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General information

The generic name for Chantix is varenicline and it is a medication used to aid in stopping the use of tobacco products which contain nicotine. It works by competing with nicotine to bond on the nicotinic receptors in the body. By doing so, the drug doesn't allow nicotine to affect the body and therefore one doesn't get addicted to this product of tobacco. It eventually decreases the urge to use tobacco products in the long term.

It's very important to remember that the use of Chantix needs to be done in conjunction with behaviour modification therapy. One has to gradually stop using tobacco products, usually within 2-4 weeks after starting the medication, and the treatment duration is 3 months in total. Patients are advised not to stop using the medication otherwise they will have to start the course from the beginning due to the varying dosages of the drug.

Side effects of the medication

Common side effects of this medication may include the following:

  • Insomnia
  • Headache
  • Unusual tiredness or fatigue
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Abnormal dreams
  • Dyspepsia or abdominal bloating
  • Constipation
  • Flatulence
  • Dry mouth
  • Change in taste

Less common side effect may also include the following:

  • Tight feeling in the chest
  • Laboured or difficult breathing
  • Hyperventilation
  • Lack of concentration
  • Decreased appetite
  • Dizziness

Rare side effects also need to be noted in case they are experienced while using this medication and they include:

  • Mood swings
  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Decreased drive
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Hallucinations
  • Suicidal thoughts

Most of these side effects tend to resolve within 2-3 weeks and no medical treatment is necessary for them. If the more milder of the side effects are still persistent, then you can discuss these with your prescribing doctor to help manage these issues.

If you are experiencing the more severe symptoms, especially hallucinations and suicidal thoughts, then you should stop using the medication immediately and discuss the situation with your primary care doctor.

Contraindications

In these situations it's best to rather avoid using this medication and they include the following:

  • Cardiovascular issues, especially heart disease.
  • Kidney related illnesses, especially if on dialysis.
  • If there's a history of mental health conditions such as depression.
  • Alcohol use.
  • Pregnancy and/or breastfeeding.
  • Being under 18 years old.

Precautions

Certain drugs can interact with Chantix and they can cause the medication to remain in the body longer therefore increasing the chances to experience side effects.

The most important medications that will interact with Chantix include:

  • Benzodiazepines (anti-anxiety medications) such as clonazepam and alprazolam.
  • Sleeping aids such as zolpidem.
  • Anti-depressants, especially duloxetine, bupropion and trazodone.
  • Cholesterol medication such as simvastatin and  atorvastatin.
  • Aspirin.
  • Hypertensive medication such as lisinopril.
  • Diabetic medication such as metformin.
  • Anti-epileptic medication such as pregabalin and gabapentin.
  • Anti-gastric reflux medication such as omeprazole and esomeprazole.
  • Narcotic pain medication such as tramadol.
  • Asthma and COPD medications such as albuterol and tiotropium.

Your primary care doctor should take a comprehensive medical history from you and if there are no contraindications and you are not using any of the listed medications, then the chances of experiencing side effects to Chantix are minimal.

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