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Varenicline is a pill you take that acts on sites in the brain affected by nicotine. Like nicotine medicines, varenicline helps with craving and withdrawal symptoms. But it also blocks the effects of nicotine from tobacco. If you start smoking again while taking varenicline, the medicine lowers the sense of satisfaction you get from smoking, improving the chances that you will quit. You can take varenicline for 12 weeks longer than other medicines for a total of 24 weeks.
Varenicline does not contain nicotine and does not help you quit smoking in the same way that nicotine replacement therapy does.
There are three ways to quit smoking when you take varenicline. These methods are:
Doctors prescribe varenicline to help adults quit smoking. It is not available as an over-the-counter medicine.
Varenicline has not been studied in children under age 18 and is not recommended to help them quit smoking.
Varenicline doubles or triples the chances of quitting smoking.footnote 1 And it may work better than other medicines for quitting smoking.
Some of the common side effects include:
Chantix may be linked with a small increase in risk for heart problems (including heart attack). Call your doctor if you have cardiovascular disease symptoms that are new or getting worse, such as chest pain or pressure, shortness of breath, calf pain when walking, or sudden onset of weakness, numbness, or difficulty speaking.
Stop taking this medicine and call your doctor right away if you or someone around you notices that you:
Before you take varenicline, be sure to tell your doctor if you have ever had a mental illness.
Varenicline is not addictive. Tell your doctor about side effects that bother you or that do not go away.
See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)
You start taking varenicline a week or more before you plan to stop smoking. You may notice that you do not get the same satisfaction from cigarettes during that week. Try not to increase your smoking to overcome this.
Tell your doctor if you:
Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.
CitationsVarenicline (Chantix) for tobacco dependence (2006). Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics, 48(1241/1242): 66-68.Other Works Consulted Facts and Comparisons eAnswers (2017). Varenicline tartrate oral. Facts and Comparisons eAnswers. http://fco.factsandcomparisons.com/lco/action/doc/retrieve/docid/fc_dfc/5549495. Accessed May 11, 2017. Ebbert J, et al. (2015). Effect of Varenicline on smoking cessation through smoking reduction: A randomized clinical trial. JAMA. 313(7): 687-694. doi: 10.1001/jama.2015.280. Accessed online April 26, 2017.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito, MD - Family MedicineElizabeth T. Russo, MD - Internal MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerMichael F. Bierer, MD - Internal Medicine,
Current as ofJune 8, 2017
Current as of: June 8, 2017
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Elizabeth T. Russo, MD - Internal Medicine & Michael F. Bierer, MD - Internal Medicine,
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
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