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Saturday, February 16th, 2008

Our experience with Chantix to reduce alcohol cravings

Posted by Roberta Jewell
Categories: Medications and research

We’re following research on the prescription drug Chantix (varenicline) with great interest because it seems to be effective in curbing cravings for alcohol. Chantix was approved by the FDA for smoking cessation in May 2006 and is sold under the name Champix in Europe.

Chantix works by blocking specific activity in the brain associated with nicotine acetylcholine receptors, or nAChrs, which play an important role in both nicotine and alcohol dependence.

I’ve been getting a lot of information in about this medication over the past year or so. Doctors with whom I work have reported that their patients, when prescribed the medication for smoking, consistently lose their appetite for alcohol. And, as expected, we’ve had a bit of discussion about this drug on the My Way Out forum, where members post questions and feedback about all facets of our program, including ant-craving meds.

To see those post, visit the links below. Keep in mind, messages are unmoderated and represent the opinion the members who write them. However, anecdotal information is often a good starting point for gathering information.

Chantix messages at My Way Out forum:
Has anyone tried Chantix for alcohol?
Chantix may cause psychiatric risks
Chantix, not just for smoking cessation
Anyone on Chantix, anti smoking pill?

Anti-craving meds can be extremely beneficial in interrupting reward circuitry in the brain that drives people to drink excessively. Used in conjunction with a multi-faceted therapy to include counseling, support, nutritional improvements and other lifestyle changes, these drugs can provide a powerful jump-start to a successful recovery program. Chantix is not approved for alcohol dependence, but many people urge their physicians to prescribe medications off-label when compelling evidence is presented about their efficacy. However, it’s critical that anyone considering Chantix for a drinking problem tell their health care provider about past psychiatric issues if they exist and be monitored carefully for changes in behavior once they start taking it.

Exciting developments are underway in the field of addiction medicine, but many of the drugs now prescribed are new to the market As with any medication, you’ll want to evaluate potential side effects and keep a careful eye on how you’re feeling once you begin taking them.

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Addendum: This recent article by New York Magazine writer Derek deKoff serves as an important lesson in how Chantix affects some individuals.

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