What Is Champix?
Champix is the brand name for the active ingredient Varenicline Tartrate. It works by stimulating the reward centre of the brain which is usually attributed to nicotine.
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. This activation leads to a release of Dopamine which is a chemical messenger used by the body to stimulate the reward pathway. The aim is to activate the same reward and ‘feel good factor’ which is usually triggered by nicotine, however without the presence of nicotine. If this person then smokes then they cannot get the same reaction as they have already blocked any more nicotine from having its effects. This leads to the smoker no longer getting the pleasure from smoking, ultimately leading to a successful quit. Some will get depression and anxiety as they no longer have a reward pathway being activated by smoking, Champix can help counter that by ensuring dopamine release. In studies, 44% of Champix users quit smoking in the 9-12 week range of treatment (compared to just 18% on the placebo sugar pill).
How do I use it?
Before commencing your Champix treatment you need to decide on a quit date. The quit date should be in the second week of treatment between days 8-14. If quitting within this time period is undesirable then you can choose a date that falls within the 5-week mark. It’s important to make a note of the quit date, preferably on the pack itself.
If however you decide that you want to reduce the cigarettes in reduction phase rather than stopping altogether you should aim to reduce and stop by the end of the 12-week period. You then need to continue for a further 12-week period after successfully quitting. So in total you have a treatment period of 24 weeks from start to finish.
This medication comes in a starter and maintenance (continuation) pack, it is taken twice a day and comes in 2-week packs. We have simplified the dosage regimen in an easy to follow table below.
Can I still smoke while on Champix?
Yes, you can still smoke. However you may not necessarily feel the ‘reward’ or ‘stimulation’ as Champix has blocked it. You may therefore have a negative experience, this will then lead a better quit as you are not getting the pleasure from smoking anymore. Champix not only stops you from wanting to smoke, it also discourages it when you do pick up a cigarette.
What are the side effects?
Every medication comes with side effects and not everyone who uses it will experience them but here are some side effects which could affect you.
- Nausea – this is the most common side effect, this can be avoided by taking Champix with a large glass of water.
- Depressed mood, rarely suicidal thoughts - STOP treatment IMMEDIATELY and see your GP
- People with cardiovascular issues – may be at increased risk of new or worsening blood vessel issues
- Those with pre-existing epilepsy may be at higher risk of experiencing epileptic attacks
Also, you must remember that when you attempt a quit you are more likely to experience withdrawal effects, these include:
- Changes in mood (anxiety/depression/irritability)
- Increased appetite/ weight gain
- You would experience these regardless of treatment or going cold turkey without treatment.
What do I do if I’ve missed a dose?
If you have forgotten a dose then you should just carry on as normal and not make up the dose. Do not take a double dose to make up for a forgotten tablet. It is important that you take CHAMPIX regularly, and at the same time each day. If you forget to take a dose, take it as soon as you remember. If it is almost time for your next dose, do not take the one that you have missed.