The Centers for Disease Control report that cigarette smoking results in more than 480,000 deaths each year. Smoking also results in various other adverse health consequences like emphysema that can greatly disrupt the quality of a person’s life. Understandably, people pursue many options to combat the urge to smoke including the two FDA approved medications, Zyban (bupropion) and Chantix (varenicline).
Understanding the Chemical Reactions Behind Smoking
Chemical neurotransmitters in a person’s brain are responsible for regulating our moods. Two chemicals that perform this task are dopamine and noradrenaline. Dopamine is closely associated with the brain’s reward award. Some addictive substances cause an increase in dopamine and as a result an increased sensation of pleasure. Noradrenaline creates different experiences. When levels of noradrenaline increase, the chemical acts as a stimulant that helps the brain focus and become more alert. Taking nicotine in a person’s body impacts these neurotransmitters as well as several other chemicals including acetylcholine, beta-endorphin, and serotonin.
Advantages of Quitting Smoking
- Quitting smoking helps to keep a person’s hearing sharp.
- Smoking cessation improves a person’s overall vision.
- Giving up smoking leads to increased mouth health.
- People who discontinue smoking experience improved skin.
- By quitting smoking, a person’s blood becomes thinner and less likely to form deadly clots.
- Abandoning a smoking habit leads to lower cholesterol and fats.
- By giving up smoking early, you can avoid lung scarring and emphysema.
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Bupropion was first developed as an antidepressant in the 1980s, but withdrawn from the market after it was discovered that medication presents a substantial risk of side effects. Years later, in 1997, bupropion was approved for release as a smoking cessation medication and given the name Zyban by manufacturer GSK. Used to combat smoking urges, Zyban does not contain nicotine and is believed to impact chemicals in the brain that are associated with Nicotine craving.
Researchers believe that Zyban is particularly helpful in reducing irritability and concentration problems. The medication can also help with urges that many people have to overeat while trying to quit smoking. Zyban is only recommended for people who smoke 10 or more cigarettes a day. While Zyban can be used alone, it can also be used in combination with nicotine replacement therapy. Some of the reasons why people find Zyban (bupropion) the more advantageous medication include:
- It can help reduce withdrawal symptoms associated with smoking
- Zyban (bupropion) does not contain nicotine, which means that it is not dangerous if a person continues to smoke.
- The medication has some stimulating effects
Chantix was created to help people quit smoking and was approved by the FDA in 2006 to combat smoking urges. By interrupting nicotine receptors in the brain in a similar manner to Zyban, Chantix diminished a person’s urge to smoke by both reducing the pleasurable effects of nicotine as well as the undesirable symptoms associated with nicotine withdrawal. Some of the advantages provided by Chantix include:
- The medication improves a person’s long term chances of smoking cessation
- Chantix is safe to use if a person has liver or kidney problems
Side Effects of Zyban and Chantix
Zyban and Chantix share some common side effects including constipation, dry mouth, headaches, nausea, and sleep problems. Some of the unique side effects associated with Zyban include agitation, appetite changes, dizziness, increased sweating, itching, muscle pain, ringing in the ears, loss of sexual interest, sore throat, tremors, and weight changes. Side effects that are unique to Chantix include gas, indigestion, tiredness, unpleasant taste in the mouth, unusual dreams, vomiting, and weakness.
Drug Interactions with the Medications
Zyban has many more drug interactions than Chantix. Many of the interactions caused by Zyban are the result of the CYP2B6 and CYP2D6 enzymes. People taking Zyban should also avoid alcohol. Chantix, however, has no significant drug interactions. Chantix also not be used in combination with alcohol.
How the Medications Should Be Taken
Both Zyban and Chantix are taken over 12 weeks and can be taken with or without food. A person should begin taking Zyban one week before quitting smoking to build up an adequate amount of the medication in their bloodstream. Taken once a day for the first three days, Zyban is then taken twice a day for a period of 7 to 12 weeks. Similarly, a person should begin taking Chantix a week before quitting smoking. The medication is taken once a day for the first three days, Chantix is then taken twice daily.
Downsides To Both Medications
Unfortunately, Zyban and Chantix also come with some unique disadvantages. Considering the following:
- Disadvantages of Chantix. Data shows that Chantix causes nausea as well as more side effects than other medications. While Chantix is prescription only, a person need not obtain a prescription to use many other smoking cessation aids. Additionally, the combination of alcohol and Chantix can cause a person to end up feeling more intoxicated than usual.
- Disadvantages of Zyban. While Zyban has a stimulating effect, it can also cause anxiety or insomnia during the early days of taking the medication. Zyban also presents a higher risk of seizures than other smoking cessation medications, particularly if a person drinks alcohol. While Chantix might cause a person who consumes alcohol to feel more intoxicated, Zyban is not a good medication if a person consumes a lot of alcohol. Like many antidepressants, Zyban can cause an increased risk of suicidal thoughts and behavior in younger individuals.
Speak with a Knowledgeable Medical Professional
Picking the medication for smoking cessation is not easy. One proven strategy to pick the possible medication is to have an open and honest discussion about your situation with your medical provider. By exchanging details about how certain issues impact you, you can make the most informed decision possible about which medication is right for you.