Quit smoking with oral medications


Nicotine patches are one of the best-known options to quit smoking. But did you know that there are also drugs that can be taken orally to help quit smoking? These could prove very useful to you if you want to say goodbye to cigarettes!

Cesser de fumer grâce aux médicaments oraux

Smoking cessation

When people stop smoking, they may experience a host of unpleasant withdrawal symptoms related to nicotine, a highly addictive substance found in cigarettes. Symptoms such as insomnia, irritability, or cravings can lead to the failure of attempts to kick the habit.

Fortunately, several options are available to help people who want to give up cigarettes once and for all. Among them are oral medications (to be taken by mouth) such as Bupropion (ZybanMD) and Varenicline (ChampixMD), which can help quit smoking. They act on a specific area of the brain through different mechanisms to ease withdrawal symptoms and cravings and do not contain nicotine. As it takes a certain amount of time for them to produce their full effect, treatment must be started a few days prior to quitting smoking to avoid experiencing nicotine withdrawal symptoms.

Bupropion (ZybanMD)

Bupropion is a drug that can also be used as an anti-depressant. When it is used for smoking cessation, it is initially taken once a day for three days. Then the dosage is increased to twice a day for a period of about 12 weeks.

Once the treatment has started, smoking must be stopped in the 7 to 14 days that follow. In some cases, Bupropion can be used at the same time as a nicotine replacement therapy like patches. Your pharmacist will be able to tell you more about this.

The main side-effects from the use of Bupropion are insomnia and dryness of the mouth. In addition, this prescription drug can increase the risk of convulsions and is therefore contraindicated for people who are predisposed to this condition. A doctor can verify whether this drug is suitable for you before prescribing it. Do not forget to tell your doctor if you have any health problems, are taking medications, or are pregnant or breast-feeding.

Varenicline (ChampixMD)

Varenicline is a drug that was specially developed for smoking cessation and it acts on “nicotine receptors” in a specific area of the brain. During treatment with Varenicline, the dosage is gradually increased over 7 days to eventually be taken twice daily. The treatment usually lasts 12 weeks, although it can be extended to 12 additional weeks in some cases.

Starting treatment before quitting is recommended. You must stop smoking 7 to 14 days following the start of treatment. Unlike Bupropion, combining Varenicline with a nicotine replacement therapy (e.g., patches) is not recommended.

This drug can cause nausea, insomnia, headache, or constipation. It must also be used cautiously by people who have or have had psychiatric problems. The doctor who prescribes Varenicline for you will be able to determine if this product is suitable for your state of health.

It must be explained that before using any oral medication for smoking cessation, you must first consciously think about trying a nicotine replacement therapy, such as nicotine patches, gum, lozenges, inhaler, or spray.

Please note that product monographs state clearly that these drugs must always be used together with a quit smoking counselling program. In other words, you must be seen by a health professional who knows about smoking cessation, can advise you judiciously, and monitor your progress closely!

Other options

Although not officially indicated for smoking cessation, other oral medications can also prove useful to quit smoking in some situations. This is the case, for instance, with Clonidine and Nortriptyline.  

Such a wide range of options enhances your capacity to stop smoking. In fact, it has been shown that the use of a quit smoking aid increases the chances of success. Your pharmacist is knowledgeable about all the smoking cessation treatment methods available and can give you a great deal of information to help you in your attempt to quit. Consider your pharmacist a precious ally in your path to a freer and healthier life!

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