Can Chantix help a smoker safely quit smoking the second time around? | Lifestyles
DEAR DR. GARDON: I am a 68 year old smoker in good health with osteoporosis. I am addicted to tobacco and have tried everything that was available to quit without success. I tried taking Chantix 15 years ago and became suicidal. Around this time my late husband and I decided to quit together using Chantix. He became very hostile and mean, which made me depressed and suicidal. I did not act according to my thoughts; we immediately stopped taking the drugs and life returned to normal for both of us.
I want to know what you think of trying Chantix again. I have sought advice from my doctors and have received conflicting answers. Aside from the incident 15 years ago, I have no history of depression. I am a carefree type of person in a great marriage. I could not find any research dealing with this situation. I know Chantix can lead to suicidal thoughts, but hopefully it doesn’t happen the second time around with me as my current partner is very supportive. What are your thoughts? – AL
ANSWER: For almost all smokers, quitting is the most important thing for their health. On average, smoking reduces a person’s life by eight to 12 years, and quitting smoking still recovers some of that time. And the sooner the better, because the body has the ability to repair much of the damage. In all cases, the permanent damage caused by smoking stops as soon as a person quits smoking.
There are many aids available to help people quit smoking. Before considering other treatments, it is worth determining why you are addicted to smoking and what other activities would be best for dealing with any psychological issues that may be present.
Varenicline (Chantix) is one of the most widely used and effective smoking cessation aids. smoking that tend to perpetuate smoking behaviors.
Depression and suicidal ideation are well-known side effects of varenicline treatment, although they are rare – around 1.3% in a well-conducted trial, similar to that seen with other drugs or with a placebo. Quitting smoking on its own is difficult and results in changes in brain chemistry leading to changes in behavior. Everyone who has tried to quit smoking (and those who love them) know this. It is impossible for any one person to know whether it was the drugs or the combination of your partner’s behavior and the attempt to quit smoking that was responsible for your acute depression and suicidal thoughts.
Chantix is not the only smoking cessation aid. Group smoking cessation courses have been shown to be effective. Nicotine replacement therapy also increases the chances of quitting smoking successfully. An antidepressant, bupropion (Wellbutrin or Zyban), has additional effectiveness in addition to group sessions and nicotine replacement (but it should not be used in someone with a seizure). It seems prudent to me to try a different therapy with roughly equivalent effectiveness before trying Chantix again. You may have tried them before, but another attempt may still work, especially in combination with other procedures.
If you decide to try Chantix again, you should carefully monitor the return of depressive symptoms and, together with your partner and doctor, be prepared to stop treatment immediately if they return.