How it works
How does Champix work?
Champix is designed to do two things:
- Help reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms that happen when you give up smoking.
- Block the effect of nicotine.
- When you smoke cigarettes, nicotine binds to receptors in your brain, which triggers the release of a feel-good chemical messenger called dopamine.
- Shortly after you’ve had a smoke, nicotine and dopamine levels start to drop so you get craving and withdrawal feelings, making you want another cigarette.
- Champix is believed to work by activating the same receptors in the brain and blocking nicotine from attaching and activating them.
- This can help you to have fewer cravings and withdrawal symptoms from smoking and reduce your enjoyment of cigarettes if you do smoke while on treatment
How does Champix make quitting easier?
If you’re ready to quit smoking, can help make it easier in two ways:
- It helps reduce the cravings and withdrawal symptoms that happen when you give up smoking.
- It blocks the effect of nicotine, so if you do smoke while on, it won’t be so enjoyable.
How long should I take Champix?
Your doctor will tell you how and when to take Champix. It is important to remember that nicotine withdrawal symptoms can last 10 weeks or more. Champix comes as tablets that are typically taken once per day for the first three days, and then twice per day up until the end of week 12. If you think you would benefit from an additional 12 weeks after you’ve finished your prescribed course , talk to your doctor.
There are two different ways of taking Champix. You can start by taking Champix for at least one week before you actually stop smoking, or you can choose to quit smoking anytime between days 8 and 35 of using Champix.
If you feel unwell while taking Champix, speak to your doctor or pharmacist.
If you or your family notice changes in your behaviour, mood, or thinking, stop taking Champix and see your doctor.
What’s in Champix?
Champix was designed based on a plant extract, which is found in a variety of plants including the New Zealand Kowhai tree and Golden Rain tree from South East Asia. Champix does not contain any nicotine.
How effective is Champix?
Researchers gave sugar pills to one group, and Champix to the other, and found that people who took Champix had a four times greater chance of quitting smoking after 12 weeks than those who did not.
Tips for taking Champix
Your doctor will tell you how and when to take Champix. Usually it is taken for 12 weeks. You’ll also improve your chances of quitting if you enrol in a support programme like ‘My Time To Quit’ or with Quitline.
If I don’t succeed, can I try again with Champix?
Yes you can. If you slip up and start to smoke again, Champix can still be successful on your second attempt to quit. You may be eligible for one fully-funded course each year. If it has been less than a year since your last fully-funded course you will have to pay around $1 per day for Champix, which may be less than you’re spending on smokes.
If you want to get Champix fully-funded you’ll need to talk to your doctor about starting a new 12 week course of Champix.
Side effects of Champix
Champix is not for everybody and you should ask your doctor if it is right for you. Your doctor will let you know about the side effects from stopping smoking and side effects from taking Champix. All medicines have side effects and knowing more about them might help you with your quitting journey.
The most commonly reported side effects are as follows. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice if you notice any of the following and they worry you: feeling sick (nausea), headache, insomnia, abnormal dreams and signs and symptoms of a cold (nasopharyngitis).
Giving up smoking with or without treatment can cause various symptoms. These could include changes of mood, sleeplessness, difficulty concentrating, decreased heart rate, increased appetite or weight gain.
Tell your doctor or pharmacist as soon as possible if you do not feel well while you are you are taking Champix. If you cannot tolerate the side effects, your doctor may decide to lower your dose. This medicine helps many people give up smoking, but it may have unwanted side effects in a few people. All medicines can have side effects. Sometimes they are serious, most of the time they are not. You may need medical attention if you get some of the side effects. Do not be alarmed by the following lists of side effects. You may not experience any of them. Ask your doctor or pharmacist to answer any questions you may have.
Pay special attention to…
You and your family or carer need to pay special attention to your mood, behaviour and thinking while you are taking Champix. Some people have reported changes in behaviour, thinking or mood when they start taking Champix. These may include depression, anxiety, agitation, feelings of aggression, mood swings, seeing, hearing or sensing things that are not there, thoughts of self-harm or self-harm. Worsening of these symptoms has also been reported in people who already have mental health problems. It is not known whether these are related to Champix. It is known that mood changes can be due to the effects of stopping smoking, with or without treatment. Stop taking Champix and tell your doctor immediately if you or your family/carer notice any changes in your behaviour or thinking, if you become agitated or depressed, or have thoughts of self-harm.
Tell your doctor if…
Tell your doctor or pharmacist if you have nausea (feel sick) while taking Champix and it worries you. Around 3 in 10 people experience nausea, usually starting in the first week. Most people who have nausea are able to keep taking the medicine. Some people find it helpful to take Champix with food.
Champix may also be associated with other side effects. Before using Champix it is important to read the Consumer Medicine Information available on the Medsafe website and to discuss the potential benefits and risks with your doctor.
Champix is normally taken for 12 weeks, and
nicotine withdrawal symptoms can last more than 10 weeks
Your doctor, nurse and pharmacist are there to help answer your questions and support you to stop smoking.
Your doctor can answer any concerns you may have about quitting and Quitline has counsellors who can help you by phone, text and email.
Giving up smoking isn’t easy
If you’ve tried Champix in the past but are back to smoking again, you can try again. Quitting often takes several attempts before you can call yourself a true ex-smoker.
After 12 months, you may be eligible to receive a fully funded course of Champix again.
Champix is still effective for repeat quit attempts
Champix can still be helpful for people who have tried it before and relapsed. Champix works by reducing the desire to smoke by making smoking less satisfying. So if you’ve tried quitting with Champix before, but slipped up and started smoking again, talk to your doctor about trying again.
- You should start with varenicline treatment 1-2 weeks before the date of smoking cessation.
- Stop taking varenicline if you develop agitation, depressed mood, changes in behavior or thinking, suicidal ideation or suicidal behavior.
- Stop the use of varenicline if you experience signs and symptoms of heart attack (myocardial infarction), stroke or any allergic reaction and consult your doctor immediately.
- Varenicline should be used with caution in patients with fits (seizures) or mental disorders.
- At the end of treatment, when you discontinue varenicline, you may experience symptoms such as increase in irritability, urge to smoke, depression, and/or inability to sleep (insomnia).
- Varenicline may cause dizziness and sleepiness, affecting your concentration and judgement. Do not drive or operate machinery till you feel fine.
- Tell your doctor if you are or planning to become pregnant or are breastfeeding.
Frequently asked questions