Chantix was approved by the FDA in 2006 and soon after was lauded as the best smoking cessation crutch since the cold turkey.
The only notable side effects (which were originally described as mild and rare) of this wonder drug were constipation, gas, nausea, vomiting and “changes” in dreaming. Which are far better than the headache, crankiness and irritability typically experienced by those who quit without the help of a drug.
A closer look at this study and we see that participants were white men and women with an average age of 43. Excluded from the study was anyone with a history of depression, panic attacks, heart, liver or kidney disease, diabetes and those who use drugs and/or alcohol.
Leaving the 3,659 people who made the cut a poorly-represented sample of your average smoker.
But thanks to this study, Chantix boasts a 44 percent success rate. That is, 12 weeks into one study, 44 percent of participants hadn’t touched a cigarette in the last four weeks of treatment. And when we look at participants in weeks nine through 52 that number drops to 23 percent.
A relapse rate of about 77 percent.
Hardly a remarkable statistic when the average relapse rate for ex-smokers is estimated to be between 60 and 90 percent in the first year.
After 34 suicides and 420 instances of suicidal behavior, on February 1 of this year, the FDA warned that Chantix may cause “serious psychiatric problems, including suicidal thinking.”
According to a first-person account from a former Chantix user, published in the February 10 issue of New York Magazine, “...self-destructive fantasies slowly began cropping up as cartoonish flights of fancy...that became a little more concrete and domineering with every passing day.”
A small price to pay for a 23 percent chance that you’ll never smoke another cigarette.
He went on to describe five and six hour blackouts, complete social withdrawal and a climax that included a complete ransacking of his own house.
Chantix is designed to work by blocking the pleasure receptors in the brain that are activated by nicotine. Thus removing any pleasure one might receive from smoking a cigarette.
But one theory behind the development of such destructive behaviors is that perhaps it works almost too well, blocking the pleasure one receives from all of life’s more pleasurable experiences—socializing, exercising, eating, etc.
As of today, the Chantix packaging is in the process of being updated to include warnings about all of the above.
Meanwhile, there are still doctors calling it a wonder drug. And it is still being prescribed, albeit with a “keep an eye on yourself” type warning.
Do you really want to kick the habit? Try the patch, chew some gum and task your friends and coworkers with keeping you on the right path.