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. John

    I took Chantix for about 3 months. I was so excited about how it almost completely diminished any nicotine cravings. I told all my friends how easy it was to quit and how happy I was. This is from a guy who smoked and chewed for 25 years and tried many different quitting methods. But after awhile I started noticing reckless behavior like driving extremely fast, drinking too much, and not being safe at work ( Electricians need to be safe). Several of my friends said that they were worried about me but I told them I felt great.

    One night I got into a street fight because some gangster guy flipped me off while driving home. I haven’t been in a physical fight in 20+ years. I remember not being able to stop hitting him even after he gave up. At the time it was actually enjoyable. Everything was totally out of character for me. Thankfully the adverse reactions ended shortly after I stopped Chantix. I know medication reacts differently for different people but I caution anyone thinking about this medication to reconsider. Thanks for reading, and God bless

  2. greg

    I was on and off Chantix for about 3 years. I at first didn’t attribute my actions with the drug, but someone earlier here mentioned psychotic? I began acting irrationally, thinking I was someone else, I mean telling stories I heard over the years, and made it me. Did things out of character, and made an absolute mess of my life. This isn’t something to be taken lightly. I didn’t get over the effects until well after quitting the drug for the very last time. I think it was far worse if I were consuming any alcohol. I think I still have a couple of ticks left over, but for the most part now years later, I feel pretty normal, at least 99% of time. Problem is, it was so long,9 maybe 3 -4 years. to rid the effects, I’m not sure I would be the best judge of that. Quit smoking, but find another way please.

  3. jason v.

    I’ve been on chantix for almost a month, and I’m about ready to stop smoking, as my cravings are way down. I love to dream on this stuff. I’ve had some very interesting dreams. One night I dreamt I was peeing, and I woke up in time to catch myself, LOL. If I gotta pee on myself once to stop this nasty smoking habit so be it. I guess if it’s not there they should put peeing on oneself in the side effects.

  4. Ann
    Santa Barbara

    I took a Chantix years ago to quit smoking, I did stop. But I believe it has messed my brain up. Severe depression, anger, rage, crying for years now.

    Anti-depressants now make me dizzy and don’t work. I BLAME CHANTIX. Shame on the FDA for allowing this drug through the approval process. Big Pharma controls the FDA, and all the drugs rushed through are probably doing more harm than good in some cases. Like mine.

  5. Sierra

    I feel the side effects out weigh the good. I completely understand smoking has to stop or more health issues will happen but I do not want to end up like the first review listed on this site claiming to have had depression and anxiety after taking this drug and still has it years later. No thanks I will pray everyday and do things on my own.

  6. Lil

    Same effects. Do not want to kill myself or hurt others but don’t care if I die. Severe depression and anxiety. Told every dr. And my psychiatrist I feel it triggered something in my brain. I hope one day, I will be normal but it has been several years. Be aware-you may be affected in the same way.. Good luck to all

  7. Lil

    After taking chantix, I developed severe anxiety and depression. Tried to hospitalize myself several times but would not be helped because I did not want to kill myself or hurt others. I have told several Dr’s and my psychiatrist that it was like something was triggered in my brain. I am still in the same position. Don’t want to kill myself but would not care if I die. Working hard to overcome but feel this is under reported.

  8. Holly
    Washington State

    I am a 29 year old woman who has smoked for 7 or 8 years. I am on my 11th day of Chantix. So far, I have felt slight nausea but only because I’m not a breakfast person, mental fogginess that comes and goes, and sleepiness. I have been diagnosed with anxiety and depression as a result of PTSD and was medical cleared to take this per my MH doctor.

    I have taken it once, and it worked like a charm but I eventually went back to smoking. Now, I am really ready to quit. I decided at about 0800 this morning that today was my quit date. I do not want to end up like my grandparents with COPD, Emphysema, heart disease and the like. I haven’t had a morning cigarette or even a craving today. It is the first day of the rest of my life!

    • Mark

      Congratulations, Holly. I’m not far behind you in our like endeavors. I am on day 11 of Chantix, and it is already my 2nd day without a cigarette. I didn’t just decide to stop. I lost any real desire to continue. The only side-effects of the medicine or the nicotine withdrawal seem to be a bit of irritability and weight-gain. Not a bad trade-off for smoking cessation.

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