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Understanding Varenicline: What Is It Used For?

Smoking, a leading cause of illness and death, prompts the question, “What is Varenicline used for?” Varenicline is a prescription medication specifically designed to treat smoking addiction. According to a study, Smoking is a leading cause of illness and death, causing over 400,000 premature deaths annually in the United States. This accounts for nearly one in every five deaths and is one of the most preventable risk factors for disease.

Quitting smoking is hard. In fact, dealing with any type of addiction takes a toll on the person as well as his family and friends. In this podcast episode with HealingUS, Christine and Stephanie Sone share their experiences dealing with addiction and mental health issues within their family. They are joined by their daughter, Kim, who discusses the unique family dynamic they experienced when Kim fell into addiction. It shows that family dynamics can be complex when dealing with addiction, and hence, setting boundaries as a family is important to help their loved one deal with addiction and support them in the recovery process.

There are many different kinds of treatments available over-the-counter or on a prescription that can help you beat your addiction. One of the most reliable and trusted medicines by doctors to treat smoking addiction is Varenicline.

If you’re considering using Varenicline tablets, you’re probably wondering: What is Varenicline used for? How does It work? How do you take it? We have got you covered. Read this guide to know everything about Varenicline.

What is Varenicline?

Varenicline is a pill that helps people stop smoking by reducing nicotine cravings and withdrawal symptoms. It works by attaching to α4β2 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors. It stimulates these receptors at a lower level than nicotine and blocks nicotine from binding. This reduces the desire to smoke and the discomfort of quitting.

Approved by the FDA on May 10, 2006, Varenicline was initially sold under Chantix, but it has been discontinued. However, generic versions are available. Varenicline is one of seven FDA-approved quit-smoking medicines, which include nicotine replacement options and another pill called bupropion SR. Unlike nicotine replacements, Varenicline does not contain nicotine and requires a prescription.

Varenicline has two strengths: 0.5 mg (white pill) and 1 mg (blue pill). Your doctor or pharmacist can provide detailed instructions and help you adjust your dose. It may be beneficial for those who have yet to succeed with other quit-smoking methods.

What is Varenicline used for?

Varenicline helps adults stop smoking. Varenicline blocks nicotine’s effects in the brain, which reduces the desire to smoke. Use it alongside education and counseling to increase your chances of quitting successfully. Varenicline is a smoking cessation aid.

Discuss the risks and benefits of Varenicline and other quit-smoking methods, like nicotine replacement therapy, with your doctor.

For the best results, use it with a stop-smoking program that includes education, support, and counseling. Quitting smoking reduces your risk of heart disease, lung disease, and cancer.

Varenicline side effects

Once you understand what is varenicline used for, let’s examine its side effects. The most common side effect is nausea, affecting up to 30% of users and reducing the dose can help manage this. Other common side effects, occurring in 5% or more of users, include sleep problems (such as trouble sleeping or vivid dreams), constipation, gas, and vomiting.

When quitting smoking, with or without Varenicline, you may experience nicotine withdrawal symptoms such as:

  • Urge to smoke
  • Depressed mood
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Irritability
  • Frustration
  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Restlessness
  • Constipation
  • Decreased heart rate
  • Increased appetite
  • Weight gain

Some people may also experience suicidal thoughts when trying to quit smoking, with or without medication. Quitting smoking can sometimes worsen existing mental health issues, like depression.

How to use Varenicline?

According to MedlinePlus, Varenicline is administered orally in tablet form. Initially, take it once daily, then increase it to twice daily, morning and evening. After eating, take it with a full glass of water (8 ounces or 240 mL). Take varenicline at the same time(s) every day. Follow the directions on your prescription label carefully.

Take varenicline precisely as directed. Take only what is prescribed. Your doctor will likely start you on a low dose and gradually increase it over the first week. There are three ways to use varenicline to help quit smoking:

● Set a Quit Date

Start taking Varenicline one week before your chosen quit date. You can smoke during the first week, but aim to stop smoking by your quit date.

● Flexible Quit Date

Start taking varenicline and quit smoking between 8 and 35 days after beginning treatment.

● Gradual Reduction

Over 12 weeks, reduce smoking gradually.

  • Weeks 1–4: Smoke only half your usual number of cigarettes daily.
  • Weeks 5–8: Smoke only a quarter of your daily number of cigarettes.
  • Weeks 9–12: Continue reducing until you stop smoking completely. Aim to quit by the end of 12 weeks or sooner if ready.

It may take several weeks to feel the full benefit of varenicline. If you slip and smoke, keep taking varenicline and try not to smoke. Typically, varenicline is taken for 12 weeks. If you have stopped smoking by then, your doctor may recommend another 12 weeks to help prevent relapse.

Varenicline dosage

Take varenicline precisely as prescribed by your healthcare provider. The usual starting dose is 0.5 mg, which is gradually increased as follows:

Days 1 to 3: 0.5 mg once a day

Days 4 to 7: 0.5 mg twice a day

Day 8 to end of treatment: 1 mg twice a day

Aim to stop smoking on your quit date. If you slip and smoke, keep trying. It may take a few weeks for varenicline to be most effective.


Que: What is the most severe side effect of varenicline?

Ans: Serious side effects of varenicline may include seizures, chest pain, shortness of breath, and signs of stroke like weakness or vision changes.

Que: Can you still smoke while taking Varenicline?

Ans: You can start taking Varenicline a week before your planned quit date. Aim to stop entirely on your chosen quit date.

Que: What should I avoid while taking varenicline?

Ans: Avoid using nicotine replacement products or smoking tobacco while taking varenicline.

Que: Is it safe to take varenicline?

Ans: Yes, it is safe to take varenicline under the guidance of a healthcare provider. However, warnings may apply if you are pregnant or have another disease.

Que: What is the success rate of varenicline?

Ans: Studies indicate success rates of around 25% to 30% for those using varenicline, depending on the study and individual factors.


Varenicline is a highly effective prescription medicine for quitting smoking. While quitting is challenging, there are numerous treatments available to support you, both over-the-counter and prescription-based. Varenicline, known for its effectiveness, significantly increases the likelihood of quitting smoking successfully.

Remember, always consult your healthcare provider, especially in case of severe reactions. Hope this guide cleared your doubts: What is Varenicline used for?

Quitting smoking requires determination and support, but with the right approach, it is achievable.

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