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Prescription medications available for smoking cessation

Nicotine is a powerful drug of the stimulant class, which also includes such drugs as caffeine, cocaine and amphetamines. Stimulants increase the heart and respiration rates whereas depressants like alcohol, opiate drugs, and tranquilizers decrease these measures. People often don’t know that nicotine is a stimulant, perhaps because it reduces muscle tension providing a sense of relaxation.
But imagine how you felt when you first smoked a cigarette, the feeling of lightheadedness or dizziness, a bit of nausea, a whooshing sound in your head, and the pounding heart. If you smoked a cigarette before bed, it probably disrupted your sleep. The withdrawal symptoms seem to be related to not achieving that level of arousal to which you have grown accustomed over time. It’s tough to think clearly, tough to maintain a positive attitude, tough to get up the energy to do much.

There are two non-nicotine prescription medications commonly used for smoking cessation. They include Zyban (generic name bupropion hydrochloride) which is the same drug as the common antidepressant Wellbutrin, and a relatively new drug called Chantix (generic name varenicline). They are thought to affect the nicotine receptors in the brain.

Zyban tabletZyban is used while an individual continues smoking leading up to the quit date and for a period of time after the quit date. Studies indicate it reduces such withdrawal symptoms as irritability, frustration, or anger; anxiety; difficulty concentrating; restlessness; and depressed mood. Tell your doctor if you are susceptible to seizures as Zyban increases that risk. A common side effect of Zyban is irritability and anxiety, and it’s not uncommon for a person to discontinue the medication as a result. You can read more about this drug at RxList, including a full list of side effects and some user reviews. The manufacturer also keeps a pdf document with prescribing information here: Zyban. Zyban is also available in a generic form and is inexpensive.

Chantix tabletsChantix is the newest drug on the market, approved in 2006 to great fanfare. It was common to hear Chantix users say “If you don’t try Chantix, you really don’t want to stop smoking” when it first appeared on the market. Although the early chatter about its effectiveness was quite positive and remains so, as with Zyban there are concerns about the psychological state of people who use these drugs. Agitation, depression, and suicidal thoughts are not very common but are serious enough to warrant a black box warning on prescription bottles, the strongest warning possible. Your doctor and pharmacist can fill you in on any additional details you might need. Information on Chantix is available at RxList, and you can find more information on the manufacturer’s website here: Chantix.  The generic form of Chantix is not yet available in the United States, so this drug may cost more, depending on your insurance, if any.

Many people have used these drugs to successfully quit smoking. Maybe it’s time to try something different.

Please feel free to post questions and comments here, or you may email me at examiner.leslie@gmail.com.

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