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Smoking Cessation Medications

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Smoking Cessation Medications

writtenByWritten by: Leah McCabe
Leah McCabe

Leah McCabe

Leah likes writing about health and science subjects. Through her writing she hopes to help people of all backgrounds have equal access to information and quality healthcare.

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January 31, 2019 Read Time - 6 minutes

While Chantix is no longer available due to Pfizer’s voluntary recall, it is still possible to request the generic version (Varenicline) to help with your treatment. Speak with a doctor to learn more.

Smoking Cessation Medications

Quitting smoking is very difficult due to the addictive properties of nicotine contained in cigarettes. Quitting smoking and thereby eliminating nicotine consumption comes with a range of repercussions. These are called withdrawals and they are extremely difficult to cope with, causing many people to turn back to cigarettes for relief.

Smoking cessation medications can ease the uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms of quitting smoking and help you cope without caving to cigarettes.

Read on to learn more about the leading smoking cessation medications, how they work, and if they could be helpful to you.

Nicotine Withdrawal

There’s a reason smoking cessation medications are available: quitting smoking is extremely hard. Those who begin to quit smoking often suffer from nicotine withdrawals. Symptoms of withdrawals are:

  • extreme nicotine cravings
  • headaches
  • cramping
  • nausea
  • constipation/gas
  • coughing
  • sore throat
  • tingling in hands or feet
  • depression
  • difficulty sleeping
  • increased appetite
  • weight gain
  • restlessness
  • irritability
  • anxiety
  • problems concentrating

How Smoking Cessation Medications Help You Quit

Most smoking cessation brands are available as a pill and effectively block the positive stimulation from nicotine in the brain while suppressing withdrawal symptoms.

Unlike nicotine replacement therapy and antidepressant therapies for ex-smokers, smoking cessation drugs come with little to no side effects. Smoking cessation medications do not contain any nicotine and are not habit forming. Leading medications are safe and effective, helping smokers kick the habit within 9 to 24 weeks depending on your approach to stopping.

Smoking Cessation Medication Brands

We’ll be looking at the efficacy, and possible side-effects of several different smoking cessation medication brands. Read on to learn more below.


The prescription medication Chantix is easily the most effective out of all smoking cessation medications available. It works by activating areas in the brain known as nicotine acetylcholine receptors. Mild nicotine effects are imitated as soon as this area is activated by Chantix. While Chantix is active, nicotine can’t bind to these receptors in the brain, stunting its effects. Treatment duration spans between 12 to 24 weeks.

There are three main approaches to quitting with Chantix. You either:

  • smoke for a week, quitting immediately after
  • smoke for a month quitting immediately after
  • smoke for a full twelve-week period during which you reduce cigarette consumption gradually

You will need a prescription from a doctor for Chantix and this is the best time to create an “action plan” with your doctor. Your prescription will vary based on your cigarette dependency and whether you want to stop smoking as soon as possible or take a more gradual approach.

Your Chantix prescription and approach dictate how many pills you take and at what frequency. Most smokers start on a dosage of one pill a day, eventually progressing to two a day. It is essential to get your dosage and action plan in order. Light nausea and vivid dreams are mild side effects of Chantix.

Quitting smoking with Chantix is highly effective but you need a medical evaluation in order to guarantee no serious side effects like chest discomfort, and blood vessel issues.

With the help of a PlushCare consultation, you’ll soon know the ideal Chantix dosage for your mindset and body and can even get your prescription online.

  • Book on our free mobile app or website.

    Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

  • See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

  • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.



Zyban is another commonly prescribed smoking cessation medication which exhibits better results than most nicotine replacement therapies. Zyban, also sold under the brand name Wellbutrin, is an effective antidepressant. It is approved as a smoking cessation drug by the FDA due to the way it reacts with the reward response area in the brain.

The way that your brain chemistry is altered reduces the effect and interest in nicotine. You won’t necessarily be able to stop smoking unless you use Zyban with an earnest desire and decision to quit. People who quit smoking using Zyban will not experience depression, anger, anxiety or irritability. Treatment usually spans seven to nine weeks but depending on your level of dependency, it can be longer.

Possible side effects include:

  • insomnia
  • changes in taste sensations
  • nausea
  • tinnitus
  • heavy sweating
  • frequent urination.

In addition to the smoking cessation medications above, there are several other medications that can relieve nicotine withdrawals.


Nortriptyline is an anti-depressant smoking cessation drug which is commonly sold under the brand names:

  • Allegron
  • Aventyl
  • Pamelor
  • Noritren
  • Nortrilen

This tricyclic antidepressant promotes feelings of well-being by stimulating the production of serotonin. This elevates your mood, reducing nicotine withdrawal symptoms. Studies prove that drugs containing Nortriptyline are as effective as those containing bupropion. They are thus a worthy alternative to Zyban and Wellbutrin as long as no allergic reactions are encountered.

Minor side effects include:

  • tiredness
  • dizziness
  • dry mouth
  • constipation
  • weight gain

However, if patients exhibit any of the following complications, treatment must cease immediately:

  • rash
  • itching
  • muscle spasms
  • severe dizziness
  • respiratory issues
  • swelling of the face, tongue or throat


The drug Clonidine originated as a hypertension medication but its benefit to drug and alcohol withdrawal has made it a common choice for people quitting smoking.

The cravings and withdrawal symptoms of cigarettes are minimized as Clonidine acts upon the central nervous system. Clonidine is used with a fixed plan to quit smoking. Success rates are marginal but certain users do respond well to Clonidine. When prescribed as a smoking cessation drug, a pill is typically taken twice a day for as long as is necessary to quit.

Infrequent side effects include:

  • fatigue
  • irritability
  • insomnia
  • constipation
  • slight dizziness

Nicotine Replacement Therapies (NRTs)

Nicotine replacement therapy has been used to quit smoking for years. Over the counter NRTs are available across many different brands and types. Each drug delivers similar results. Smokers are encouraged to find the NRT which they prefer and combine it with other strategies to quit smoking. It takes most smokers an average of 12-weeks to quit with the help of a good NRT.

The most common NRTs include:

  • skin patches
  • gum
  • nasal spray
  • inhalers
  • lozenges

Each reduce withdrawal symptoms by supplying a controlled amount of nicotine over an extended period. In this way, your urge to smoke is eased away without any of the harmful chemicals present in cigarettes. Quitting smoking with the help of nicotine replacement therapies requires willpower and a solid strategy. Taking an NRT won’t take away your cravings completely.

Quit Smoking with PlushCare

Smoking cessation medication in combination with willpower and a strong desire to quit, will win the battle against cigarettes.

The fastest and most effective way to get yourself the best support is to consult an online PlushCare doctor about smoking cessation medications. Our doctors can help you create an action plan that is realistic for you, and will be the most effective in eliminating cigarettes from your life. PlushCare doctors can also prescribe smoking cessation medications and electronically send your prescription to the pharmacy closest to you. This makes getting your medication easy and convenient. So stop making excuses and get help quitting smoking today so you can live your healthiest life.

Read More About Smoking Cessation Medications

Most PlushCare articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.Ds, N.P.s, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Click here to learn more and meet some of the professionals behind our blog. The PlushCare blog, or any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. For more information click here.

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