The People's Perspective on Medicine

Stop-Smoking Drug Chantix Triggers Violence

Commercials for Chantix, especially the "Slow Turkey" ads, are very compelling. What about side effects? Does Chantix trigger agression in some people?
Hand holds lit cigarette with smoke drifting from it

Most Americans find it hard to believe that a medication could change someone’s personality. The idea that a person could actually harm another human as a result of a drug side effect seems preposterous. And yet there is ample evidence that the anti-smoking drug Chantix triggers violence. This reader shares a scary Chantix story.

“Out of Character” on Chantix:

Q. I took Chantix for about three months. I was excited that it almost completely diminished any nicotine cravings. I told all my friends how easy it was to quit and how happy I was. I had smoked and chewed tobacco for 25 years and tried many different quitting methods.

After a while, though, I started noticing reckless behavior: driving extremely fast, drinking too much and not being safe at work. (Electricians need to be safe.)

One night I got into a street fight because a guy flipped me off. I haven’t been in a fight in over 20 years. I couldn’t stop hitting him even after he gave up. Everything was totally out of character for me.

These reactions ended shortly after I stopped Chantix. I caution anyone thinking about this medication to be aware of personality changes.

A. The Chantix TV commercial states clearly:

“Stop Chantix and get help right away if you have changes in behavior or thinking, aggression, hostility, depressed mood, suicidal thoughts or actions, seizures, new or worse heart or blood vessel problems, sleep walking or life-threatening allergic and skin reactions. Decrease alcohol use. Use caution driving or operating machinery.”

We have heard from other readers that varenicline (Chantix) can trigger uncharacteristic violent thoughts or actions. The FDA has also received reports of traffic accidents or other accidental injuries linked to this stop-smoking drug.

Stories from Readers | How Chantix Triggers Violence

Cindi shared a harrowing tale about how Chantix triggers violence:

“My husband and I have been married for 36 years. We both started Chantix together. After two weeks I was able to stop smoking. He got down to a couple of smokes a day. That didn’t deter us. We really wanted to quit.

“We went to get our second package of Chantix. The young woman at the pharmacy asked how it was working for us. We both said how happy we were, and that it seemed to be working well. The side effects were seemingly minor.

“On day 35, we got into an argument about something neither of us can now remember. We were drinking alcohol as well. It got BAD! Really Bad! He literally threw me down the hallway, several times. When I tried to get up he either kicked me, or picked me up and threw me again. That was while I was screaming, ‘Please don’t hurt me!’

“My body was covered in bruises. I had a concussion. The bump on my head was as big as my entire hand.

“I would never have thought in a million years that my husband would do that to me. He was arrested and charged with domestic violence. He was also suspended from work.

“My daughter sent me a link to your website and an article about how Chantix triggers violence. I hope my marriage is salvageable. I just don’t know.”

Joe also had problems with violence:

“I became dangerously crazy the other night while taking Chantix. This is the second time that has happened while on Chantix. I may be an intense person normally, but never violent. This behavior scares me and has cost me unbelievably. Has it ruined my life? In ways I can’t even begin to describe.”

Ann believes Chantix has had long-lasting effects:

“I was able to stop smoking after taking Chantix. That was some time ago, but I think it affected my brain permanently. I have experienced anger, rage and depression for years. Antidepressants do not help. I blame Chantix.”

T. reports that her stepdaughter experienced serious Chantix side effects:

“After starting on Chantix, my stepdaughter became angry and irrational. Her personality changed. She was going to get married but her behavior is so out of character that it may be called off.”

E.T. shared this story:

“I quit smoking cold turkey for five years. I made the tragic mistake of thinking I could smoke once in awhile without getting hooked.

“As soon as I bought that first pack of cigarettes I knew I was hooked again. It took three years to quit a second time. Chantix got me over the hump. Now I am struggling with intense violent thoughts. I am easily provoked. I am very worried that someone is going to get hurt because of my violent thoughts.”

People’s Pharmacy Perspective re: Chantix Triggers Violence:

We have received hundreds of messages about Chantix. Many people are pleased that this medication was able to help them quit smoking. Others report side effects including:

  • Depression, suicidal thoughts
  • Digestive upset, nausea, gas, indigestion, constipation
  • Sleep disturbances, nightmares, insomnia
  • Headache

Are You Fed Up With “Slow Turkey” Chantix Drug Commercials?

Perhaps one of the most intense advertising campaigns this year has been the “Slow Turkey” commercials for Chantix. You see a turkey doing human-like things in unusual locations. The visual experience is so odd that it cannot help but capture your attention, especially when the time comes to listen to the announcer list a bunch of side effects.

Here is an article on prescription drug advertising with links to 

“Paddle Board Turkey”

“Camping Turkey”

“Cold Turkey”

Share your own experience with Chantix in the comment section below.

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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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    Took Chantix; quit smoking. No issues. Wonder drug.

    I noticed vile words coming out of my mouth after a week on Chantix. I had many “did I really just say that?” moments. I turned into a mean, angry person on this drug. I decided to go cold turkey instead and went on anti-anxiety meds for 3 days. That worked for me, and I’ve been totally smoke-free for 18 years now.

    I quit smoking with chantix in one month and never had one side effect.

    In 2007 my cardiologist recommended Chantix to help me stop smoking. At the time I was drinking alcohol,too. Every night I would smoke a half pack of cigarettes (Lights, duh!!) and drink a bottle of wine. I never thought about smoking or drinking during the day.

    This was 12 years ago, and Chantix was new on the market. The side effects list was short. The only one that affected me was the queasy stomach.

    After I’d been taking Chantix for five or six weeks, I went on a weekend trip. Because I didn’t want to have a queasy stomach while I was away, I did not take the Chantix over the weekend. I discovered the desire to smoke was completely gone so I stopped taking it, and I have never wanted to smoke again.

    Chantix was touted as a drug that inhibited the nicotine receptors in the brain, so it makes total sense to me that these very negative side effects have occurred, especially for people who have taken the drug for the full 12 weeks or longer.

    Given the long list of side effects that have been discovered during the last twelve years, I feel that I was pretty lucky to not have had a more drastic experience. I’m curious to know whether the extremely negative effects occur during the early weeks of taking this drug or if they show up later.

    Oh, and I stopped drinking seven months later. :-)

    I was a *dedicated* smoker for 45 years. I smoked 3 packs a day. My wife and I both would have bet anybody that I couldn’t quit. I tried to quit with nicotine patches, but couldn’t get below about 8 cigs a day, and I was jonesing all day long for cigs in between. I had kept away from Chantix because of anecdotal stories of bad side effects, but after a friend quit with it, I looked into it again.

    The follow-up studies said that the suicide rate was no higher than those that didn’t take it. I tried it. After the third day of Chantix, I quit smoking and haven’t had a cig in over 14 months. I would be very upset if this was taken off the market. As with every drug I’m prescribed, I study the side effects, and keep a close eye out to see if I’m exhibiting them. Lucky for me, the only side effect I got from Chantix was very vivid dreams, and it likely added 10 or 20 years to my life.

    I had smoked off and on for probably 40 years. I became alarmed when I was unable to stop and was smoking 2 packs/day. That’s when I took Chantix. I loved how I could still smoke and know that the nicotine wasn’t actually getting into my body, although it was frustrating not to get the drug effect. I continued with a second prescription and was able to quit completely. That was 12 years ago. I never had any side effects, and when I heard about people getting angry, I was sure that was the result of not getting the addictive drug (how I felt about it). Now I see there’s a lot more to it, and I’m very thankful that it worked for me without the behavioral changes.

    The FDA completely disqualifies itself from being any kind of reasonable authority at all. They couldn’t care less if all of us die from suicide-induced FDA approved Chantix. Just remember who is being paid off for upholding Tobacco against vaporizers, etc. As long as we smoke ourselves to death, the FDA/Chantix wins and we keep losing. The whole point.

    My husband took Chantix for 3 months only. He became irritated at the smallest things. When he came home from work we never knew what his mood level would be. He changed from a calm, mild mannered man, to a man of anger. When he started yelling about something so very minor one evening, he saw myself and our child cowering in fear. Then he knew something was seriously wrong.

    He immediately stopped taking Chantix. After a couple of days with it out of his system, he sat us down and explained that after reading the side effects of Chantix again, he realized he was exhibiting them all. He apologized profusely for his behavior.

    Less than 2 weeks after he stopped Chantix, he was eating lunch at work, and two of his teeth fell out.
    He went to the dentist, and the only thing that had changed since his last dental visit , was a 3 month course of Chantix. He lost several more teeth in the following months.

    He now has medical records flagged that he is not able to have any derivative of Chantix.
    This product needs to be taken iff the market.

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