In 2007, the Food & Drug Administration announced serious reports on the side effects of Chantix, such as suicidal thoughts and erratic behaviors. In 2009, the agency required Chantix manufacturers to add a ‘black box warning’ to alert the consumers about the possible side effects of the drug. The same was required to Zyban manufacturers. However, there was lack of clear evidence on whether the symptoms were caused by the drug itself or by something else, such as nicotine withdrawal.
New trials published this year show no association between Chantix and depression, even in people who are prone to the disease or had a history of it. The results were not surprising, said Dr. Robert Anthenelli, the lead author of the study from the Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System in California.
“Our prior experience using the medication in smokers with and without mental health disorders, and the results of more than 15 placebo-controlled randomized clinical trials found no such association,” he said.
Dr. Anthenelli and his team tested whether Varenicline (Chantix) could help patients quit smoking without aggravating symptoms of depression. For their study, the researchers randomly assigned 525 patients, ages between 18 and 79, to either Chantix or a placebo. All the participants were treated for current or past major depression, and no recent case for cardiovascular problems. Two-thirds of them were women.
75% of the participants regularly took antidepressants and anxiety drugs during the study. For three months, half of the smokers took 1 mg of Chantix twice a day, and the other half took a placebo pill. During the final month, all of them went through breath tests to determine whether they have abstained from smoking while being treated with medications. 35% of those who used Chantix had not smoked, while only 15% of those who used the placebo pill managed to quit.
After the three-month trial, the participants were followed for 40 weeks during which they no longer used such medications.
The researchers found that Chantix users were more likely to experience mild side effects like headache, nausea and abnormal dreams. Many of them also experienced insomnia compared to the placebo group. However, there were no significant differences in the mood or anxiety levels, and no worsening of depression between the two groups.
These results, together with other studies conducted over the past years, provide solid evidence that Chantix does not aggravate stable and treated depression, Dr. Anthenelli explained. Their work was published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.
Furthermore, previous studies suggest that Chantix works better than other quit smoking medications like Zyban.
Tips when using Chantix
- Consult your doctor. Chantix is a prescription medication. It is important that you seek professional advice to know whether it is the best quit smoking tool for you.
- Take it as prescribed. Make sure to follow exactly the instructions provided by your doctor or by the manufacturer itself (you will find it written on the back of the packaging). The effectiveness of Chantix largely depends on proper dosage. This drug is often used for 12 weeks.
- If you are undergoing treatment for another illness, ask your doctor whether it’s okay to take it with other medications.
- Report any serious side effects to your doctor. It is more advisable to work closely with your doctor while taking Chantix.
- Keep up with your other support systems while using Chantix and for a few months after you quit to ensure success.