There's A New Kid On The Block!

It's been about a decade since we have had a new prescription medication approved for cessation. To understand how this new medication called Chantix works, we have to discuss how nicotine works.

When you take a puff off of a cigarette, nicotine reaches the brain in a matter of a few seconds. Once in your brain, it binds to receptors (nicotine receptors) which activates a pleasure center. Think of a lock and key where the nicotine is the key and the nicotine receptor is the lock. Once the key is in the lock the pleasure center is activated and you feel good.

Let's put this into a real life situation by looking at how smoking can quickly calm you down. As an example, say you just had an argument with your wonderful boss. You go outside and light up. In a matter of seconds you feel calmer. What has happened on a chemical level is that the nicotine from your cigarette activated a pleasure center in your brain and you feel less upset.

The bad news is that this effect is short-lived, lasting only about 30-60 seconds. In fact, after about 30 - 60 seconds your body lets you know that you need to reactivate your pleasure center by giving you a mild craving to take another puff. This cycle of a craving leading to puffing continues until you finish your cigarette.

Chantix works by activating the nicotine receptor. In other words, Chantix becomes the key instead of nicotine. Since the key pretty much stays in the lock, you don't get the craving to smoke. Chantix also diminishes the withdrawal from nicotine, but more about that later.

Now, for the part that I think really makes Chantix stand out. If you smoke while taking Chantix your pleasure centers are not activated. This is because those receptor sites (the locks) are already occupied by Chantix (the key), so the nicotine can't attach to them. The end result is that this prevents the cycle of nicotine addiction.

If you are thinking about quitting, ask your doctor about Chantix.

  • 1
Was this article helpful? Yes No

About the Author

MA, MAppSci, PhD

Dr. Jonathan Foulds is an expert in the field of tobacco addiction.