There are many different smoking cessation aids that are available and widely used all over the world – from electronic cigarettes, various nicotine replacement therapies to stop smoking tablets and pills. All of those are often combined with different non-chemical means of support for quitting smoking, from traditional support groups and networks to behavioural and cognitive therapies to some borderline fringe methods such as hypnosis. With this wide offer, it’s often hard to choose which method might be the best for you, and even to discern real and effective smoking cessation aids from offers that are more focused on your wallet than on the success of your stop smoking efforts. Nicotine replacement therapy is a pretty obvious choice since it provides you with enough nicotine to diminish cravings while breaking the usual smoking pattern and helping you lose the habit of smoking and holding a cigarette. But, this method comes with a downside – not only are you still supplying your body with the addictive substance you are trying to eliminate from your system, but you also have to deal with same cravings and withdrawal symptoms as if you quit “cold turkey”. This is why an ever-increasing number of people opt to get stop smoking tablets which are nicotine free and are based on active ingredients that also diminish withdrawals and cravings which accompany the process of giving up this highly addictive substance.
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What are stop smoking tablets
It is important to first make a distinction between stop smoking tablets and nicotine replacement therapies which include nicotine gums and lozenges. What is referred to as stop smoking tablets are prescription drugs which do not contain nicotine, as opposed to traditional nicotine replacement therapies. Currently, there are two which are available on the market – Champix with varenicline as an active ingredient and Zyban which is based on bupropion. These two have different mechanisms of action and therefore come with their own pros and cons which is why it is highly recommended that you consult with your doctor regarding the optimal choice.
It is important to note that while these two medicaments are different, they are also quite similar in some ways. Their mechanism of action is different and, in a way, opposed to the way nicotine replacement therapies work. While NRTs still provide you with your nicotine fix, stop smoking pills do not, but instead affect the neurochemical basis of your addiction, cravings and withdrawal symptoms by interfering with various neural receptors or transmitters. Due to this, stop smoking tablets are noticeably more effective than NRTs, but also come with some possible side effects and risks which aren’t shared with NRTs. However, with proper information and consultations with your doctor, most of the patients can easily avoid most of side effects and use these medicaments to quit their bad habit for good. Still, it is important to be aware of the fact that stop smoking pills directly act on the central nervous system, so some side effects, especially the more common ones (manifested in up to 30% of patients in clinical test studies) can be expected. This is why it is important to learn about your recommended medication as much as possible before starting the therapy, so you can prepare for some unpleasant symptoms and discern between the common ones which usually diminish and disappear after the drug has reached an appropriate concentration in your system and the ones that will require you to quit your therapy and look for another method.
Varenicline, the active ingredient of Champix is as a high-affinity nicotinic receptor partial agonist, meaning it binds to the α4β2 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor subtype (nACH) that leads to the release of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens when activated. By doing this, varenicline competes with nicotine for receptor occupancy while simultaneously stimulating the same neural pathways as nicotine does. With this unique mechanism of action, Champix both diminishes withdrawal symptoms and prevents nicotine molecules from binding to those receptors, resulting in decreased pleasurable effects from consumption of tobacco products. For a more detailed overview of this medicine, you can visit our Champix page.
Champix stop smoking tablets are available in two dosages – 0.5mg and 1mg. They are consumed with a full glass of water after eating and in line with the specified pattern and schedule. If this is your first time using Champix, it’s recommended that you start with a “starter pack” before using “refill packs” if necessary. It is highly recommended that you first set a date when you plan to stop smoking and start using stop smoking pills one week before. In this way, the concentration of the varenicline in your system will be adequate to prevent initial cravings and nicotine crisis.
However, despite being highly successful in clinical trials, Champix stop smoking tablets also come with certain risks and side effects. The most common of them certainly is nausea which can be accompanied by other symptoms such as headache, upset stomach, constipation or pain in joints and muscles. However, most of these side effects are usually mild and slowly diminish and completely disappear over the course of the treatment. It is also important to be aware of the fact that severe allergic reaction to varenicline is possible, albeit rather rare. It manifests through rash, swollen or red skin or swelling of face, throat, tongue or lips. Another documented side effect of these stop smoking pills is their possible impact on mood and behaviour, so it is important to pay attention to these aspects as these symptoms can lead to the termination of the treatment. For a detailed overview of Champix side effects, drug interactions and unwanted symptoms, you can visit our Champix side effects page.
Zyban stop smoking pills are based on bupropion as an active ingredient. As such, this medicament is classified as an extended-release antidepressant, or more specifically, by its mechanism of action as weak norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitor (or NDRI for short) which also functions as a nicotinic antagonist. What this means is that bupropion is effective both as a mild to moderate antidepressant and a smoking cessation aid which diminishes the severity of withdrawal symptoms and cravings. It is worth noting that the effectiveness of Zyban isn’t due to its antidepressant properties, but due to its interaction with dopamine in the brain. However, this also means that if you are already taking antidepressants or have a history of mental illnesses, Zyban is not recommended. In the worst case scenario, your antidepressant might have the same active ingredient (like Wellbutrin) which might lead to erratic changes in dosage and concentration of bupropion in the organism. This can cause reduced effectiveness of both treatments as well as some rather severe side effects.
Similarly to Champix, treatment with Zyban stop smoking pills lasts around 12 weeks, but the patient usually stops smoking somewhere around 10th day into the treatment. In clinical trials, it has proven to be as effective as nicotine replacement therapies, but less so than Champix.1 However, due to their chemical structure, Zyban stop smoking tablets can cause some rather serious side effects, the most common of which is seizures due to which drug was withdrawn from the market between 1986 and 1989. However, it was later proved that the risk of seizures is diminished when the drug is produced in a way that ensures sustained release. With this change, seizures manifested in just 0.1% of the patients on dosages less than 300mg and 0.4% on higher dosages. Also, these stop smoking pills can cause hypertension and, especially important, worsening of the existing mental illnesses. This is why patients with a history of mental illnesses shouldn’t opt for this smoking cessation method but should consult with their doctor about a safer alternative.