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. Krista

    I am supposed to start Chantix tomorrow but I have spent the last 2 hours reading about acute side effect side effects and some not acute but non the less frightening side effects. I am now petrified to start this medication.
    Does anyone have a success story that doesn’t start and end with terrible side effects?

    Scared in Oregon.

  2. David

    I was on Chantix for 3 months before going to high altitude in Copper Mountain, Colorado to ski in December 2017. The combination of the Chantix and hypoxia led to an acute psychotic episode leading to 3 days in a Denver hospital. After quitting the Chantix and returning home I had protracted cognition and memory problems which have resolved.

    I am 60 years old. We learned that this is not uncommon up on the mountains. People arrive to ski while taking Chantix and have aggressive behaviors, paranoid thinking, depression, and psychotic reactions. It must be the lower oxygen levels.

  3. Dawn

    I just started Chantix 2 weeks ago, my full dose 3 days ago, and OMG I am so exhausted which is no not my norm, usually I can run myself into the ground, now I sleep until my alarm goes off and wish I could go back to bed. I feel nauseated all day long, and lightheaded. I am determined to stay on this med as I really want to quit smoking and seeing how it has been a awesome med and worked, I am just wondering if the my “off” self is worth it? Will I ever return to my non stop going self?

  4. Pappa "D"

    This is the second time I’ve tried Chantix. The first time was unsuccessful and I returned to smoking. Now that the company I work for pays for the first two scripts, I’m trying again only this time I’m more disciplined at quitting.

    The dreams are mostly fun probably due to the fact that I sailed through the 60’s and don’t freak out at just anything. Hoping to be successful this time as I believe that I can assist the urge by using the patch and get rid of the urge to pick up a cigarette after things such as after a meal, driving down the road, I don’t drink so hopefully it will work this time.

  5. stacey

    The first time I used Chantix the only side effect I had was messed-up dreams. I quit for a total of 4 months!!!! But then I fell off the wagon. I started again 5 days ago. The funky dreams started again, which I could handle but now I’ve started having SEVERE depression and bitchiness. Just like being on a diet pill, which I’m not. Today is the first day off. Hope by tomorrow I’ll start feeling human again. I feel like my skin is crawling:(:( Hopefully. right now the only thing I’m trying to regain is my sanity!

  6. Jimmy
    Colorado Mountains

    I started taking Chantix so that I could have back surgery, haven’t had a smoke in over 2 months. After reading the testimonials, I have come to realize that I’m possibly dreaming about some of these gals who are also having wild and vivid dreams! How can I get a lifetime script? Lol!

  7. CynthiaB

    Hmm, I have been taking chantix for about 25 days, just started having headaches, been having dreams and a lot of fatigue. My last cigarette was one week ago tonight on 10/24/16 when I put a patch on too. I have not had one on in two days. I am thankful for this blog because it reminds me that it is the chantix side effects. It is kind of scary though hearing of all of the side effects, but I know what to look out for just in case I need to stop taking it.

  8. Kayellyn

    I took Chantix back in 2008 for 2 weeks (not even). After two days I could not stand the taste in my mouth…it was like an ashtray whether I smoked or not. Upon completion of taking Chantix for one week I remember being totally grossed out by the idea of smoking a cigarette. Well, it is now 2016 and I still do not smoke cigarettes nor can I tolerate the smell. I actually will walk around a crowd to exit if cigarette/cigar smoke is anywhere nearby. I am the worst ex-smoker ever. However, I am so grateful for Chantix or I am sure I would be smoking still today.

    Interestingly enough, I recall my old boyfriend wanting to quit as he saw me succeed through this medical wonder. It is a wonder alright? He took it for 3 days and was frightened so badly due to psychotic dreams that he said he would rather smoke. The only information he gave me was that his dreams were horrifying and he thought he was going to hurt someone. He also drank beer often. I was told that people who drink alcohol have a difficult time with Chantix (as dis the old boyfriend, Gary).

    Ironically, I am not at all a drinker other than an occasional glass of good wine. I do and have always preferred marijuana (it’s legal where I live) to alcohol and perhaps that is what made the difference. I really don’t drink but a half a dozen times in a year. Again, complaints about Chantix seems to be connected to people who may consume alcohol daily or weekly (just an educated guess).

    DO NOT take Chantix if you enjoy a beer every night. BUT FOR GOD’S SAKE AND YOUR OWN…QUIT SMOKING! Chantix was a wonder drug for me and can be for you too. Just be aware that if you feel “not yourself” and having really bad dreams while taking the drug…STOP! However, for the many that will never experience those horroble side effects Chantix will be the best thing that ever happened to you. I was to me…9 years ago!

  9. Melissa

    Please, Please , please if you are experiencing fatigue, vision and memory issues, weight loss and dry mouth GO GET YOUR BLOOD SUGAR CHECKED! Insist upon it.

  10. Andro

    Chantix working for me. I started taking the medication for obvious reason quitting smoking. I do experience nausea and headaches throughout the day, everyday day since I started taking this medicine. I am on day 15 I believe. I have been smoking way less, last week I was down to 5 and under per day, yesterday was supposed to be my quit day but I gave in and smoked 3 due to stress. Today I have not had a smoke I am 2 hours away from a full day. I am done and I will continue to be done. I will however keep taking Chantix for at least 2 more weeks. Being on Chantix sucks but you have to realize what you are taking it for. If you want to stop smoking you have to stop smoking after 10 days on Chantix. Like I said I feel sick on a daily basis on Chantix but it does remove my cravings, doesn’t even make me think about smoking. You just have to pick a day to quit and commit to it. And understand why you are taking Chantix. If you can’t stop after 3 weeks and you constantly fell sick I would get off Chantix and re think your quitting strategy.

  11. Cathy

    I took chantix and broke out with a horrible rash all over my body ..the rash lasted 5 weeks and I was shedding like a snake..the rash is called erythema multiforme. User beware…

  12. Kelly

    I’ve been on chantix for 5 days now I’ve had severe anxiety and a horrible heavy chest feeling and a constant feeling of something stuck in my throat. My husband has had horrible anxiety also. I think chantix is not for us we so want to stop smoking for are kids but the side affects are just not worth it. We are just going to try to stop smoking the old regular way.

  13. Jan

    Anyone had any problems with blood sugar while on Chantix, I see it can cause pancreatitis so maybe there is a correlation?

    • Trish

      yes Dr says there is no correlation.

    • Marie oconnor

      My daughter and myself tried Chantix after she had a stroke. Well it didn’t go well. Five days of taking it, we couldn’t even talk to each other anger was the least of our problems. I couldn’t make sence in the change of both of us. I did some research and found out that Chantix may cause depression and homicidal thoughts. I called her and we both threw it away. Yes smoking is not good for us but drug companies need to make safe medications for human consumption.

      • Renee

        Your physician should have explained the side effects.

  14. Lou

    Chantix gave me severe pain in my left side under my ribs. After quitting chantix it took almost a year for the pain to leave. Tried taking a couple years later and within a couple weeks the pain was back.

  15. Chrystal

    Chantix messes with more of your brain than just addiction sensors.

  16. Chrystal

    I took Chantix for two month the first time. I dealt with the nausea and confusion for as long as I could and thought I was officially a non-smoker. Well I was wrong. Two weeks after quitting Chantix my cravings came back ten fold. Almost like I was craving as many cancer sticks that I had skipped while on Chantix. don’t get me wrong. While on it I had zero desire to smoke.

    A few months after relapsing I figured I was in a better place in life to give it one more shot.

    I started taking it and two weeks into it my anxiety turned into panic attacks. I haven’t had a panic attack in over ten years so it was scary. Also while driving through town on routes I knew like the back my hand.. on simple missions like to pick up TP and what not – I would suddenly not know where I was. like waking up from a dream…. and driving. I knew I was driving but had to suddenly grab for the phone and turn on maps to see what part of town I was in even though I was on a main road I drove daily.

    Now that I quit chantix the second time I find that my memory has diminished. I am 30 and I feel like my mind is that of a 70- 80. I am exhausted always and I forget 80% of EVERYTHING. thank you Chantix. thanx alot. oh by the way I am still a smoker : (

  17. Diona

    I did experience nausea when I took the Chantix on empty stomach. Take with food!

    • Sharlene
      South Carolina

      We are given choices of the meds we take. When I went on chantix, I researched it thoroughly, spoke to my pharmacist to make Sir I could use it with my other meds. Then I approached my Dr. I knew all the side effects and though I didn’t get any until I was 4weeks in I knew what it was and whereas where it came from.

      Since I knew , I knew how to handle it. Y’all are right about the nasty taste syndrome I call it! Keep trying but do stop if your no capable of handling it. I wish you well and hope you quite smoking. Ya know my smoking couch is Jesus we work together. Good luck Sharlene🤗

  18. Diona

    I think if I would have read these side effects people have experienced taking Chantix, it would have scared me and I would have never taken Chantix.
    I took Chantix for 2 months. After the first 2 wks. taking it, I noticed I didn’t think about having a cigarette as often. By week 4, I no longer had desire to have cigarette. It was great no desire at all to smoke, I also had the best vivid dreams while taking Chantix. Everybody has different body chemistry I guess and you have to find what works for your body. Chantix worked for me and I really miss having those vivid dreams…

    • Renee
      New Jersey

      I agree 100%. I had the same vivid dreams and they were amazing. That was the only side effect I had with taking the medication. I took it in 2006 to quit smoking and I had to take it for 5 1/2 months before I felt comfortable enough to not have the mediation as a crutch. I didn’t smoke for almost 8 years and I picked up a cigarette that was my brand and it felt like I had never quit, I have now been on Chantix for the last 8 months because I slip and smoke sometimes because my boyfriend still smokes occasionally. But Chantix has been amazing for me.

  19. Jasmine
    Bronx, NY

    I’m on my second day of chantix, still smoking but not as much. I feel very tired and have ridiculous headaches…. I am extra cranky but I figure its the headache. Is this normal? Or are the side effects going to get worse? I just want to quit smoking for my kids before it’s too late. I’m only 31 and my kids definitely need me. ANy advice??

    • Mike

      Most likely not. Im on my third week. No energy. Still take a few puffs each day. Bad taste in my mouth. I seem to be very angry, depressed,

    • Velma

      I was very successful with Chantix the first time around, I just had to remember to take it on a full stomach but the dreams were so vivid that I looked forward to going to sleep each night. Well I relapsed some year ago and just started taking Chantix the past few weeks. This time it affected me different, all of a sudden I was tired…like all day! I felt like a constant eye strain and when I got home I just didn’t have any energy. Well after reading about the “rare” severe side-effects of Chantix, I decided to stop taking it. I already have high blood pressure and I don’t want the risk of a heart attack or some other severe reaction. I’m hoping to just try cold turkey and see if that helps….wish me luck!

  20. Isabella

    Chantix feels like a break it or make it deal. I would never ever take it and I would strongly suggest against it to anyone and everyone due to the very “rare” side effects (not that “rare”, look them up). How this drug is still being sold while linked to numerous deaths, suicides, etc, is beyond me. I saw it firsthand what it did to my best friend. She took it for a month and her life went in a downward spiral. She developed a severe form of psychosis where she would believe anyone and everyone was out to kill her. She drove across country “running” from a “stalker” who came to her house to kill her. We thought she had become schizophrenic. She believed “outside people” were hypnotizing her and they could put her in a “trance” just over the phone. She had plastic surgery on her nose and she truly believed her dr. “took all the bones” off her face, she would say he photoshop’d her and made her shorter, that she was gonna disappear. She would spend nights crying, in real pain, because of the “damage” the plastic surgeon “did” to her whole body. She lost her home, her daughter, she almost lost her nursing license (didn’t practice for years), she ended up getting admitted to a psych ward (it was a struggle to get her in) where she was court ordered and forced to take antipsychotic drugs. 4 years later, she’s slowly feeling like herself again and she can finally look back and know none of it was real. In her case, thankfully it did not take her life or anyone else’s as she was admitted but she got close to ruining everyone’s life around her with her very realistic claims (rape, malpractice, abuse, etc) as she truly believe them.

  21. Shellie

    Chantix can and does cause severe depression. I stopped pills the first time when it came out due to increased depression. This is my third time . This time I have serious night leg cramps and I’m not sure from this or other meds. But I have definetly slowed down my smoking. Hoping to quit this time for good.

  22. Kim

    Well, each time I have tried Chantix it has definitely helped me quit. Most recently was the 3rd time and besides the intial nausea it’s amazing how it helps me not think about a cigarette. However, after a couple months (where I had moved to only taking it once a day too) I started feeling depressed. Now, I have some life stresses going on right now (single mom in a financial lull in my sales job), but I’m typically a pretty upbeat person with faith that all will be fine but I was really struggling to stay hopeful. I found myself crying more regularly, even at work, with an internal heaviness of the weight of the world on my shoulders. And, I did find myself laying in bed wondering if it was all worth it and actually thinking about suicide…at the same time I realized this is absurd, but the thoughts were crossing my mind. So, I went off of it a couple days ago, and now I feel stable again and generally positive, though I still have the same challenges to deal with. I can’t really say for sure the Chantix was making me feel that way, but there is a possible corrolation. This didn’t happen until 8 weeks or so had gone by. So, just be careful and if you do notice yourself feeling depressed and hopeless, take note that it could be the Chantix and stop for a few days and see if it makes a difference.

  23. DeAnn

    I’m on Chantix for the second time. The first time I was able to quit for 2 1/2 years! Recently my mom had some terrible health issues and I found myself smoking again. Two days after starting the Chantix I was unable to fall asleep due to incredible restless leg. It was only my left leg. I’ve tried everything I can to go to sleep but nothing is really working. Once I do fall asleep the pain in my leg is so intense that wakes me up and keeps me awake for hours. I’m the type of person that needs at least seven hours of sleep a night so I’m barely functioning. This may be a dealbreaker for me. I’m just looking for advice and how to deal with the side effects. I so want to quit smoking and this is the only thing that’s ever worked for me. Any help that someone could give would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

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