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Varenicline (Chantix®/Champix®)

What Is It?
Varenicline, marketed under the brand name Chantix® / Champix®, is a prescription medication created solely for use in treating tobacco addiction. It received FDA approval in May of 2006, and has been used by millions of ex-smokers since. Varenicline is said to operate in two ways. Acting as an "antagonist", it blocks nicotine's connection to receptors in the brain, making smoking less satisfying and/or desirable. At the same time, as an "agonist", varenicline mimics the effects of nicotine, reducing the ex-smoker's cravings and withdrawal. A recent review concluded that varenicline increased the odds of successfully quitting smoking by two to three-fold, relative to not taking any quit medications.

How do I use varenicline?
Chantix is usually started one to two weeks before your quit date. If you experience nausea during this period, try to reduce your smoking as much as possible, and quit as soon as you can - you do not need to wait a full two weeks if you're ready to quit before then.

Varenicline should be taken with food and water (at least one full glass) at each dose, and you should remain well hydrated throughout the day. To reduce insomnia, take the second pill at supper rather than bedtime.

If lapses occur, continue your current dose as well as efforts to quit smoking. Talk to your doctor to see if any changes need to be made in your quit plan.

What is the dose?
Your doctor will help you decide on the best dosing for you.

  • Usually doses are gradually increased starting one week before the quit date:
    Day 1 - 3: Once a day x 0.5 mg (if nausea occurs at this stage, you may want to continue this dose for a longer period of time and increase gradually as the nausea subsides)
    Day 4 - 14: 0.5 mg, twice a day
    Day 15 - Week 12: 1.0 mg, twice a day
  • Another treatment regimen is to begin Chantix® dosing, and then quit smoking between Days 8 and 35 of treatment.

Some persons can remain at the Day 4 - 14 dose (0.5 mg twice a day) and do well; both dose levels have been shown to be effective. More medically specific information ...

Content author: Alan S. Peters, CTTS-M
Reviewed by: Ann Wendling, MD, MPH, April 2013

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Varenicline (aka Chantix®/Champix®)
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