What is Varenicline?

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  • Written By: J. Beam
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 03 May 2020
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Varenicline is a smoking-cessation aid available only as a prescription. It's the generic name for the drug, which is manufactured by Phizer under the brand names Chantix (US) and Champix (Europe). Unlike many other smoking-cessation aids, varenicline is an oral, non-nicotine drug.

Varenicline is prescribed to patients who have expressed a commitment to quitting smoking and who may have tried other forms of nicotine replacement therapies unsuccessfully. Varenicline does not contain nicotine, but rather works by interfering with receptors in the brain that react to nicotine and create the physical cravings. The concept is that patients taking the drug are aided by experiencing a reduction in the pleasantries of smoking.

Research on this drug thus far has indicated a slight, but not significant, increase in the success of patients quitting smoking who have used nicotine replacement therapies unsuccessfully. It is designed to be used in conjunction with a stop-smoking plan developed by you, your doctor and through a support program.

Though varenicline is recommended by many physicians as a way to aid patients in their struggle to quit smoking, some doctors do not recommend it and it should not be prescribed without a thorough consultation with your doctor. There are some concerns over the psychological side effects of the medication, which are believed to be enhanced in individuals suffering from psychological conditions.

Varenicline is fairly new compared to many other smoking-cessation aids. Its potential success is largely based on the absence of nicotine and its effect on the receptors of the brain. However, because smoking is both a physical and psychological dependency, many factors come into play for patients to successfully quit smoking. Drugs that reduce the craving and dependency on nicotine do not eliminate the hand-to-mouth habit that smokers develop in relation to certain activities, such as driving, talking on the phone, or after eating.

If you are thinking about quitting smoking, talk to your doctor about different aids available, including prescription drugs and how to best develop a plan that will work for you. In many instances, those with a commitment to quitting have been helped by taking this medication. You should discuss your complete health history with your doctor and your doctor should advise you of any side effects and risks of taking this and other medications.

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