Five Facts Chantix Ads Keep Hidden
Critical insights Pfizer doesn't want New Year's quitters to know
1. Cold turkey quit smoking rates are likely superior to Chantix
Cold turkey defeated nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) in nearly every real-world quitting method survey that assessed long-term quitting of 6 months or longer [see 2018 PLoS One study (where Chantix was defeated too); a 2013 Gallup Poll, an unpublished 2006 U.S. National Cancer Institute survey of 8,200 quitters, as reported in the Wall Street Journal, Page A1, February 8, 2007; a study of "Smoking status of Australian general practice patients and their attempts to quit"; English smoking treatment services: one-year outcomes published in Addiction (see Table 6); a 2005 study by Alberg AJ entitled Nicotine replacement therapy use among a cohort of smokers; Tobacco In London, Facts and Issues (see Figure 14); a 2002 study by Boyle RG entitled Does insurance coverage for drug therapy affect smoking cessation?, and most recently a 2009 GlaxoSmithKline survey].
No study has yet pitted cold turkey against Chantix. In the only head-to-head long-term study pitting NRT against Chantix, when analyzing the percentage of participants who were not smoking at two long-term study points, Pfizer's researchers were forced to report that there "were no significant differences" between Chantix and nicotine patch quitters at either 24 weeks (varenicline 38.6% vs. patch 34.1%) or one year (varenicline 34.8% vs. patch 31.4%). The obvious question becomes, why assume Chantix's long list of serious use risks in exchange for little or no benefit?
Chantix has now been on the market for 7 years with Pfizer boasting millions of users. There's just one problem. A July 2013 Gallup Poll found that only 2 percent of successful ex-smokers credit any prescription quitting product for their success. Keep in mind that the Poll's 2 percent figure includes all Zyban quitters since 1997 and all successful prescription nicotine inhaler and nicotine nasal spray quitters ever.
2. Without support Chantix is probably worthless.
No Pfizer advertisement to date alerts smokers to the fact that Chantix drug approval studies set records for the number of counseling and support sessions received by study participants (up to 26). It's why Pfizer is compelled to mention the word "support" in all New Year's Chantix ads. Counseling and support have proven their ability to dramatically enhance quitting rates.
The real mystery is why the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Chantix use without knowing its worth as a stand-alone quitting aid. Six million Americans filled 12 million Chantix prescriptions since its release in May 2006. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there were 36.3 million daily smokers in 2006 and 36.7 million daily smokers in 2008, when the adult smoking rate actually increased from 20% to 21% over the prior year. If Chantix works then where is the proof?
3. Placebo-controlled Chantix studies were not science-based.
As a smoker, if participating in a clinical trial and randomly assigned to the study's Chantix group, would you have been able to tell if the dopamine "aaah" sensation that you had come to expect within 10 seconds of a puff was missing, because Chantix was now blocking nicotine from stimulating your dopamine pathways? If randomly assigned to the placebo group, if you had a lengthy quitting history, would you have been able to recognize the onset of full-blown withdrawal? Hoping for free study medication that diminished withdrawal anxieties, would realizing that you'd instead been given placebo sugar pills have left you frustrated? Chantix studies were not blind as claimed. Junk science, they reflect fulfilled and frustrated expectations, not product worth. Use of placebo controls in drug addiction studies is license to steal. A new petition drive asks U.S. health officials to demand honest quitting studies.
4. Pfizer's "I honestly loved smoking" marketing campaign toys with smokers.
Drug addiction is about living a lie. It's about dopamine reward pathway stimulation, desensitization and receptor count up-regulation leaving the addict totally convinced that nicotine use defines who they are, gives them their edge, helps them cope and that life without smoked nicotine would be horrible. Pfizer knows this and is now playing upon it.
Today full-page ads in papers across the nation scream "I honestly loved smoking" and "with Chantix you can smoke during the first week of treatment." It isn't that we loved smoking but that we didn't like what happened when we didn't smoke. If allowed, for every high there would have been a corresponding low. Like other addicts, our brain had become rewired for an external chemical. Unlike other addicts, the sensation accompanying our dopamine high (alert stimulation) permitted us to function almost normally and feel superior to those addicted to illegal drugs.
5. Full obedience to the "Law of Addiction" provides 100% odds of success.
So long as no nicotine enters your bloodstream success is guaranteed. What Pfizer will never teach smokers is that cold turkey accounts for far more long-term success stories each year than all other quitting methods combined. Cold turkey does not mean quitting without counseling or support. It means ending nicotine use abruptly, without use of replacement nicotine or imitation substitutes. The body becomes nicotine-free and withdrawal peaks in intensity within 72 hours of ending all nicotine use. The brain works overtime to re-sensitize dopamine pathway receptors and down-regulate receptor counts. But just one puff of nicotine and up to 50% of nicotinic-type receptors will become occupied by nicotine. Although you make think you have gotten away with smoking, relapse is all but assured, as the brain will soon be begging for more.
Knowledge is Power
Your mind's priorities teacher has been taken hostage. I wish you could spend a few minutes savoring the calm, quiet and comfort inside the long-term ex-smoker's mind. It's why ex-smokers seem so obnoxious. Quitting can be our greatest awakening ever. They simply can't believe how wrong they were.
What sense does it make to fear arriving at a day where we go entire days without once wanting to smoke nicotine? Embrace coming home, don't fear it. It's a wonderful thing not bad. Although almost impossible to believe right now, everything we did as smokers can be done as well as or better as us. Recovery is the process of reclaiming life, one activity, person, place and emotion at a time.
Here's a few key tips for New Year's quitters. Do not skip any meals. If unable to concentrate or experiencing mind fog you've likely skipped a meal. If your diet permits, drink extra natural fruit juices but only for the first 3 days (cranberry is excellent). It will aid in helping stabilize blood sugar levels and speed nicotine's elimination from the bloodstream.
Caffeine users need to know that ending nicotine use doubles blood caffeine levels. If drinking twice your normal caffeine intake would make you feel anxious or edgy consider cutting your normal daily caffeine intake by up to one-half.
Be aware that up to 50% of all smoking relapses are associated with alcohol use. Allow yourself to move beyond peak withdrawal and begin sensing improvement before drinking alcohol. If unable to go three days without drinking you may be facing alcohol dependency issues too. If so, research suggests that arresting both chemical dependencies at the same time likely offers the best odds of success.
Two recent studies found that unplanned quitting attempts are twice as likely to succeed. Don't work yourself into a frenzy. Simply jump in the pool. Also, a just released study suggests that keeping cigarettes or other nicotine products after quitting may actually increase anxieties and risk of relapse. Although cessation time distortion can make a less than 3 minute crave episode feel like 3 hours, getting rid of all nicotine products builds in relapse delay that just might save your recovery and life!
Visit and explore WhyQuit. Download Joel Spitzer's free e-book "Never Take Another Puff" or my e-book "Freedom from Nicotine - The Journey Home." Watch some of Joel's 64 free video quitting lessons, download a detailed quitting tips list, meet Bryan, Noni, Deb and Kim, and visit WhyQuit's two support groups Freedom and Turkeyville.
Knowledge and understanding are key to a lasting recovery. Why quit afraid, alone and in darkness? Why not turn on the lights? Once ready, the next few minutes will be all that matter and each will be do-able. Baby steps! No nicotine just one hour, challenge and day a time. Yes you can!
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- WhyQuit.com - WhyQuit is the Internet's oldest forum devoted to the art, science and psychology of cold turkey quitting, the stop smoking method used by the vast majority of all successful long-term ex-smokers.
- Nicotine Addiction 101 - WhyQuit's basic guide to understanding nicotine dependency.
- Nicotine Cessation Topic Index - An alphabetical subject matter index to more than a thousand nicotine cessation articles, videos and support group discussions.
- Joel's Library - Joel Spitzer began presenting stop smoking clinics and seminars in 1976. WhyQuit's education director since 2000, Joel's Library is home to his life's work. It includes Joel's "Daily Quitting Lesson Guide," more than 100 original stop smoking articles, his free ebook "Never Take Another Puff," and to his ever growing collection of more than 400 stop smoking videos.
- "Freedom from Nicotine - The Journey Home" - Written by John R. Polito, a former 30-year heavy smoker and WhyQuit's 1999 founder, Freedom from Nicotine shares the science underlying nicotine dependency and successful abrupt nicotine cessation.
- Turkeyville - Imagine surrounding yourself with more than 10,000 cold turkey quitters. Turkeyville is a Facebook support group exclusively for cold turkey quitters.
- Freedom - Freedom was WhyQuit's original 1999 stop smoking support group. No longer accepting members, its 453,000 archived posts continue to share recovery insights.