Monday, June 20, 2011

I Took Chantix and Didn't Die

On Halloween, October 31st of 2007, I quit smoking after 20 years.  I had tried to quit many, many times prior to this, using a variety of approaches: cold turkey, patches, nicotine gum... and I had always started smoking again after a few days, a week or two at most.  This time, I quit smoking and have not had or wanted a cigarette since.  I credit my success this time not to some miracle wellspring of willpower, but to the drug Chantix, and my decision to join a smoking-cessation program.

 I took Chantix for some six months, and was a little worried that when I stopped, the nicotine cravings would come back, but they didn't.  I experienced no side-effects that I can attribute to Chantix.  This drug may have saved my life.  So when I see, often, on forums, people claiming that Chantix made them psychotic or depressed, I feel obliged to point something out: quitting smoking makes you psychotic and depressed, whether you take Chantix or not.

Quitting smoking means denying your body a substance to which it is physically addicted.  Nicotine withdrawal gives you crazy, vivid dreams.  You have wild mood swings.  You snap at your loved ones.  You feel terrible.  You get depressed.  Life loses its luster.  Nicotine is a wonder drug that gives you a lift when you need a lift, and calms you down when you need calming down.  And now you're flying without crutches, so to speak.  You feel as bad as you've ever felt in your life.  Are you really in a position to evaluate whether the way you feel is based on a drug you're taking, as opposed to the effects of detoxing from a chemical dependency which you volunteered for, which is entirely your responsibility?

When you're nic-ing, you lash out at people around you, you curse at stop lights that catch you, and you're probably really likely to blame it all on that damned drug, Chantix, if you're taking it.  In fact, this is one of the tricks your mind will use so it can satisfy its addiction: you have to stop the Chantix and have a cigarette; Chantix is the enemy, Cigarette is your friend.  All these bad feelings will pass after a couple of weeks, if you fight through them.

a cigarette slowly smokes and burns as it dangles off of stone

I'm not saying Chantix has never caused a negative psychological reaction in someone.  I'm just saying it doesn't happen nearly as often as people believe it does, and that administering Chantix to all smokers would save many, many lives, and probably endanger very, very few.  But try telling that to someone who "totally freaked out" on Chantix and quit taking it.  Then ask them if they're still smoking.   

A quick note on patches: I don't believe in them.  In fact, when I took the smoking-cessation program and did the numbers, I realized that when I had used the patch that I had actually been putting more nicotine in my body than I was used to in the first place.  I used to smoke Lights or Ultra Lights, and the patch would give me twice or three times as much nicotine in a day as I was getting from a pack of my normal brand.  Then if I cheated and smoked anyway, which I did, I was getting even more.  At the end of the day, it makes no sense to me to keep putting into your body the substance you're trying to break an addiction to.  Stop putting nicotine in your body and deal with the consequences.  You had the party, you earned the hangover.  It -- and all the depressed, angry, savage feelings that will come no matter how you choose to break your chemical dependency -- will pass.

A fine mantra I picked up somewhere: "Your craving will pass, whether you smoke or not."  It's true, you know.  My personal mantra was "Not even one".  When I'd have a craving, I'd say that and it'd go away.  Normally, when I quit smoking, I'd have to wrestle the craving, talk myself down, go back and forth for a few minutes.  With Chantix, it was immediate.  "Not even one".  And it would go away.  It worked so well for  me.

I would urge anyone who's had trouble quitting to join a smoking cessation program.  Your local hospital will have one, and they're cheap or free.  They'll help you get vouchers for quit-smoking supplements if you can't afford them.  Doctors WANT you to quit.  If you don't think anyone cares, talk to someone who's job it is to suck black goo out of your lungs, or counsel you through the awful last months of COPD.  The group format is nice, too, whether you're the social type ("We can do this -- together!") or the competitive type ("That dude isn't going to make it -- but I AM").  If you think you can do it alone, well, maybe you can -- but you haven't.  And you don't have to. 

Not everything will work for every person.  But what worked for me after 20 years was Chantix, combined with the support of my local hospital's anti-smoking program.  That's my testimonial.  Please remember it the next time someone says they tried to quit smoking and felt terrible, and told all their friends it was Chantix.

***Mister Mirror*** Please link to us on your blog or website.

No comments:

Post a Comment