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Chantix: It Might Work for You but it Messed Me Up Good

Dear Robin:

My wife and I read your blog on smoking and exercise and it hit home for us. She has put on weight and wants to get in better shape and I have been a smoker for 20 years and want to stop.

We are going to try your approach to help each other.  Great idea!

You mentioned medications in that blog – what do you know about Chantix?  I’m thinking of trying it.

Frank

Dear Frank:

Thank you for reading my advice to the couple trying to find ways to improve each other’s health.  

I assume nobody missed that blog because my readers are fanatical about keeping up, but just in case I’ll leave a link here: Smoking and Exercise.

Please do not consider any of the following “medical advice.”  Here’s my disclaimer, in which I explain I am here to entertain you, not to be your doctor, therapist or lawyer:

Disclaimer

Here’s the good news:

Chantix really works for some people!  You might be one of those folks who takes the medication and is able to quit without suffering from the side effects.

And then there are the others.  The people like me.

Robin and Chantix: This is NOT a Love Story (but it’s all about me!)

My doctor prescribed Chantix to me about 6 1/2 years ago.  I’d been a social smoker for way too long and was read to become an anti-social smoker.

Chantix works somewhat progressively.  You begin taking the medication but do not quit smoking at the same time.  Instead, you taper off over time and that tapering is made much easier because the medication curbs your nicotine cravings.

My experience was such that it didn’t just curb my cravings, but it actually made me very averse to cigarettes.  I cut way back to zero faster than the package prescribed as cigarettes became as unappealing to me as the idea of going to bed with Donald Trump.

Clearly, I’m talking serious repulsion.

Not only had I no desire to smoke, I also didn’t want to drink alcohol any longer, which kind of made sense because the only time I smoke is when I drink (hence the “social smoking” label).

That was great!  My weight dropped by several pounds and my bank account grew commensurately.

Not so great?  

I also didn’t want to:

  • live
  • laugh
  • fuck
  • talk
  • cook
  • clean
  • work
  • exercise

Chantix drove me into the deepest depression of my life.

While I have suffered at times from intermittent minor depression, it has never truly interfered with my life.  Once in a while I get the blues, and then they go away.  

Interestingly, I have suffered almost no depression in the two + years since I left the practice of law and began giving free advice that’s worth every penny.  Those cheesy chase-your-dreams Internet memes actually have some truth to them!

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My Chantix-induced depression was not of my usual kind, during which I would usually feel tired, sad, unmotivated, and mopey.  At those times I’d put on Joni Mitchell’s Blue and cry for a spell, which somehow usually made me feel better.

This depression was very different.  This was a furious depression.  

I’ve heard that depression is anger turned inward, but in this case, my rage bounced out of me and back into the world.

Everyone was a victim of my enmity: family, friends, pets, co-workers, service people, and random strangers on the street.

For weeks I was, for lack of a better term, a raging and deeply unhappy bitch.

My family tiptoed around me as I alternated between weeping and suspicious.  I was constantly angry and accusatory and so fucking unhappy that people around me became very concerned.

I took a giant shit all over a great job – one I would never go back to now but which was high-paying and interesting.  

Those people must still think I am a loon.  

I spoke with my doctor and he confirmed this was a possible side effect.  He hadn’t told me that when he prescribed the medication but I guess I should have done some research on my own.

Mr. Patience and Understanding to the Rescue!

Then it was over.  As usual, Mr. Patience and Understanding saved the day and most likely prevented my future incarceration.

He came home one night, tossed a pack of Marlboro Ultra Lights on the kitchen counter, and said,

“Can I please have my wife back?  Throw that shit away and we will look for another solution.”

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We had a long talk during which he recited to me some of the more outrageous things I had said and done since beginning the medication.  He went into great detail with dates and times, referring to several pages of notes that appeared to be scribbled not only in haste, but in fear.

After I beat the shit out of him and kicked our Labradoodle for good measure, I agreed perhaps I wasn’t at my best.  

Mr. P&U felt (and I concurred) it was time I stop taking the drug that had transformed his wife from a loving, affectionate, funny and smart woman into a self-destructive, cold, sad, seething mess.

So many people have had profound negative reactions to Chantix, including suicides and attempted suicides, that here have been several class action lawsuits.  

Can We Get Back to Frank?

One of the things I try to do with this blog is share my own experiences, good and bad, so that readers understand I’m not just shooting from the hip: I have lived through some of these issues.

I think my over-sharing lends me credibility, not to mention an opportunity for others to laugh at my past poor decision-making. 

My tendency towards TMI is not always applicable so I don’t do it all the time.  

Tangent alert!  

For example, I have a letter I’ll respond to next week from a woman who refuses to be photographed with her ex-husband at her daughter’s upcoming wedding. My ex-husband (The Canary in a Coal Mine) and his wife (The Pistol) are very important to me and I love them both.  

In fact, I look forward to being photographed with them at my stepson’s wedding this summer, along with the bride’s dad (Spike) and mom (Ms. Patience and Understanding, so named because she was married to Spike for 13 years and somehow never murdered him) who are also very close friends despite, or more likely because of, their divorce.  

I plan to frame the photo and have the frame engraved:

Divorce: This is how you do it.

Back to Chantix:

While it’s a bit embarrassing to publish this blog with all its gory details about the two-month period I lost my mind, I want you to know before you begin taking it how effectively this drug can mess you up.

There may be a connection between people who have struggled with depression and the severity of the mental health reactions to Chantix, so if you have suffered from the blues you may be more vulnerable.

Speak with your doctor about the medication and troublesome side effects and do some research on your own.  If you choose to take it, ask your wife to be mindful of your moods and to speak with you if you begin acting out of character.

Don’t do what I did, which was continue taking Chantix long after it changed me. If you start suffering from mental health problems, throw it away and talk to your doc about other options.

Best of luck.  As I mentioned, there are many people who quit smoking with Chantix and don’t want to kill themselves and everyone around them.  

I wish to hell I had been one of them, and I hope you are.

Please write back on your progress and your wife’s, too!

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PS: Readers, have you quit smoking?  How did you do it?  Do you have experience with Chantix? Leave a comment and let’s start a conversation!

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Christopher

    Wow. You described exactly what happened to my boyfriend when he tried to quit with Chantix. He was so mean and so depressed and finally had to stop.

    We are looking for a new solution so please post if you hear about something great. I hate that he smokes but somehow I fell in love with him anyway.

  2. Donna Quinn

    I tried Chantix about 8-9 years ago. It had been on the market about 2-3 years, I believe. I wanted to quit, was ready, but needed help. It was terrific, at first. Within about 10 days of taking, lighting a cigarette actually made me nauseous! I felt like I was conquering this terrible habit. About 3 WEEKS into taking the medicine, I was having some mood swings, not severe, that I remember, but my sleeping & dreaming changed, to gruesome. 5-6 nights per weeks, I had very vivid, horrible dreams about actually hurting my family. I woke up crying, that in my dreams, I had no remorse, even “liking” what I was doing! I felt like a monster. I did not have those thoughts during the day. I stopped the medication that day, after looking up side effects. I have cut back, but want to quit. Maybe not strong enough, as the saying goes, “when you’re ready, you’ll do it”!

  3. Joanne

    Chantix helped me quit smoking within one month. Yes, weird dreams. No other side affects. I didn’t even use the whole prescription. Once it curbed the craving, I did the rest on my own. Not sure if my mood swings were caused by the Chantix or simply by no more cigs! No more excuses! No more standing outside in the cold. No more, “just one after dinner.” No more…well, you name it, smokers, I used every trick in the book to “excuse” my smoking. My husband has no complaints.

  4. Me too.

    I’m leaving this comment on a bunch of your posts. As always I love your work, but when can we see the next part of Anatomy of a Disaster? Everyone is waiting!

  5. Pingback: Jury Duty, Part I | RobinDesCamp.com

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