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 users gives up the cigarettes, because they are getting their “fix” from the medication, which is gradually tapered down until there is no longer the need 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 you are going to recommend Chantix to a patient or client, it is important to know that the drug works best when it is started a week before the client’s planned quit date. It can also be used for up to a month before the client’s quit date if needed.
Most people who quit successfully and permanently use Chantix for six months. Remember that it works best when combined with a stop-smoking (“smoking cessation”) program. And if your patient tries Chantix and starts smoking again, he or she can always start over with Chantix after they figure 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.