Chantix, called Champix in the United Kingdom, has been hailed as a sort of miracle quit-smoking drug. It works by blocking nicotine from receptors in the brain while releasing a bit of dopamine (a naturally occurring drug in the body that makes an individual happy) at the same time. This makes people not feel any happiness or pleasure from smoking a cigarette. When the craving for nicotine no longer exists and an individual no longer derives any benefit from smoking, all that an individual is left with is the taste of cigarettes in their mouth.
While this drug does allow many people to quit smoking without any side effects, many others have experienced extremely negative side effects. These side effects mainly involve mental effects. People who have taken Chantix have experienced drastic changes in their moods, suicidal thoughts and actions, personality changes, hallucinations, and severe depression.
Derek de Koff, a write for New York Magazine, made the very important decision to quit smoking recently. He had been smoking for 12 years but felt that quitting was the best thing he could do since his father had already died from lung cancer due to smoking. To quit, he decided to enlist the help of Chantix and his doctor. Shortly after starting the medication, de Koff started experiencing very realistic dreams that didn’t quite leave him after he woke up. It started with little things like maybe the air conditioner was releasing something into the air. This wasn’t too alarming as the air conditioner had been rattling more often than usual. After a few weeks of ever-increasing dreams, paranoia set in. De Koff took everything to be a sign that something awful was going to happen. He stopped riding the subway as it made him too anxious. In addition, he stopped going to the gym and out with friends. His life became work and home.
As if the dreams and hallucinations weren’t enough, de Koff eventually started thinking suicidal thoughts. These came shortly after the paranoia set in. While the suicidal thoughts existed, de Koff was able to shake them off and ignore their existence, for the most part. Eventually, though, de Koff started blacking out for hours on end. He’d wake up from a nap with half-eaten sandwiches lying about or music blaring with all the lights on. He’d have no idea how this stuff appeared in his room or how he even got to where he was.
Eventually, Derek de Koff just went nuts one night. He tore up his apartment and made a complete disaster out of the whole thing. It was then that he decided to stop taking Chantix and switch to a patch in its place. He views this as the second most important decision in his life.
While Derek de Koff managed to avoid completely ruining his life or even killing himself, others have not been quite so lucky. A number of cases of similar events that have ended much worse have appeared. Last fall, a Dallas-based musician started taking Chantix and ended up attacking his girlfriend and then being shot and killed by a neighbor, through a door, when he was pounding on the door in the hall. Mr. de Koff heard about that case as well but thought that it had more to do with the man having three-times the legal limit of alcohol in his bloodstream. While this may have played a role, no one can really tell because of how the clinical trials for Chantix were conducted.
When Chantix was being tested in the United States, they eliminated a huge number of people from the clinical trials. An individual had to be in reasonably good shape with no history of mental problems, no alcohol problems, and not one of a variety of health problems to participate in the studies. This was part of the FDA’s testing guidelines. It is done to remove as many variables as possible. Unfortunately, it also does not give people a good idea of how the drug will work on people who have some history of a mental illness or problem as well as those that use alcohol. One doctor who frequently prescribes Chantix says that the majority of his patients have a problem with alcohol or a mental problem.
While there is no conclusive evidence yet, and the problems are still somewhat rare, Chantix does cause mental problems in some people. There is some proof of this in that Pfizer, which manufactures the medicine, has changed the ads for the medication and changed the labeling on the box and information packet.
There is no recall or anything of the sort yet but it is a good idea to be abreast of all possible problems or side effects of a medication. This allows an individual to be aware of what to look for should something go wrong.