Tobacco use is still the most preventable cause of death, killing nearly half a million Americans every year. About one out of every five Americans still smoke, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Nicotine, the addictive substance in tobacco, is considered as addictive as heroin, and most people who “kick the habit” try to quit several times before they finally succeed. Research shows that the combination of counseling and medication used to treat nicotine addiction is the most successful approach to quitting.
While there are many medications available to help people quit tobacco, most of them contain nicotine. The idea is that it is easier to give up the cigarettes, because the smoker gets a “fix” from the medication, which is gradually tapered down until there is no longer a desire to use it. Chantix (the generic name is varenicline), however, is different because it does not contain nicotine. Instead, it works in the brain by satisfying the urge to smoke while blocking nicotine from having any effect at all.
If a smoker is going to use Chantix, it works best to start it a week before the quit date, although it can be used for about a month beforehand if needed. Most people who quit successfully and permanently use Chantix for six months. Remember that it works best when combined with a smoking cessation program.
If a smoker tries Chantix and starts smoking again, they can always start over with Chantix. Quitting successfully the second time is more likely if the smoker figures out what went wrong the last time they tried to quit.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention. 2012. Current cigarette smoking among adults—United States, 2011. MMWR Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 61 (44);889-894.
Chantix: Package insert and label information. 2013. Cardinal Health. http://druginserts.com/lib/rx/meds/chantix-4/.
Marotta, F., DiPaolo, A., & Adib, R. 2013. Chantix (varenicline). Journal of Asthma & Allergy Educators. 4(2);85-86.