If you’ve been a regular smoker for more than three months and you’ve taken the decision to quit, Champix can help to make cravings and withdrawal symptoms more manageable.
We usually prescribe Champix as a 12-week course of tablets. The tablets come in different strengths and pack sizes, so we can tailor a treatment plan to best suit you.
The plan begins with either a two-week or a four-week starter pack to help you get used to any side effects. Then you move on to a continuation pack. These come in two strengths. Which one is right for you will depend on the side effects you experienced during your starter pack.
Cigarettes contain an addictive substance called nicotine. Champix contains a similar chemical called varenicline which works by mimicking and blocking the effects of nicotine. This helps with your cravings and takes the edge off the withdrawal symptoms you may experience.
Champix should be used as part of your plan to quit smoking but for the best chance of success you’ll need strong willpower and the support of those around you. Just by looking for stop smoking help is a great sign that you’re feeling motivated to quit.
If we prescribe Champix, you would begin your starter pack 8-14 days before the date you plan to stop smoking.
Take one tablet once a day initially then increase to twice a day. The starter pack moves you from 0.5mg tablets to 1mg tablets so that you increase your dosage slowly. When you finish your starter pack, you’ll move to the continuation pack.
Courses typically last 12 weeks. If you’ve successfully given up by week 12, you can choose to continue for 12 more weeks to avoid relapse.
You should not use nicotine replacement products like gum or patches while taking Champix. You should also not be taking Zyban (bupropion) or vapes containing nicotine. Champix will not be as effective if you’re still receiving nicotine in any form.
Nicotine is an addictive drug so you’ll probably experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop smoking. Champix should help reduce these symptoms but it’s unlikely to completely remove them.
You might also experience side effects from Champix. Common ones include headaches, nausea and an upset tummy. It may also cause dizziness and drowsiness or a feeling of being light-headed, in which case, do not operate machinery or drive. If you’re on a higher dose and finding the side effects challenging, we can move you to half-strength tablets.
If you feel your mood or behaviour changes, or your sleep is badly affected, stop taking the medicine and get in touch with us.
For full information of a medicine’s side effects and how to take it, it’s important to read the Patient Information Leaflet that comes with your medicine.
You may still feel urges to smoke while taking
Champix, but they should be less severe. Starting to build up Champix in your system 8–14 days before putting out your last cigarette will give you the best chance of it working for you. If you do have a slip up, don’t worry, carry on taking Champix and try to stop again as soon as possible.
If you think you might find it too difficult to quit suddenly, you can gradually reduce your smoking with the goal of not smoking at all by the end of the 12-week course of medication. In this case, you may want another 12-week course to help avoid relapse and cravings.
It’s important that you tell us which other medicines you’re taking – whether they’re prescription or medicines you’ve bought without a prescription. You must also tell us about any current or previous physical and mental health conditions. We need to know so that we can prescribe Champix if suitable for you.
If you're pregnant, planning to get pregnant, or breastfeeding, quitting smoking is really important for both you and your baby. You've done the right thing to try and find help. While Champix isn't right for pregnant or breastfeeding women, there are lots of resources to help you quit. You can find out more.
Whatever your approach to quitting, willpower is vital. You’ll probably have to make some lifestyle changes and follow certain tips to keep away from temptation and give yourself the best chance of success.
Support groups, online or in person, can offer advice and encouragement. And friends, family and colleagues can be a great help in keeping you positive or finding new ways to socialise, away from cigarettes. Try boosting your motivation by planning a reward for your achievement.
Hypnotherapy and acupuncture are non-medical treatments that may help some people, although the evidence for them is not strong. You may also find that counselling can help you too.
Page last reviewed by: Dr. Christina Hennessey 21/06/2021