Champix (Varenicline) For Smoking Cessation 101: How It Works, Its Effectiveness, How To Take It And Potential Side Effects

In this article, we'll be explaining what Champix is, how it works to help you to stop smoking, how you should take Champix in order to increase your chances of quitting successfully and the side effects that Champix might cause.

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What Is Champix And How Does It Help You To Stop Smoking

Champix is a prescription medication used as a form of smoking cessation treatment. The active ingredient in Champix is Varenicline, a nicotinic receptor partial agonist which helps you to quit smoking, reduce the enjoyment of smoking cigarettes and help to relieve the withdrawal symptoms and cravings you experience when you quit smoking. 

So how does Champix work? 

The reason why smoking is addictive is because the nicotine in cigarettes attach themselves to the nicotinic receptors in the brain. This binding to the nicotinic receptors leads to release of neurotransmitters like dopamine, which reinforces the effects of smoking and produces a pleasurable experience. Champix helps you to stop smoking by interfering with these nicotinic receptors in the brain. It partially stimulates the nicotinic receptors, mimicking the pleasurable effects of nicotine. This will then help to reduce the withdrawal symptoms and cravings you experience when you stop smoking. Champix also helps to partially block the nicotinic receptors which prevents nicotine from binding themselves to it, which diminishes the pleasurable effect of smoking a cigarette. 

It is important to note that taking Champix is not the same as undergoing Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT). NRT products supply low doses of nicotine in the form of patches or gums to help reduce the craving for nicotine and relieve the nicotine withdrawal symptoms. 

How Effective Is Champix?

Champix does help increase the likelihood of you successfully quitting smoking. In a study done by the Heart Centre of the University Hospital Ghent, researchers found that of their test group of 551 people who had a mean history of smoking of 27 years, 64.6% were able to quit smoking successfully after taking Champix for 12 weeks.

How Should I Take Champix?

It is important to note that Champix alone does not make you stop smoking. It still requires you to have the willpower to succeed and quit your smoking habit. Together with the counselling of a medical professional, Champix can increase your likelihood of successfully quitting smoking. 

First you must decide on a date when you intend to quit smoking altogether. 

You should then begin taking Champix tablets one week before that date. This is to gradually build up the dosage so your body gets accustomed to the medication and reduces the chances of experiencing side effects like nausea before the quit date. It is okay to continue smoking during the first week, however you must stop smoking on the quit date. 

Your doctor will most likely advise you to begin with 0.5mg of Champix daily for the first 3 days, gradually increasing it to 0.5mg of Champix twice a day on days 4 to 7. Eventually you will take 1mg of Champix twice a day for the subsequent 11 weeks of treatment. 

However if you have pre-existing kidney issues or experience side effects that you find to be intolerable, your doctor might recommend a different dose of Champix for your treatment. 

You should take each dose of Champix with a full glass of water, preferably after a meal. Ideally, you should take your dose of Champix after your breakfast and after your dinner. 

What Should I Do If I Miss A Dose Of Champix?

If you forget to take your dose of Champix, take it as soon as you remember. However, if it is less than 3-4 hours before you need to take your next dose, you should forgo the missed dose and take the next dose as normal.

You should never take a double dosage of Champix to make up for a forgotten dosage. You should not take 2 doses of Champix at a given time. 

If you find yourself often forgetting to take your medication, try setting an alarm to remind you to take your medication twice daily.

Is It Dangerous If I Smoke While Taking Champix?

No, it is not dangerous to smoke while on Champix. 

You are allowed to smoke during your first week up until your set "quit date". It is highly advised that you stop smoking on your determined "quit date", however if you do smoke after the date, it will not pose any dangerous health issues. It does mean that you might be less likely to quit smoking successfully. 

While on Champix, you might see a reduction in the pleasure and enjoyment you get while smoking.

Potential Side Effects From Taking Champix

Even with medical treatment, quitting smoking can cause a number of withdrawal symptoms. This can include difficulties concentrating, increased appetite, weight gain, decreased heart rate and changes in mood (like feeling irritable, anxious or depressed). 

With Champix, the most common side effect you might experience is nausea. As your body becomes accustomed to the medication, you might see improvements and a reduction in nausea after a week of being on Champix. Taking Champix after having a meal and with a full glass of water can also help reduce nausea.

Other common side effects you might experience are  headaches, difficulties sleeping and having abnormal dreams. Taking your second dose after your dinner but not before you sleep might help reduce some of the sleep-related side effects of Champix. 

There is a possibility that Champix might cause side effects like drowsiness and lethargy which might affect your ability to drive or operate machinery. You should not drive, operate machinery or engage in hazardous activities until you can determine how the medication affects your body. 

While many people do not experience serious side effects while taking Champix, it is important that you stop taking Champix immediately and seek medical assistance if you begin to experience the following serious side effects: 

  • You experience serious side effects like experiencing a seizure, symptoms of a heart attack (like pain in your jaw/chest/left arm, unusual sweating and shortness of breath) and symptoms of a stroke (like sudden changes in your vision, trouble speaking, confusion, weakness on one side of the body)

  • You experience a serious mood and behavior change and experience symptoms like suicidal thoughts, aggression and unusual behaviors and thoughts. 

  • You experience symptoms of a serious allergic reaction like a developing rash, itching and swelling of the face/throat/tongue, trouble breathing and severe dizziness. 

If you're looking for medication to help support you on your journey to being cigarette-free and increase your chances of quitting successfully, it is highly recommended that you consult a doctor. Here at Noah, the doctors on our platform are best equipped with knowledge to determine whether Champix is right for you. They will be able to advise you on the best treatment suitable for you and can also prescribe you the right medication should you need. 


Boudrez, Hedwig et al. “Effectiveness of varenicline as an aid to smoking cessation: results of an inter-European observational study.” Current medical research and opinion vol. 27,4 (2011): 769-75. (Link)

Wadgave, Umesh, and L Nagesh. “Nicotine Replacement Therapy: An Overview.” International journal of health sciences vol. 10,3 (2016): 425-35. (Link

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Published On
June 27, 2021

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