As reported in this recall alert from November 2007, the drug varenicline (marketed as Chantix and used to help patients quit smoking) has been associated with troubling neuropsychiatric symptoms, such as suicidal thoughts and rage. The the comments section on that page for substantiating anecdotal reports from our readers.
New FDA analysis of adverse event reports shows that when neuropsychiatric symptoms occur, they usually develop during drug treatment, but symptoms can also develop after the drug is stopped. In addition to varenicline (Chantix), FDA is also warning of similar side effects associated with bupropion (Zyban, Wellbutrin) and generic forms of the drug, prescribed to help patients quit smoking.
FDA is now requiring the manufacturers of these smoking cessation aids to add new Boxed Warnings and develop patient Medication Guides highlighting the risk of serious neuropsychiatric symptoms in patients using these products.
The FDA has advised helathcare professionals to tell patients to stop taking varenicline / Chantix or bupropion / Zyban and to contact a healthcare provider immediately IF they experience any sort of mood swing or changes in behavior that are not typical of nicotine withdrawal.
According to MedlinePlus, a service of the US National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, symptoms of nicotine withdrawal include cravings, tension, irritability, difficulty concentrating, trouble sleeping and increased appetite, but they do not list suicidal thoughts or bouts of intense rage as withdrawal symptoms typical when smokers try to quit smoking. If you experience these symptoms while taking drugs like Chantix, Zyban or Wellbutrin, health professionals have been told by the FDA to advise you to quit taking the drugs right away and to contact your doctor to discuss the symptoms.
(Editor’s Note) I tried every quick-smoking gimmick in the book for about a decade: Patches, Pills, slowly going off, sudden cold turkey. Most of them worked temporarily, but none of them made me a “non-smoker”. I would still think about smoking and feel like I was missing out on something. Then I read a book called The Easy Way to Stop Smoking and it changed my whole outlook. I continued to smoke while reading the book, as instructed, but by the time I got to the end I really, honestly, truly did not want a cigarette anymore. The best thing about it was I didn’t miss them one bit. It really WAS easy. Just thought I’d pass that along in case any of you are going through what I was going through at the time. I haven’t smoked in about five years now.