DR. HOOK-Chantix: Singing the no-smoking song

My life is so not glamorous. Because I have such a small practice, I usually can't afford to have outside help. But now we're hiring a nurse practitioner, and we've been hauling things all over, hammering away, dusting behind corners that haven't seen light since 1904, yadda yadda yadda. 

Things could be worse– like having tea with Pat Robertson– but no one told me I would be lying under a dusty desk today to wire up equipment in addition to seeing patients. By the way, I even iron at home. (I'm going to write a book called Ironing is Happiness: Smooth Away the Wrinkles in Your Life. John Grisham, eat your heart out!)  

Brad Pitt = Glamour. Dr. Hong = Hauling boxes and doing laundry. 

Anyway, I have some patients who think smoking is glamorous. I don't get it. When I see Nicole Kidman bathed in tobacco smoke, I need to wear an oxygen mask! I inhaled a cigarette once in college to see what the attraction was, and I coughed up my left lung.

Smoking is so bad for you! Whitney Houston said, "Crack is wack," but I say, "Tobacco is cracko!" Hmmm, let me revisit this. Cigarette smoking is the #1 preventable cause of illness and early death. In the US, about 438,000 deaths per year are attributable to smoking. Sure, we all have to die of something, but I would prefer to die of old age without suffering from a stroke, a weak heart, and poor circulation in my legs (especially since my left lung is still back at college).

Forty-one percent of smokers try to quit every year, but only about 10 percent who try to quit succeed for good. Most smokers fail to quit within the first few weeks because they become absolute raving witches, and I don't mean as in Endora.  

Some people are able to quit smoking by going cold turkey (vs. warm chicken – where do these expressions come from?). I counsel all my patients who smoke to give up the habit/addiction. Cutting down to five or fewer cigarettes is a great way to prepare to quit, but I have quite a few patients who will run over their grandmother before cutting down to five cigarettes a day. 

One lady said to me, "Honey, I'd give up a good man before I'd give up my cigarettes."

While the celebrated chair of UVA's department of psychiatric medicine, Dr. Bankole Johnson, is investigating several new drugs to help people stop smoking, several meds are already here.

Bupropion has proved useful in helping people quit, but there's a risk of seizure on the medication. (If it's not one thing it's another.) Nicotine patches, gums, etc. all help reduce craving and withdrawal effects like irritability, headaches, and hunger.

Chantix is the newest kid on the block. This medicine is an alpha-4, beta-2 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor partial agonist. (I realize no one knows what that means.) Nicotine binds to this receptor in the brain and causes a nice soothing brain chemical called dopamine to be secreted. Dopamine dopes you up to feel good. 

Chantix binds to this receptor about 50 percent as much as nicotine, so the person sorta has the feelings of nicotine in the system. Additionally, Chantix stops a smoking buzz because Chantix is already sitting on the alpha-4, beta-2...you know the rest.  

Should smokers who want to quit start singing Hallelujah? Well, the drug is four times more effective than placebo and two times more effective than bupropion after 12 weeks of therapy. But it isn't a cure-all. I guess nothing really ever is.  But it's a start and might save some lives. And I'm not just blowing smoke.




Can I buy this localy in a drugstore in Canada.
What des it cost.

What are it's side effects, other than quiting smoking.

I had quite a few years back for a few months, that was after I was very upset and frustrated about loosing 4 teeth, due to gum problems. I related the teeth lost due to smoking. I don't know what has happened but I went back. At that Time I went through a non smoking clinic, and set a date and was also using the aid of the patch.

My mother had a heart atack 4 years ago and she had quite while in the hospital. She needed one when she came out. Then started smoking after 6 months. Again I am not clear as to what happens to us.

I hope to hear from you soon!!


Jim Szabo

"Dr. Hook" I only recently found out about Chantix from an old high school friend, who today is an MD, at our 30th year reunion. I am an RN and yes I know the "evils" of the substance; however, addiction is an addiction. I plan on starting the medication this weekend so I will keep you and your readers abreast as to my progress. As others, I have tried every product out there to help quit....hope this works. Cindy

Im taking Chantix and it is great I havent smoked in 9 weeks. (After 30 years of smoking)
Im ready to stop but I have a feeling
I should wean slowly. Is there any information on this?

My husband and I went on Chantix because our doctor told us it would help us quit smoking. However, there are some serious side effects that people need to be aware of. My husband, after 13 days on Chantix tried to take his own life. He has ABSOLTULEY NO HISTORY OF MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES!!!! I cannot stress how serious these side effects can be. Thankfully I was home and was able to get the help we needed. After he was out of ICU and into a crisis center, the doctors there stated that they do believe that he is one of the rare cases that had the suicidal ideation. I know the drug works to quit smoking, because I was successful on it, but people need to be aware that there are possible horrible side effects. He is still shocked that he did this and has no memory of the day it happened or the 4 days after. Please, just be aware of possible problems and stay in close contact with your docotr if you are going to take Chantix.

I have been on Chantix for three full weeks now. It successfully helped me quit, I am amazed at how easy Chantix made it for me. This is after 10 years of smoking...after countless failed attempts where normally, I'd give up within hours normally, a few days max. So 3 weeks smoke free is a huge feat for me and I've never felt better! I can breathe again! =) (Literally!)

I requested a rx for Chantix from my doc who was very happy for me. I had heard great things about this drug and thought I would try again to stop smoking (smoker 28 yrs). At first all was good, drink enough water and you could get over the feeling of wanting to get sick. I was certainly not smoking as much as I use to and I was exicted. But during the entire time I always felt like I was on speed. My heart raced and I was jittery and I didn't like that feeling. Then on day I had what I was sure was a heart attack. I couldn't breathe, my chest felt like an elephant was sitting on it and I was SCARED!! I took an asprin and let it pass. I called my doc for an appt. and told him what had happened and how I had been feeling (speedy) since starting the Chantix and he told me it was probably because I was still smoking (just 5 cigarettes) and not to worry about it. Well two weeks later it happened again and I was scared enough to go to the ER. I had an abnormal EKG, was put on a Nitro patch and oxygen and started to feel better. I was not release until the hospital did a Heart Catherization on me! They thought I might have a blocked valve because of the years of smoking. I didn't thank God. I kept telling every doctor that I thought it was the Chantix and they all just refused to believe it. I finally talked to a pharmisist that gave me the EXTRA side effects of Chantix that no one will tell us common folks and don't you know there were all kinds of Cariovascular problems associated with Chantix including what happened to me, abnormal EKG and all. I took myself off of it and decided to try something else. I don't want to be a guinee pig for the pharmaceutical companies anymore. At least I know all the side effects of smoking. Please be careful. I know this stuff works but it does have serious side effects everyone should know about including doctors.

I noticed Cindy Dietz-Reger made a comment. I knew her from Austin,TX. I'm still in Austin. I quit smoking August 1,1983 cold turkey & proud of it! There were no patches or gum back then. I did it with God's help & determination! Exercise & chew sugarless gum does it! Thanks, Scott