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. ron
    fresno ca
    Reply

    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.

  2. Barbara
    us
    Reply

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

  3. Cellie
    Reply

    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.

  4. Bridget
    United States
    Reply

    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
      Michigan
      Reply

      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.

  5. Mike
    Seattle
    Reply

    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
      Reply

      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! :/

  6. Mike
    Seattle
    Reply

    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.

  7. kh
    Reply

    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.

  8. Jim
    Reply

    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?

  9. JLB
    Reply

    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.

  10. woh
    Reply

    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.

  11. Davi C
    Reply

    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
      Reply

      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.

  12. SLG
    Reply

    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.

  13. RDW
    Reply

    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.

  14. Sue
    Reply

    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.

  15. eqr
    Reply

    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

  16. Alison
    Reply

    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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