Stop smoking medication – Make Smoking History

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How can medication help?

Stop smoking medicines have been proven to help people quit. Even smokers who are highly dependent on cigarettes!

They come in tablet form and you often need to start taking them 10-14 days before you quit.

They’re only available on prescription so you will need to speak to your GP or local stop smoking service.

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How do they work?

Stop smoking medicines work by interfering with nicotine receptors in the brain. This means they:

  • take away the pleasure a person gets from smoking
  • reduce the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal

After a few days of taking the tablets, you’ll find smoking less enjoyable and not want to smoke as much.

Available on prescription

There are two different stop smoking medications that are available on prescription in England.

Varenicline (Champix)

What is it?

Varenicline (brand name Champix) is a medicine that works in two ways. It reduces cravings for nicotine, but it also blocks the pleasurable effects of smoking.

A course of treatment usually lasts around 12 weeks, but it can be continued for longer if necessary.

Who can use it

Varenicline is safe for most people to take, although there are some situations when it’s not recommended.

For example, it’s not suitable for:

  • children under 18 years of age
  • women who are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • people with severe kidney problems

Possible side effects

Side effects of varenicline can include:

  • feeling and being sick
  • difficulty sleeping (insomnia), sometimes with vivid dreams
  • dry mouth
  • constipation or diarrhoea
  • headaches
  • drowsiness
  • dizziness

Bupropion (Zyban)

What is it?

Bupropion (brand name Zyban) is a medicine originally used to treat depression, but it has since been found to help people quit smoking.

It’s not clear exactly how it works, but it’s thought to have an effect on the parts of the brain involved in addictive behaviour.

A course of treatment usually lasts around 7 to 9 weeks.

Who can use it

Bupropion is safe for most people to take, although there are some situations when it’s not recommended.

For example, it’s not suitable for:

  • children under 18 years of age
  • women who are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • people with epilepsy, bipolar disorder or eating disorders

Possible side effects

Side effects of bupropion can include:

  • dry mouth
  • difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
  • headaches
  • feeling and being sick
  • constipation
  • difficulty concentrating
  • dizziness

Shortage of Champix supply

Champix (varenicline) tablets are currently out of stock from the manufacturer until further notice.

If you are taking Champix tablets, speak to your GP or stop smoking advisor. They will be able to advise on nicotine replacement and discuss other treatment options.

Updated 16 August 2021

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