Quitting to Win – Are tablets right for you

There are multiple reasons which flock to mind when the thought of "stop smoking" comes into play. The NHS and the media push the dangers of smoking and benefits of quitting. But how can modern medicine help, how can it stop your urges? Thankfully, now we live in a society which is more health conscious and more aware about what we are putting in our bodies than a decade ago. When visiting your pharmacy there is a whole section dedicated to quitting smoking. With products ranging from nicotine patches to inhalers and mouth sprays and even gums and chews. Most "quitters" will have tried the over the counter aids which are available to all, however some may have heard of another type of treatment which is prescribed. But are tablets right for you? Varenicline or Champix (its brand name) is a treatment which has been used in the UK since 2006 has proven to be a more successful aide to those wanting to quit.

How does it work?

Varenicline is a treatment for nicotine addiction. It acts as a blocker and an activator on the nicotine receptor site in the brain. When smoking, activation of this receptor leads to a release of Dopamine which is a chemical messenger used by the body to stimulate the reward (feel good) pathway. Champix activates the same reward and ‘feel good factor’ which is triggered by nicotine, but without the presence of nicotine. If the person then decides to have a cigarette, they cannot get the same "feel good" effect as before as the receptors are already blocked from nicotine. This leads to the smoker no longer getting the pleasure from smoking, leading to a successful quit. Some will get depression and anxiety as they no longer have a reward pathway being activated by smoking, Champix will help counter that by ensuring dopamine release.

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How do I use it?

This medication comes in a starter and maintenance (continuation) pack. It is taken twice a day and comes in 2 week or 4 week packs. Initially, 0.5mg is taken once a day for 3 days, then twice a day for 4 days. Then the maintenance dose of 1mg is taken twice daily for the length of the treatment. Every medicine comes with side effects that you may or may not experience, however some of these do subside and you can continue on your stop programme. The most common side effect is nausea and this can be controlled by making sure that Champix is taken with food and a large glass of water.

The benefits of stopping smoking can be felt almost instantly. With time your body will recover to that of someone who has never smoked. So it’s not too late to quit. After just one day of quitting the risk of heart attack drops. Blood pressure also returns to normal and oxygen levels rise meaning you can do more physical activity without undue burden. As each year without smoking passes, the benefits increase and risks decrease, unwinding the damage done through smoking.

It is important to remember that not every quit attempt will be a successful one, but with the aid of willpower these treatments can help you quit for good. Champix is proven to be a more successful method of quitting than conventional methods available over the counter. To see if you are eligible for this treatment find out and order HERE.

By Birpal Virdee (Jan 2019)