BERLIN – During a recent Worcester County Smoking Cessation Support Group meeting, Jack Galbraith, another participant and I were speaking about our experiences quitting with Chantix. Both Jack and the other person had already tried quitting once on Chantix and were commiserating about the difficulties trying the drug a second time.
Chantix turns off the part of your brain that gets anything from smoking. It doesn’t relieve the cravings so much as making the act of smoking pointless. Or, I guess, more pointless. The drug boasts a better-than 40 percent success rate for people who use the drug for three months. The percentage goes up significantly with longer use.
Galbraith was talking about how the pill felt as if it was less effective than it was the last time, so we decided to check into it. The drug can have side effects and we considered the possibility that some minor change had been made that would have reduced its efficacy.
Our group leader Linda E. Green, R.N., M. Ed., C.D.E. was skeptical about changes in the drug make-up. She said she was pretty sure something like that would have come to her attention. As it turned out she was right.
“We have not changed the formulation of Chantix,” said Pfizer spokesperson Victoria Davis without thinking about it. Then, because she’s an official spokesperson, she said she’d better double check. Within the hour she confirmed the drug was the same as it had ever been.
I can’t imagine what heroin addiction and withdrawal must be like, but the problem Galbraith, some others and I are facing are just the facts of addiction. There are two “yous” who have to quit and they don’t cooperate easily.
Getting off of nicotine is a battle between your conscious and unconscious mind and your conscious mind isn’t only smarter than you, it’s more vicious. Or at least mine is. When I first started taking the pills I was in a blind panic. Though I’d like to quit smoking, the prospect of actually stopping was a little frightening. I realized that I was trying to frighten myself into bailing on the quitting plan. I took this a little personally.
Once I started taking the pills and the cigarettes stopped working for me – you continue to smoke the first week you take Chantix, then you stop smoking – I started smoking more often as much out of curiosity as out of drive.
I’d quit for a little more than a day before I found a few cigarettes tucked away in my car. I didn’t think about whether or if I should smoke one, I just grabbed it and started, the cravings were pretty severe at the time.
The best analogy I can concoct is this: It was like stepping off a building and not falling. After not smoking for a day or so, cigarettes get you high. There’s a rush that lasts for several minutes once you resume smoking. When I lit the cigarette and that rush didn’t come it only served to disorient me. This disorientation was the only thing that prevented me from buying another pack of cigarettes, but I still have the drugs on my side.
For people like Galbraith, who’ve already quit using Chantix but occupy the 60 percent of those who fall back into it, the struggle must be all the harder. If the real battle is between the smoking you and the non-smoking you and the non-smoking you is the cagier, less honorable of the two, it’s not hard to imagine the second attempt being more difficult.