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Prescription Drugs

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Prescription drugs are another tool available to help smokers quit and stay quit. Some can be used along with NRT, and some are started before your planned Quit Day. These are only available with a prescription.

Type of prescription drug

  • Bupropion (Zybanⓡ)
    Bupropion (Zybanⓡ) is a prescription anti-depressant in an extended-release form that reduces symptoms of nicotine withdrawal. It does not contain nicotine. This drug acts on chemicals in the brain that are related to nicotine craving. It can be used alone or together with NRT. Bupropion works best if it is started 1 or 2 weeks before you quit smoking. The usual dosage is one or two 150 mg tablets per day.
    This drug should not be taken if you have ever had seizures, heavy alcohol use, serious head injury, bipolar (manic-depressive) illness, or anorexia or bulimia (eating disorders).
  • Varenicline (Chantix™)
    Varenicline (Chantix™) is a newer prescription medicine developed to help people stop smoking. It works by interfering with nicotine receptors in the brain. This means it has 2 effects: it lessens the pleasurable physical effects a person gets from smoking, and it reduces the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal.
    Several studies have shown varenicline can more than double the chances of quitting smoking. Some studies have also found it may work better than bupropion, at least in the short term.
    Reported side effects of varenicline have included headaches, nausea, vomiting, trouble sleeping, unusual dreams, flatulence (gas), and changes in taste. There have also been more recent reports of depressed mood, thoughts of suicide, attempted suicide, and changes in behavior in people taking varenicline. People who have these problems should contact their doctors right away. These side effects may happen, but varenicline is usually well-tolerated.
    A recent study has suggested that using varenicline along with NRT is well-tolerated and safe. But the company that makes varenicline noted that people who used the drug along with NRT had more side effects such as nausea and headaches. More research is needed.