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How to Balance Quitting Smoking with Chantix Vs. Suicidal Thoughts

There are no easy ways to get off nicotine. Quitting smoking with Chantix is one option, but there are some worrisome side effects to watch out for.

Have ever heard the expression “Between the devil and the deep blue sea”? That’s the dilemma smokers face when trying to quit cigarettes. Quitting smoking with Chantix (varenicline) can pose some significant challenges.

Stopping Smoking is Crucial to Good Health!

Smoking is terrible for your health. That is not a news flash. Every smoker knows it. Inhaling smoke from cigarettes increases the risk for bronchitis, emphysema, cancer, heart disease, stroke, bone loss, type 2 diabetes, cataracts, wrinkles and rheumatoid arthritis.

That’s why quitting is one of the best things a smoker can do to improve overall health. But stopping is not easy. That’s why the FDA and public health organizations are so enthusiastic about programs that can help reduce tobacco-related disease and death.

Quitting Smoking with Chantix:

Stop-smoking aids include nicotine gum and patches as well as the prescription medicine varenicline (Chantix). It may seem that any approach that helps people give up cigarettes is a huge advance. That is certainly the underlying message associated with products to help people quit.

A Chantix advertising campaign features ex-smokers like Ryan. He is a baker. In television commercials, he says, “Chantix reduced my urge to smoke.”

Readers Report on Quitting Smoking with Chantix:

Many visitors to this website agree with Ryan that quitting smoking with Chantix was effective by taking away cravings for nicotine:

JoAnn in Greenville, NC is pleased with her results:

“I’m on day 15! It seems like Chantix is working. My urges are not that strong! I might have a puff or 2 but I will eventually stop. The science behind the pill is amazing. I will keep going. I take it at lunch when I eat and about 9pm. I have nausea every now and then. I drink ginger ale! That saved me. I’ve had migraines twice out of 15 days of taking it. I’m on my way of quitting after 33yrs.”

Terri reports similar success:

“This is my 8th day on Chantix and I must say the cravings urges are pretty much gone! Reading all these fantastic results I hope I have the same!”

C.P. is also very happy that she and her husband were capable of quitting smoking with Chantix:

“My husband smoked for 45 years and I smoked for 20. We quit on November 1 and November 8, 2009 respectively using Chantix. I experienced the nausea and he experienced the dreams. Both of us are now smoke free and enjoying a healthy (cough less) life! Using Chantix was the best thing we ever did for ourselves, our marriage, and our family!”

T.K. added this:

“I was a smoker for over 40 years until quitting smoking with Chantix. Didn’t want to or think I could but did pretty easily taking the pills. I have been off nicotine for seven weeks now and off the pills for a month. I did have some side effects (the dreams were great!) and had to taper off the pills but it was so worth it. Mostly I had trouble sleeping and had a few rage episodes. I am normally a super mellow person. But again, it was worth it for me.”

The Darker Side of Chantix:

Stories about quitting smoking with Chantix are great. We are delighted that some people can successfully stop smoking without serious side effects. For other individuals, however, there is a darker side to Chantix.

Pay attention to the voice-over in the Chantix  commercial. You’ll learn that:

“some people have changes in behavior or thinking–aggression, hostility, agitation, depressed mood or suicidal thoughts or actions with Chantix. Serious side effects may include seizures, new or worse heart or blood vessel problems, sleepwalking or allergic and skin reactions, which can be life-threatening.”

While Ryan the baker in the television commercial prepares batter for cookies, the viewer is urged to

“stop Chantix and get help right away if you have any of these [side effects]. Tell your health care provider if you’ve had depression or other mental health problems. Decrease alcohol use while taking Chantix. Use caution while driving or operating machinery. The most common side effect is nausea.”

At the end of the commercial Ryan tells us: “I don’t even think about cigarettes anymore.” The voice over encourages the viewer to:

“Ask your doctor if Chantix is right for you.”

Balancing Benefits and Risk of Chantix:

Many smokers will find such messages compelling. The long list of potential side effects may seem a small price to pay to quit cigarettes successfully.

Chantix Side Effects:

  • Indigestion, nausea, vomiting, flatulence, constipation or diarrhea, stomach discomfort, bad taste
  • Insomnia, Sleeping disruption, unusual dreams, nightmares, sleepwalking
  • Headache
  • Tiredness, sleepiness, fatigue
  • Breathing problems, shortness of breath
  • Dry mouth
  • Emotional lability, depression, anxiety, irritability, anger, rage
  • Depression, suicidal thoughts, homicidal thoughts
  • Irregular heart rhythms, chest pain
  • Heart attack, stroke
  • Changes in vision
  • Low levels of potassium
  • Kidney damage
  • Blood disorders

Balancing the benefits against the risks of Chantix can be challenging. Hearing about complications such as aggression, hostility, depressed mood or suicidal thoughts may not seem worrisome during a TV commercial while someone is baking cookies or playing golf. Here are some real-world reactions to Chantix.

Reader Stories About Chantix:

One reader related her experience:

“This is my third week on Chantix. It worked great to help me stop smoking, but that is the only good thing about it.

“I have never had any problems with my mental health. But I am typing this through tears of hopelessness after a horrible fit of rage. Today was my eleven-year-old’s birthday party and I totally flipped. I was screaming and throwing things at my husband and kids because they were in the kitchen. I didn’t want to decorate or cook for the party.

“Last week I got so angry with my husband I belittled him and then hit him on the back. I have to stop Chantix. If I don’t, I fear I will do something drastic and end up in jail.”

Another reader wrote about his wife’s transition from “a vibrant, life-loving, beautiful, outgoing mother and grandmother…into a suicidal puddle of goo” within a few days of stopping Chantix.

Lisa in Dayton, Ohio became suicidal on Chantix:

“I have been on Chantix three times. The first time I was successful with hardly any side affects. The second time caused SEVERE depression and nightmares and did not help me quit.”

“I tried again for a 3rd time and it was horrible! I had severe depression and everyday thoughts of suicide! I spoke with my doctor and immediately stopped taking chantax!

“It may work for some, but I’ve never had such bad side effects from a medication in my life! Especially causing my thought process to be soooo like this! They should take this medication off the market! I don’t believe it’s safe whatsoever!”

S.D. is a health professional:

“I am a psychiatric nurse practitioner. I have seen patients become unstable with mood symptoms that include increased depression, irritability, sleep disturbance and suicidal thinking on Chantix. I tell anyone I treat to stay away from Chantix and explore other options for smoking cessation.”

Jess in Hot Springs had a strange experience on Chantix:

“I have been taking Chantix for a few months. I couldn’t really feel that it was doing anything except giving me some crazy dreams but that’s the weird thing about it. My personality was changing and I could not see it. I was becoming irritable, verbally aggressive and had mood swings that took me all over the place.

“My children and family finally told me that something was going on with me. I would advise that anyone taking this medication have a long talk with family about what side affects to look for and even with your close friends. I have stopped taking this medication and feel fine now.”

LoLo has an intriguing story to share:

“I used Chantix twice. The first time was in 2007. It worked great; no problems. I stayed smoke free 10 months. Then both parents became terminally ill and I was surrounded by other family members who smoke and yielded to the temptation and returned to smoking.

“I decided it was time to try again and began Chantix six weeks ago. It ended the cravings even to the point of making cigs nauseating to me. The side effects this time have been scary.

“Out of nowhere has come RAGE – intense all encompassing rage at anything and everything. I have wanted to harm people for no reason, but at the same time knowing that even if I did something stupid, it wouldn’t calm the rage.

“I have withdrawn from all friends and family. I have no interest in anything but sitting with my hands clenched; my eyes feeling like they are jumping out of my head. I can’t even concentrate on television or read a book. (I have no history of any mental or emotional issues.)

“After finding this website and reading other stories I know I am not going crazy. I am not alone with some of these side effects. I am stopping this drug today. I will keep my fingers crossed that I have been taking it long enough to have broken the cigarette habit and I will return to my normal self quickly.

“I do not think that the potential benefits of taking Chantix are worth the possible physical harm it may cause you or a loved one. Nicotine patches and nicotine gum are probably much, much safer even though they require more effort to stick with. If I do relapse, that is the way I will go.”

You can read hundreds of other stories at this link:

“Scary Side Effects of Chantix”

People’s Pharmacy Perspective:

Many visitors to our website have reported success quitting smoking with Chantix. Others, however, describe life-threatening skin reactions or psychological crises. People must be informed about the potential side effects before starting Chantix so they can make informed decisions about how best to stop smoking with the fewest complications.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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