From the Hopkins Health Watch Q&As – Questions and Answers
WHY WOULD A SMOKER TAKE CHANCES WITH CHANTIX?
Q: I went to the “My Time to Quit…” webpage and it talks about a drug called Chantix. Do you know anything about the safety of this pill and how well it works?
A: If I had to choose between smoking and Chantix (varenicline tartrate), I’d choose the smoking. At least it’s a known risk. Chantix is one of a new generation of drugs that can seriously tweak the brain in some people, yet nobody quite knows how or why. For example, people taking some types of sleeping pills wake up to find themselves driving around in their underwear in the middle of the night. In the case of Chantix you could find yourself quitting smoking by suicide. The FDA has received reports of 37 suicides and more than 400 attempted suicides that may be linked to Chantix. Now smoking may be a slow form of suicide, but, as the FDA calls it, “completed suicide” is immediately fatal! I would be curious to know if Pfizer includes the “completed suicides” in its statistics of people who successfully quit smoking using Chantix.
The FDA issued the following warning in Feb 2008: “FDA informed healthcare professionals and consumers of important revisions to the WARNINGS and PRECAUTIONS sections of the prescribing information for Chantix regarding serious neuropsychiatric symptoms experienced in patients taking Chantix. These symptoms include changes in behavior, agitation, depressed mood, suicidal ideation, and attempted and completed suicide. …”
Apparently Pfizer, the maker of Chantix, claims that these behavioral changes are not caused by Chantix, but by nicotine withdrawal. I was unable to find even one study that associates nicotine withdrawal with suicide, except for those involving Chantix. As any smoker would tell you, if you were not on Chantix, tried to quit smoking, and started to feel suicidal, you wouldn’t kill yourself, you would start smoking again. Sheesh.
Chantix can also give you “vivid, unusual or strange dreams,” vision impairment, headaches, nausea and impair your ability to drive or operate heavy machinery, to name a few other side effects. In May 2008 the Federal Aviation Administration banned the use of Chantix by pilots.
There are dozens if not hundreds of websites that list the side effects of various drugs, including Chantix. Very few have updated their sites to include the above FDA warning.
Try a nicotine patch or nicotine gum.