4 Commonly Used Prescription Drugs for Quitting Smoking

by Dr Antonio Howell, MD

in quit smoking

Dr. Howell

Smoking is such a hard habit to break. This is why one needs a reliable quit smoking method to increase his or her chances of being cigarette-free for good. Prescription drugs are also available for people looking to give up smoking. These drugs come in different names and brands, and can be used with other quit smoking methods like NRT, but smokers need a prescription before using any of them.



There are several prescription medications for quitting smoking. The following are among the most popular. They are also backed by clinical research, and are considered effective in thwarting off nicotine addiction.


Varenicline (Chantix)

So far, Chantix is the leading prescription medicine available today. It works by interfering with nicotine receptors in the brain, helping a person quit in two ways. First, it reduces the pleasure a person gets from smoking, and second, it alleviates symptoms of withdrawal. Chantix, as a quit smoking method, should be started before the intended quit date. This means it is okay to take it while still smoking. This drug is taken for 12 days, but the treatment period can be extended for another 12 days if the person’s craving for cigarettes hasn’t subsided yet. People who use Chantix may also experience side effects, such as headache, nausea, flatulence, and unusual dreams.

Bupropion (Zyban)

Zyban is not really a quit smoking drug, but a prescription antidepressant. However, studies have shown that it may also help reduce symptoms of nicotine withdrawal, by acting on brain chemicals associated with nicotine craving. This drug is usually taken for 1-2 weeks before a person quits smoking. Just like Chantix, this drug may be prescribed for longer periods. Zyban is not intended for people who had history of seizures, and those who have issues with alcohol dependence, serious head injury, bipolar disorder, and eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia. Reported side effects of this medication include agitation, dry mouth, trouble sleeping, changes in appetite, headache and constipation.

Nortriptyline

This is another antidepressant drug that is also used by some smokers wishing to quit. Nortriptyline has been found to double the likelihood of quitting smoking compared with no medicine used at all. In clinical studies, the drug was administered 10 to 28 days before smokers quit so it reaches as stable level in the body. Side effects include dry mouth, blurred vision, increased heart rate, constipation, and rapid weight gain or loss. Certain drugs may not be used together with Nortriptyline.

Clonidine

This is a drug used to treat high blood pressure. When used as a smoking cessation treatment, the drug is taken twice a day. In one study, Clonidine was found to help heavy smokers who failed in previous attempts get rid of nicotine addiction. They were also twice more likely to succeed in ditching the habit than those in the control group. The most common side effects associated with this medication are constipation, dry mouth, dizziness, unusual tiredness, very high or very low blood pressure (due to increased dosage), and allergic reactions.


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