My Chantix Experience: Day 31

Today is either the last day of the first month or the first (or third) day of the second month of the rest of my life. Today marks 31 days I’ve been on Chantix. Here’s the rub, I honestly couldn’t tell you the last time I actually took my Chantix.

It’s been a full month. What have we learned?
For me, it turns out smoking is a 2-part deal – one part chemical addiction, the other psychosomatic. The brain becomes addicted to nicotine, conveniently associating the nicotine fix with various physical and social triggers. Interesting is hindsight, where I look back at how I felt that having smokes meant reassurance, but did it reassure me that some aspect of my life was under control, or merely reassure my brain that there was nicotine on hand?


How does Chantix work, again?
Chantix breaks the nicotine fix. Says so right up there. Your brain craves nicotine, but when you take Chantix, you can smoke ’til you turn green – you’re not going to get the fix. I think this is why it’s so successful, really. They say the typical urge to smoke lasts about 30 seconds to a minute, but you could have 20 or more cravings in a day! Taking Chantix requires a grand total of maybe 10 seconds of willpower twice a day. Pill in hand, down the hatch, done.

Chantix is a nicotine blocker.
My own casual research shows that something like 90% of all nicotine is metabolized within a day. The balance might remain, depending on how much you smoke, up to a month. Well, as someone who smoked a pack or so a day, the 10% that remained in my system obviously wasn’t enough to sate the old grey matter’s jones so I doubt it’s playing a role today. I am 7 days from being 100% smoke free for a full 30 days.

What nicotine is Chantix blocking at this point?
My guess is none. If that’s the case, why should I stay on Chantix? I didn’t make a conscious decision to stop taking Chantix a week ago, and I don’t know that I’m making one now, but I spent last night drinking in the presence of no fewer that 4 smokers, all of whom are long time, close friends. As I watched them light smoke after smoke out there on the patio, did I want to smoke with them? You bet your ass I did.

Did I fall off the wagon?
Nope. In fact, whereas I’ve found myself inhaling deeply to get a good whiff of second hand smoke when I’m out and about (mostly to remind myself what it smelled like), last night I actually noticed my throat was getting dry and irritated. Pretty wild. Next thing you know, I’ll be bitching about the smoke bothering me or something.

The hard part that remains.
I haven’t had nicotine for pretty much a month. I don’t know if studies show that the brain continues to crave nicotine even when it hasn’t had any in a month, but even if it does, Chantix doesn’t curb the craving, just prevents you from satisfying it. The tricky part is breaking those psychosomatic connections – The smoke at 10 o’clock break, after lunch, afternoon break, the half a pack during the drive to and from work, the chain smoking done while shooting the shit over beers on the patio.

Of course, these are behavioral triggers. The brain associates these triggers with getting nicotine and therefore expects some kind of nicotine rush when they occur. How long before my brain gets used to there not being a nic fix with these situations and stops craving it?  Time will tell.

Closing thought of optimism.
I’ve gone so long without smoking now that I can clearly see – and more importantly feel – the health benefits to quitting. As much as I might want a smoke, my desire to maintain my success is stronger. That’s a pretty cool feeling.

Closing thought on Chantix.
Your insurance probably doesn’t cover it, but it’s $133 at the Wal-Mart pharmacy. Your doctor should have no trouble prescribing it for you if you’re a smoker. If you’ve thought about quitting, just try this. It’s like you just lose interest in smoking and once you start breathing easier and feeling healthier, you might find you don’t really want to smoke after all. And who ever has trouble NOT doing something they DON’T want to do in the first place?

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  • http://www.endlessmonkeys.info Endless Monkeys

    “Of course, these are behavioral triggers. The brain associates these triggers with getting nicotine and therefore expects some kind of nicotine rush when they occur. How long before my brain gets used to there not being a nic fix with these situations and stops craving it? Time will tell.”

    From a psych perspective, habits are formed in 21 days and I think I read somewhere that it's twice that to break a habit. So, roughly, 2 monthsish. But that's baseline and, depending on addictive personality aspects, can be higher or lower and it sounds like you're lower.

    “why should I stay on Chantix?”

    Because most meds require you to complete a full course because it's weaning something out of your system. The pill strength isn't the same. It's akin to being issued a script for antibiotics and them dumping them after 10 days because you feel better. While your symptoms have backed off, your immune system still needs some boosting. The same goes with Chantix…. or any other med really. Now it doesn't mean that, ZOMG, you're going to lose your mind and smoke an entire pack at once, it just means that you stand a proportionally larger change of actually smoking again because the Chantix isn't shutting off the receptors in your brain anymore.

    Interestingly enough, I'd be curious to see what other addictive behaviors/cravings that Chantix could cure based on how it's formulated. Granted, I think it's meant to bind explicity to existing nicotine in the blood stream and then target those receptors and do its magic, but I know that there's not a specific nicotine receptor in the brain, so it makes me wonder what else happens to be tied to it. Specifically, caffeine.

  • http://dr1665.com Brian Driggs

    Interesting thoughts, Greg. Particularly regarding caffeine. I'm back on the Chantix as of 5 minutes ago. Ended up having 3 smokes this weekend. :/
    Sent via Tmo BlackBerry. Please excuse typos, brevity, content. Thanks.

  • http://www.endlessmonkeys.info Endless Monkeys

    “Of course, these are behavioral triggers. The brain associates these triggers with getting nicotine and therefore expects some kind of nicotine rush when they occur. How long before my brain gets used to there not being a nic fix with these situations and stops craving it? Time will tell.”

    From a psych perspective, habits are formed in 21 days and I think I read somewhere that it's twice that to break a habit. So, roughly, 2 monthsish. But that's baseline and, depending on addictive personality aspects, can be higher or lower and it sounds like you're lower.

    “why should I stay on Chantix?”

    Because most meds require you to complete a full course because it's weaning something out of your system. The pill strength isn't the same. It's akin to being issued a script for antibiotics and them dumping them after 10 days because you feel better. While your symptoms have backed off, your immune system still needs some boosting. The same goes with Chantix…. or any other med really. Now it doesn't mean that, ZOMG, you're going to lose your mind and smoke an entire pack at once, it just means that you stand a proportionally larger change of actually smoking again because the Chantix isn't shutting off the receptors in your brain anymore.

    Interestingly enough, I'd be curious to see what other addictive behaviors/cravings that Chantix could cure based on how it's formulated. Granted, I think it's meant to bind explicity to existing nicotine in the blood stream and then target those receptors and do its magic, but I know that there's not a specific nicotine receptor in the brain, so it makes me wonder what else happens to be tied to it. Specifically, caffeine.

  • http://dr1665.com Brian Driggs

    Interesting thoughts, Greg. Particularly regarding caffeine. I'm back on the Chantix as of 5 minutes ago. Ended up having 3 smokes this weekend. :/
    Sent via Tmo BlackBerry. Please excuse typos, brevity, content. Thanks.

  • MSW

    After reading your post it is obvious you underestimated the nicotine demon. You spoke as if 30 days smoke free had made you some kind of authority on quitting. You were already jacking with your dosage before it even had a chance to build up in your system. Your post could discourage others from successfully quitting. To all reading this article: Follow the directions on the meds, not failure stories such as this.

  • http://dr1665.com Brian Driggs

    I’m gonna go out on a limb and say any story about quitting smoking which ends with someone quitting smoking is hardly a failure.

    For some, the nicotine might be the anchor to smoking. For me, it was the habit. (Notice the manufacturer advises a personal support structure.)

    The simple truth is – it’s not so much about wanting to quit as it is NOT wanting to smoke.

    I have quit smoking and do NOT want to smoke anymore. Say what you will…

  • Stef

    So you wrote this almost a year ago. How long have you been smoke free? I quit for 2 1/2 years then started again for a little over a year. I’m trying Chantix now and am hoping for the best. I’m afraid of the possible crazy moods it talks about. Did you have any side effects?

  • http://dr1665.com Brian Driggs

    As I type this out, I’ve been smoke free for three weeks. :P

    I fell off the wagon and gave up quitting for the better part of a year. Got back on the Chantix last month with some seriousness, and lost interest in smoking. I don’t think the nicotine addiction is anywhere near as strong as the actual habit.

    Never really had any side effects, though. A couple dreams seemed more vivid, as if in HD, but that’s about it. My wife, on the other hand, had to stop taking Chantix after a week, due to the commonly mentioned side effects.

    Hope it works out for you. You can do it. :)

  • Jason

    I’m on my eighth day of chantix… first day without smoking at all…While at work, I did some google searches and found this blog… (i think by searching ‘chantix day 8′… and this has, by far, been the most interesting, informative, and humorous blog i have ever encountered about ANYTHING. I’ve read every post from the beginning of the chantix talk…even sent the link home (where I am now to keep reading)… I know this stuff was written over a year ago, but when I saw MSW’s asinine comment, and that the author (Brian, right?) is still alive and kicking, and still responding, I thought i’d give props where props are due. Thanks Brian… You’re an excellent blogger! You Chantix ‘commentary’ has been great. Also, I was happy that you respectfully replied to the idiot… when degrading him as he did your blog would have been warranted… (and probably funny, coming from you)
    -Jason

  • http://dr1665.com Brian Driggs

    Dude! You made my day! Thanks!

    Keep on it! You can do it. Once you get away from those habits (in the car, after eating, smoke breaks at work, etc.), you are home free.

    Really appreciate the kind words.

    Cheers!

    Sent from my hipster-repellant Blackberry.

  • Jaesen

    I used Chantix a little over a year ago. I smoked a little more than a pack a day for roughly 25 years. They say to stop smoking completely after the first week, but I couldn’t. To my amazement, somewhere in the seventh week I woke up and had zero interest in smoking. It worked. I experienced the typical side effects (which I found miserable but a lot less miserable than I imagine COPD or cancer to be) but continued to take the pills until I was in the tenth week or so. I then stopped taking them and had made it somehow to being a non smoker. A few months ago, I went out with some friends and had a few drinks. BAD NEWS. Against my better judgment I bummed a cigarette from someone and smoked it. I picked right up where I left off. Intense cravings every half hour, planning for the next smoke…. the whole bit. It took me three days to become a pack and a half a day smoker again. It’s no joke when they say a smoker who has quit is “a puff away from a pack a day”. I have now been taking Chantix AGAIN to quit for good this time and have found it to not be as effective this time around. I don’t know why. I have taken the pill religiously and though I’ve cut my smoking back a little, I still have intense cravings for cigarettes unlike the previous time using this drug. I feel the horrible side effects again like the last time but the perks aren’t there. Funny thing is, the last time I did this, I still had many friends who smoked and now I’m the only one smoking and everyone is irritated that they have to wait for me to finish my cigarette all the damn time. I’m in week 10 and feeling doubtful that I can do it this time around. UUUUUUGH!!! What have I done??? :(