Where Did My Brain Go?

Is Chantix Worse Than Cigarettes?

Although I stopped smoking last year, for the zillionth, and last time, I managed to start again, when my daughter Audrey moved in for a couple of weeks.

It began innocently enough. If there are any cigarettes around, and I am in front of a computer, I will smoke them, and Audrey always had cigarettes.

My Dad said that he was about the only person in the Army (Air Corps) who never smoked. People would give him cigars sometime, but he put them in a drawer, and forgot about them. I found them after he died.

Indeed, all my relatives who smoked, died in their sixties, or early seventies, while Dad lived to be 84. And Dad probably would have lived even longer, if he had not taken Vioxx for back pain.

So I know how important it is for me to stop smoking.

How Not To Stop Smoking

On June 15th I went to my favorite pharmacy to refill my nose drops, and found brochures for Chantix on the counter. They said: “Get Ready to Quit Smoking” — and I was ready! I took one, and brought it to my (former) physician, who said something about “kidneys” before she handed me a prescription.

Chantix Is Worse Than the Bad Acid at Woodstock

Although one brochure said, “You should stop smoking by Day 8,” I stopped immediately. Audrey had moved in with her boyfriend, and there were no cigarettes around. My short–term memory stinks from my TBI, but I seem to recall that the first day went well, and I felt that the Chantix had reduced my craving.

Unfortunately, nothing else went well until I stopped taking it.

Law & Order: Criminal Intent

I have never been bored, and nobody ever said I was lazy. I always have a few projects, for pay, or for personal pleasure (like this blog), waiting for me.

I enjoy having several projects, because when/if I get stumped working on one, I can always switch to another, and return to the one that stumped me with a fresh attitude. However, on my second day of Chantix, for the first time in recent memory, I did not feel like doing anything, except watch a Law & Order: Criminal Intent marathon on the USA Network. I did not let it bother me, because I thought it had something to do with kicking cigarettes, or kicking nicotine.

Normally, I eat more when I stop smoking. This time I bought some imitation ice cream, to get over the hump, but I was not ravenously hungry. I just wanted to keep watching Law & Order: CI, until I was ready to fall asleep.

First Side Effect: Changes in Dreaming

One brochure said that a common side effect was “changes in dreaming” and another mentioned “vivid dreams.” What? Me Worry? I woke up once with a dozen staples in my chest! I should be able to handle a few dreams, right?

Like most men over fifty, I am accustomed to waking up a couple of times to urinate. But I was not ready for this!

I woke up six or seven times, not to urinate, but from having “weird dreams.” I slept very little, and felt awful when it was finally time to get out of bed.

I had my usual breakfast of a boiled egg and oatmeal, met my buddy for our usual 3–4 mile jog/walk, then spent the rest of the day watching Law & Order: Criminal Intent. I did not feel like doing anything! I might have checked my email, but did nothing productive all day.

I simply watched Law & Order: Criminal Intent, until I was ready to fall asleep.

Worse Than Smoking

My walking/jogging buddy went out of town for a few days, and I stopped going out altogether. I was pleased that unlike previous attempts to stop smoking, I was not eating all day, but I was slightly concerned about my uncharacteristic lack of productivity.

All I wanted to do was (you guessed it!) watch Law & Order: Criminal Intent.

The USA marathon was over, so I watched a few episodes of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit to fill the void. I stopped checking email, and even turned off all the computers.

I was becoming concerned, because I was incredibly tired. I normally sleep deeply, but I was waking up every few minutes with bad, or what Pfizer calls “vivid” dreams.

A Second Opinion

This pattern continued for several days, until I had an appointment to see my therapist. Missed appointments are bad, so I went to see her. Therapist wanted me to check into a hospital, until she learned that I was taking Chantix. Apparently, another therapist in her office tried Chantix, and told her that she stopped because she was having “awful dreams.” At this point, I had not turned on a computer, or checked email for three days, which is very unusual for me.

I was also experiencing weird mood changes. I rarely get angry, or raise my voice, but I found myself yelling at my therapist.

Lots of Opinions

Therapist called me, on Friday, after 5 P.M., so I knew it was important. She told me to search for Chantix and depression, and to stop taking it immediately. I thought, “Hey! I’m tough! How could I be depressed?” I am kicking tobacco, so I am not supposed to feel wonderful. Big deal, I had taken a few days off.

However, my opinion changed slightly when I found 536,000 matches for Chantix and depression, and 384,000 matches for Chantix and suicide. But, I’m tough! Why should I worry about suicide? Nothing could make me kill myself!

My Last Day on Chantix

Another day of Law & Order: Criminal Intent, followed by another semi–sleepless night, on top of therapist’s warnings, and 904,000 matches for Chantix and suicide OR depression got me to stop.

It took me six days to learn that Chantix is worse than cigarettes. Who knew?

Today: The Day After Chantix

I slept very little because of this recurring dream:

I was in Poland, with an old Ukrainian friend, Franklyn, searching for a bookstore, to buy a book which would teach me to speak/understand Polish. Except: before I went to the bookstore, I had to go to the bathroom. But every toilet, in every public bathroom, was overflowing with fecal matter, and none of them flushed.

Incidentally, I have not seen Frank for three or four years, and I do not even know where he lives now.

Was that vivid enough for you?

Not For Pilots

The Federal Aviation Administration has banned the use of Chantix by pilots and air traffic controllers, stating:

“We have immediate safety concerns about the use of varenicline (Chantix) among persons operating aircraft, trains, buses and other vehicles, or in other settings where a lapse in alertness or motor control could lead to massive, serious injury”

I did not notice any problems “alertness” or “motor control” beyond the fact that I felt more and more tired each day, because I woke up every few minutes from “Chantix dreams.”

And after the first night, I became slightly afraid to go to bed.

Repeat After Me

Do not take Chantix!