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Updated September 26, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

What Chantix Is Used For:

Chantix, also known by the generic name of varenicline, is a medication that helps people quit smoking. Chantix may also be used for other purposes as prescribed by a health care professional.

How Chantix Helps You Quit Smoking:

When you smoke, nicotine that you inhale from a cigarette attaches to nicotine receptors in your brain. This sends a message to another part of your brain to release a chemical known as dopamine. Dopamine is a substance that gives your body a sense of pleasure. But, the sensation does not last very long and your body starts to crave more nicotine. This creates a vicious cycle.

Chantix targets nicotine receptors in the brain, attaches to them, and blocks the nicotine from reaching them. By activating these nicotine receptors, it is also believed that Chantix causes less dopamine to be released, compared to nicotine.

Chantix Common Side Effects:

The following side effects are most commonly reported when using Chantix; they usually go away after several weeks of treatment and generally do not require medical attention:
  • Constipation
  • Headache
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Strange dreams
  • Gas
  • Difficulty sleeping

If these, or any other side effect become bothersome, notify your health care provider. This list may not include every possible side effect related to Chantix. Contact your doctor if you experience any unusual symptoms related to Chantix.

Chantix Serious Side Effects:

If you experience any of the following serious side effects, contact your health care provider as soon as possible:
  • Allergic reactions such as skin rash, hives, swelling of the face, lips or tongue
  • Changes in vision
  • Lightheadedness, fainting or falling
  • Fever
  • Problems with balance, walking or talking
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Thoughts of suicide or other mood changes
  • Trouble passing urine or change in the amount of urine
  • Unusual bleeding or bruising
  • Unusual weakness or feelings of being tired

This list may not include every possible side effect. Contact your doctor if you experience any unusual symptoms related to Chantix.

Chantix Precautions:

If you smoke while taking this medication, it is important that you try and quit again. Your mouth may become dry while taking Chantix. If this occurs, chew on a piece of hard candy or sugarless gum. Drink plenty of water while taking this medication. Until you know how your body will react to Chantix, avoid driving or operating heavy machinery. Rise slowly from a seated or laying down position, especially if you are elderly. This medication may increase the chance of mood swings or suicidal thoughts. Contact your doctor if you experience a worsening of mood or thoughts of dying while taking Chantix.

Before Taking Chantix:

Never take Chantix without a prescription from your doctor. Be sure to tell your doctor if you have any of the following conditions:
  • Bipolar disorder, depression, schizophrenia or other mental illness
  • Kidney disease
  • Suicidal thoughts, plans, or attempt; a previous suicide attempt by you or a family member
  • An unusual or allergic reaction to varenicline, other medications, foods, dyes, or preservatives
  • If you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant
  • If you are breastfeeding

How to Use Chantix:

Take this medication only as directed by your doctor. Before you start taking Chantix, set a date to quit smoking. Start taking Chantix one week before your quit date. Take this medication by mouth after a meal. Take it with a full glass of water. Follow the directions on your prescription bottle. If you have any questions about how to use Chantix, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. Take Chantix at regular intervals. Do not take more than the recommended dose of Chantix.

Overdosage: If you think you have taken too much of this medication, contact a poison control center or emergency room immediately.

If You Miss a Dose:

If you miss a dose of Chantix, take it as soon as possible. If it is almost time for your next dose, take only that dose. Do not take double or extra doses of Chantix. Talk with your health care provider or pharmacist for more information about Chantix.


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