts of taking my life. I am more calm and focused. I have recently over the last 6 days been experiencing vision problems.
    I cannot focus on anything and my vision is very blurry. I have gone to see the eye doctor who has prescribed some steroid eye drops. So far there’s been no real improvement. Has anyone experienced this while taking these drugs together?

  22. JLB

    I am now almost 6 weeks into the Chantix. The first month was a breeze, my only side effect seemed to be leg cramps/restless legs when sitting at work (desk job).
    Mood swings (anger and range) started week 4
    But a week ago I developed a ringing in my left ear, I haven’t been able to hear out of it since. My wife has started suggesting that I stop the Chantix, my mood swings – which I thought were minor for the most part – are much worse than I thought. She has mentioned that she doesn’t even know who is sitting beside her these days. Sleep issues also started about 5 days ago, down to only a couple of hours a night right now.
    I would just stop, but I am desperate to hold out since it really has helped me nearly quit. I am still having a couple of cigs a week & would like to go a couple of weeks cig-free before I taper off the Chantix, but the rage might be a bit much for my wife and boss to handle.

  23. woh

    Started taking Chantix in Nov 2013. Third time on the drug. First time a failure.
    2nd time side effects were so bad, I quit after 2 weeks. Last time was the last time. Smoked for 54 yrs. and quit twice when I was to donate a kidney, cold turkey. Last time created a very dark winter season for me. My wife found me in my closet with my 9 mm loaded and cocked at 3am.
    I haven’t smoked since 6 Dec 2013 but sleep a lot, am lethargic, still have have vivid dreams and feel weak in my legs. Don’t seem to care about much but have a lot to live for.
    I’m a lucky man still hanging in there.

  24. Davi C

    My question is, do these side effects stop over time? My husband did not start smoking again and still has severe side effects from chantix, does anyone else still have these issues?

    • kathy
      oley pa

      My sister’s friend who has lived next door for 20 years started taking this medication because he worked for the state of Delaware and was no longer allowed to smoke at work. Within a couple of months he lost his mind. He was mean to everyone (normally a kind and gentle soul). Then he got pulled over and ticketed by the police which pissed him off, so he made all the traffic lights green on route 13 and all crossroads red causing a major traffic situation and causing him to lose his job. This was after he had stopped taking the drug for 3 to 6 months.

      He still isn’t right, but is slowly getting better. He worked for the state for 18 years and now he cant get another job and he started smoking again. The only thing is, I don’t know how long you are supposed to take this med but he was on it for over 1 year, and it has taken 3 years for him to partially recover from its effects.

    • Bekah
      South Dakota

      Yes ever since I was on it the first time I still have crazy dreams, I have been on it 3 times not currently smoking but I rarely sleep, I fall asleep but wake after an hour or so then try for hours to go back to sleep then only sleep an hour or so. It’s extremely depressing.

  25. SLG

    I have been on chantix for almost 2 months. Side effects are not fun. Stomach aches, tiredness, increased appetite. The past week has brought on the dreams and major trouble sleeping. This is my 4th day completely smoke free and no real bad cravings so I think I am going to start cutting back my dose. Not the funnest medicine but it works and I would do it again if needed.

  26. RDW

    I took this drug in Feb. 2011. 3 weeks later I had a heart attack and died!!! There was no warning at that time that this drug could cause heart problems. Since then and even now, there is a warning that it may cause this problem.

  27. Sue

    It’s the Chantix and I will tell you how I know for sure. I had the same thing happen during sex. Only during sex and the headache can last for days. When I went off the Chantix it stopped. Now I’m on it again and the same thing happened. What scares me is it’s acute onset they are called thunderclap headaches and I’m wondering if there is some vascular problem that is exasperated by the Chantix. That kinda scares me. I hope to quit soon and stop taking it. I would suggest obstaining from sex while on it, or quitting it all together. Your doctor should be looking into this and I think very shortly I’m going to call mine up and ask him about it.

  28. eqr

    I was in week 7 in Oct of 2007 when extreme suicidal and homicidal idealations took place. I quit the pill immediately upon doctors advice. After that I went into a deep depression that lasted over 6.5 YEARS!!! Last resort was ect (electro-shock) therapy.
    I did 6 sessions in Nov of 2013 and 90% better. The problem I have is that several psychiatrists tell me that more than several others have same problems. Why is this product still on the market? I hope some that read this will take note that a few weeks might end up being years later of issues. I am smoke free, but the cost to my mental health in hindsight wasn’t worth the risk. Good luck to all who experience severe side effects of Chantix. eqr

  29. Alison

    I don’t have the heart problem but I have developed IC. Started to urinate blood and there was pain and frequency. That was 7/7/2011. I still have IC and each attack gets worse. No Dr believes me when I said it was chantix. Have you improved?

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