Chantix is an Effective Aid in Quitting Smoking
People who are struggling to quit smoking may be prescribed the drug Chantix. It's generic name is Varenicline. In Canada and Europe it is marketed as Champix.
Regardless of what it is called, it is a powerful weapon against nicotine addiction and early studies suggest it may be equally effective against alcohol dependence.
People on Chantix are asked to pick a date to quit smoking, usually two to three weeks after beginning to take the drug.
For the first two weeks they take a lower dose of Chantix. In the third week they begin taking the full strength pill twice a day. The normal course is three months but a doctor can renew the prescription to increase the duration.
The smoking cessation pill works by blocking receptors in the brain that making smoking pleasurable. Quite simply, lighting up is no longer enjoyable. The drug also appears to greatly reduce the unpleasant symptoms associated with nicotine withdrawal.
More than 80% of alcoholics are also smokers and amongst those who have used Chantix to quit smoking, there is a vast amount of anecdotal information that suggests the drug also decreases the urge to drink. It makes it less pleasurable to consume alcohol. There is no longer a buzz.
Researchers are hoping Chantix may provide treatment for alcohol and nicotine addition, two problems that have a profound impact on our society and health system.
Early Trials Using Chantix to Curb Drinking
The first study to determine if Chantix could be effective in combatting alcohol abuse was conducted at a reasearch facility associated with the University of California, San Fransisco.
The test subjects were rats. Eighteen rats were provided access to 40 percent proof alcohol over four months. When the animals were denied the alcohol for a short period of time, they increased their consumption when it returned, resulting in a heightened amount of binge drinking.
The rats were then given Chantix every second day. Their drinking was cut in half and they did not drink to excess after being denied alcohol for a period of time.
Follow up tests showed that even rats who were given unlimited access to alcohol reduced their drinking .
Chantix Clinic Trials
In the late 2000s a small clinical trial was conducted by the University of Chicago.
Fifteen people received a small dose of Chantix or a placebo. They also received drinks with a small amount of alcohol, a large amount of alcohol or no alcohol at all. The study was conducted over six sessions.
People who took the pill with booze said the combination made the drinking experience more unpleasant and less rewarding, which is very similar to the experience reported by smokers.
The Latest Studies on the Effects of Chantix On Alcohol Dependancy
According to the National Institutes of of Health Clinical Center the latest study includes a larger number of people. People between the ages of 21 and 60 who routinely drink an average of two alcoholic beverages a day (women) or three alcoholic beverages a day (men) have been invited to take part in the trials.
Participants are required to undergo a thorough physical evaluation.
They are supplied chantix and on two occasions given an intravenous which contains alcohol. Over the next two hours they are able to push a button to supply additional alcohol into the IV.
On the second occasion the intravenous experiment is conducted inside a magnetic resonance imaging scanner (MRI) so researchers can measure brain activity while test subjects perform assigned tasks.
The subjects must also spend an evening in the hospital for more detailed evaluation and follow up with a researcher.
One Final Note on Chantix and Drinking
In the world of health research, studies on Chantix and alcohol dependency are still in the early stages. It could be years before the drug may be prescribed as a treatment for alcoholism.
Right now there are less than a half a dozen medications used in alcohol management, with very limited success.
Researchers hope they can prove Chantix blocks the brain's pleasure receptors for alcohol in the same way it does for nicotine and may be particularly effective for people with the dual addiction.
There is one note of caution. Chantix is a drug and like all medications it does cause side effects. In July 2009 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration required the manufacturers of Chantix to put a black box warning label on it's product. The drug has been linked to thoughts of suicide, depression and an increased risk of stroke and heart disease in people with pre-existing conditions.