Have you ever tried to quit smoking? If you have smoked for long, you would know how difficult it can be. Owing to an excessive dependence of your body on tobacco, it can often be quite tough to do this. Smoking remains one of the major causes for cancers in lungs and can also lead to a few cardiac diseases. Smokers – especially those who have been smoking for a fairly longer duration – may be addicted to nicotine. There are however multiple ways available for you to stop smoking; a few of these measures include medications, use of nicotine patches, joining a support group, etc. Other mechanisms include hypnotherapy, counseling and a few other modes. Drugs like chantix are mainly used as part of smoking cessation therapy, along with needful support and education.

The generic name of chantix is varenicline. This drug is widely used to help you quit smoking. You may be aware that smoking furthers the risks associated with several heart-related problems. People who successfully quit smoking reduce the incidence of a possible cardiac dysfunction. Dependence on nicotine or being addicted to it is often a brain condition; chantix helps block or control the effects of nicotine in your brain. As a result, you tend to have minimal or no urges to smoke. Smoking is popular among children who are at school. The efficacy of chantix on children is not fully evidenced; hence, it is not prescribed to smokers in such younger age groups.

Dosage of chantix

As an initial dose, your doctor may prescribe chantix at 0.5 milligram (mg) every day; this first stage is given for less than a week. Thereafter, the dose is doubled – i.e., 0.5 mg is administered twice each day. These doses are taken during the run-up to the day you have marked to quit smoking. It is fine to smoke during the run-up days though. However, from the quitting date, your doctor will prescribe chantix for twice each day for a period of 12 or more weeks. If your addiction makes it difficult to choose a quitting date, take needful advice from your physician. A medication plan will be prescribed wherein you can gradually reduce the use of tobacco products.

How to use chantix?

This drug is taken orally soon after your meal. It is usually available in two forms – starters’ pack and maintenance pack. These two packs have unique strength to suit the purpose. Some people may alter the dosage levels to hasten the results; but, this is not a good practice. Dosage of this drug – taken at any time – must not exceed 1 milligram (mg) per day. In order to reap fullest benefits, you are advised to take the drug without a break. Your pharmacist will advise you to consume it at the same timeslot each day – this practice can enhance the outcomes. Upon successfully spending 3 months of tobacco-free living, your physician may continue the medication plan for another 3 months. Always consult your treating doctor and follow the guidelines for safe use of this drug.

Side effects of chantix

This drug is likely to trigger a few side effects. Most common side effects include abdominal discomforts such as vomiting, nausea, flatulence (gas formation), etc. Other common reactions include headaches, feeling drowsy, an altered sense of taste, difficulties to pass stools (constipation), sleep-related disorders (like insomnia), hallucinations, etc. These discomforts may cease to show up soon after your body gets used to this drug and its ingredients. If these adverse reactions and side effects last for a longer duration, you are advised to talk to your physician as well as pharmacist without further delay.

Chantix is unlikely to cause major side effects. However, some people have reported very adverse reactions such as pain in limbs while they walk and a burning sensation in toes. It is important to remember that your doctor has prescribed this drug because of benefits outweighing the risks associated with its intake. A majority of the people who took this drug never reported of aforesaid adverse reactions and side effects.

In very rare circumstances, this drug has triggered very adverse reactions and side effects. Such rare but serious effects include signs of an imminent cardiac arrest (characteristic symptoms are pain in the left side of your body, sweating profusely, tightness in the chest region or gasping for breath), aggressive or restless behavior (which can cause harm to others as well as self), symptoms of a stroke (slurring of speech, blurred eyesight, being in a confused state of mind, weakness – especially on a particular side / part of the body), etc.

In equally rare circumstances, people have noticed mental conditions such as mood shifts; these have been reported even after discontinuing to take this drug. You need to understand that stopping to smoke suddenly (after many years of smoking) can – by itself – lead to mental anxieties and stresses. So, if you experience mental conditions such as depression, staying aggressive, being in an agitated frame of mind, suicidal instincts, harmful dreams or thoughts, it is a good practice to talk to your doctor. Based on your mental condition, you may be advised to take needful support from a mental health professional. Most commonly administered mental health support includes participating in a support group (comprising like-minded people who also wish to stop smoking), counseling or group-based workouts. As a related precaution, you are advised not to take alcohol – which can only aggravate the abovementioned mental health conditions.

Allergies and hypersensitivity to chantix

It is strongly recommended to inform your physician and pharmacist about all known or prior allergies. This information needs to be shared before starting your medication plan to quit smoking. Chantix – in general – is unlikely to trigger any major allergies or discomforts. Instances wherein people have experienced allergic reactions are very remote and hence are extremely rare. In such very rare instances, some people have experienced adverse reactions like skin problems (itchiness, rashes and inflammation), feeling extremely drowsy, respiratory problems (wheezing, gasping and slow down of breathing cycles), swelling of facial or oral organs, etc. If you notice any of these signs, you are advised to talk to your doctor as soon as possible. Upon experiencing any of these acute symptoms, it is highly recommended to call 911 or reach out to a local poison control center on an emergency basis. Those living in any of the Canadian provinces are advised to call the helpline number of Health Canada or reach out to a poison control center located in your province.

It is very important to remember that the aforesaid signs, symptoms and reactions do not represent a complete list. But, it is likely that new signs may show up – i.e., those which are not listed here. In such cases, you need to quickly report them to helpline contacts of food and drug administration (FDA) in US. Those who are living outside the US need to contact their pharmacist or doctor as soon as possible.

Steps to be taken for safe usage of chantix

Almost all medicines contain both active and not-so-active ingredients. People who take medications may turn sensitive to some of the inactive or passive substances present in them. Also, drugs that do not trigger side effects may cause some discomforts based on your existing medical conditions. You are hence advised to tell your physician if you have a medical history of cardiac conditions (like arterial disorders, strokes and vascular dysfunction). Your medical team also needs to know if you have any mental conditions such as bipolar disorders, anxiety, depression, hallucination or schizophrenia. People who have renal disorders (like chronic kidney diseases – CKD) also need to be wary while using this drug; your doctor needs to know about the status of your renal wellbeing prior to start of a treatment plan.

How to manage excessive levels of dizziness or if you are feeling very drowsy?

As mentioned, chantix can lead to increased levels of drowsiness. Hence, you are advised not to take intoxicating substances such as alcohol, cannabis (marijuana), etc. Chantix can worsen your health condition in those living with dependence on alcohol or those who consume alcohol regularly. Such lifestyle habits can give way to memory lapses, being inebriated for long, etc. Your medical team may tell you to reduce the intake of alcohol or completely stop taking intoxicants. As a general precaution, you are advised not to drive or do activities (like working on heavy machinery). As chantix can make you drowsy, performing activities that need high level of mental agility may lead to accidents.

Pregnant women and women nursing a baby

Women who are pregnant may need to take chantix only if it is extremely essential. Talk to your doctor if you can postpone or avoid taking this drug while you are pregnant. Similarly, avoid taking this drug if you are nursing an infant. This precaution is needed because it is not clear if chantix can pass through breastmilk. Those who may have to necessarily take this drug – while nursing an infant – need to take guidance from their doctor.

Likely interactions with other drugs

Chantix can affect the way other drugs function, if co-administered. Always share information about the drugs you presently take or treatment plans you are currently pursuing. While sharing the list of current medications, care to add prescription drugs, over the counter meds as well as herbal aids or dietary supplements. You also need to remember that smoking tobacco products can alter the way in which your body handles drugs such as theophylline, blood thinning medications (like warfarin) or diabetic drugs (for example, insulin). So, when you quit smoking, strengths of these drugs may have to be altered to suit your new, tobacco-free lifestyle.

In case you have missed a dose, it is not a good practice to take a double dose. Such doubling of doses can trigger an overdosed condition. You need to call your doctor if you notice signs such as breathing problems, acute levels of drowsiness, fainting or passing out.

In sum, chantix is a drug used to help you quit smoking. The most common side effects of this drug are feeling drowsy, an altered sense of taste, constipation, insomnia, occurrence of unusual or strange dreams, headaches, etc. People have also reported abdominal problems like nausea, gas formation or bloating, etc. These discomforts often stop once your body gets used to this drug. But, if these side effects do not go away, it is recommended to consult your physician promptly.

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