If you're one of those smokers who is actually looking to like, quit or whatever, you have probably heard of Chantix, or seen evidence of Pfizer's gazillion dollar marketing campaign for its new smoking cessation drug that according to a story in this week's New York also has the fun side effect of making you into a rude hallucinating psychopath. Now, personally, I have never really cared to quit smoking, because I only really smoke when I am trying to take a little break from drinking, but I was skeptical of the drug anyway, on the basis of my experience with Campral, which is supposed to make you want to quit drinking, but actually works maybe less effectively than a placebo (and costs approximately $100 a week to take.) But Chantix turned out to be different! It actually helped my very own sister quit smoking, and my sister smoked like three packs a day (you can smoke in bars where she lives!). So I had Christina write up a review of New York's review of Chantix's side effects — and the bliss of finally quitting the fags. After the jump.
Like me, Derek De Koff took Chantix because he was disgusted that he'd allowed himself to be enslaved to such a filthy, gross-smelling and skin-yuckening addiction for so many years. Unlike me, he had some awesome side effects:
One evening, I steeled myself to go on a date, but after a few drinks with the guy, I abruptly burst into tears mid-sentence. The crying jag lasted about 30 minutes, with the thought I can't do this anymore looping through my head. This was happening a lot lately, as though someone had spliced other people's thoughts into the tape whirl of my brain.
Another night, at an East Village bar, an older man in a trench coat caught my attention. I chatted him up for a while, until I realized I was actually trying to go home with the shadow cast by a potted plant. With alcohol in my system, I was somehow able to take this hallucination in stride: "The man who got away ... " But that same evening ended with my taunting a skinhead who was improbably on the corner of Avenue A and 14th Street. "You must be lost," I snapped. "Are you looking for 1993?" He ended up chasing me into a deli and saying he was going to murder me. (The guy at the register called the cops and the skinhead fled, so I'm fairly confident that he, at least, was real.)
Anyway, I took Chantix to quit smoking last summer, and that shit never happened to me. In fact, I quit smoking!
I'd smoked my first pack of Marlboro Lights at age 16, by the time I could get my friends to drive me from suburban gas station to gas station in search of a vendor who didn't ID. (Never took long.) By the time I was a junior in college, I was smoking a pack of Camels a day. And then, finally, I came home to live one summer. It was Father's Day. I didn't have a present. I was completely fucking broke. Suddenly, a revelation hit me. "Dad, for your birthday, I'm going to quit smoking," I promised. It was, of course, a selfish gift. Who really wants to be a smoker? It makes you smell like filth, fucks up your skin, eats all your money, and...oh yeah lung cancer. Things were better back in the sixties when you could smoke in hospitals and airplanes and, like, everyone's probably skin sucked. But they're different now.
I'd heard about Chantix from a friend's doctor-parents (who, incidentally, will prescribe you 4 different drugs for a common cold). It sounded promising, despite the warnings of gas, vomiting, and weird dreams — woot, quitting in a pill! I'd never successfully quit for more than a few days before — I can't tell you how many times I'd been at a party and drunkenly ripped off my nicotine patch to join the smokers outside. No matter how nasty and gross it is, when you're a smoker and you want a cigarette, you really friggin wannnnt one. So I knew I needed drugs. So I called my friendly neighborhood gyno (Did I mention how much I loooove whoever lets gynos prescribe mind altering substances?) She sent me two scrips in the mail.
Like De Koff says, you're allowed to continue smoking for the first week you're on the drugs, and for me it was a nice farewell period. I slowly came to enjoy each cigarette less and less, and by day seven I knew I no longer needed that filthy little fucker between my fingers. He just didn't do it for me anymore. The magic was gone. It was exactly like realizing that dude you've been obsessed with for the past two years is actually the Comic Store guy from The Simpsons — he smells bad, steals bills from your wallet, and if you keep doing him forever you'll definitely fuck up your life somehow. Girlfriend, you don't need him! You were always better than that. Now you finally see it. (If only there were such a thing as Romantix, I pined.)
So what about the side effects? Oh, I had dreams of talking dogs and my mom getting brutally murdered, but nothing like De Koff's adventures in mania land, although one time I had a panic attack while I was driving home from work. At least I think it was a panic attack; I just suddenly had this strange fear that I wouldn't be able to drive home.
But the panic attacks were nothing like what I experienced when I started taking Wellbutrin, a few months later. (I was depressed — who isn't? And was half-hoping the Wellbutrin would help me lose the weight I'd gained over the summer from not smoking.) But those Wellbutrin days — now those were some panic attacks. It's hard to describe that unsettled feeling, but usually in the afternoons I would get agitated and antsy, and then I'd start drinking, hoping that would calm me down. It only made matters worse. It was the same sort of paranoia I've felt after smoking too much pot, the feeling that you are actually losing your mind. It's horrible. Anyway, I'd never heard anyone complaining about Wellbutrin making them nuts 4 nuts until I did some googling and discovered that, no, actually many, many people have panic attacks on Wellbutrin, and some people even end up killing themselves.
So yeah, about then I started smoking again. I'd do a lot of things to lose weight, but I couldn't very well stay on the Wellbutrin. Anyway, the moral of the story: all drugs are different for different people. But Chantix wins over Wellbutrin because while both of them may cause panic attacks or suicidal thoughts, Chantix actually sort of works for quitting smoking some of the time. Hey, it worked for my great uncle Bob, and he'd even tried hypnosis! [Um, I saw Uncle Bob last year, and I'm not so sure about this... -Moe]