Chantix and Weight Gain

by on May 5, 2012

Smoking became more expensive by 10% in 2011, and many predict this will make a lot of smokers quit in 2012. Another factor behind the prediction is the popularity of smoking cessation drugs such as Chantix, which has been getting rave reviews from day one for being effective.  However, the brand has also been linked to weight gain, and not too many users are happy with that. So does Chantix really cause a smoker to put on the pounds?

The Relationship between Chantix and Weight Gain

To understand how Chantix is associated with weight gain, it is important to know just what the drug is and what it does.  Chantix is a non-nicotine prescription medicine that is meant to help people above 18 kick the smoking habit.  Its generic name is varenicline, and it works by blocking nicotine from reaching brain receptors that give smokers the satisfaction they get when they smoke.  As varenicline performs its nicotine-blocking action, it also activates the same brain receptors, resulting in a decreased release of dopamine.

The relationship between Chantix and weight gain has not been scientifically proven. However, there is a theory that attributes this supposed relationship to the reduced dopamine release caused by the drug, as compared to the amount of dopamine that would be released if Chantix weren’t blocking nicotine from the receptors. Because higher dopamine levels are scientifically proven to promote weight loss through appetite suppression, it may be surmised that the opposite is true - less dopamine means more weight.

One of the reasons Chantix as a direct cause of weight gain could not be established is the fact that smoking cessation itself causes that same negative side effect.

Smokers are said to burn up to 200 calories more per day than non-smokers because of nicotine alone, aside from the fact that the substance is also an appetite suppressant. Therefore, when a person ceases to smoke, weight gain becomes a natural result.  This is why it is difficult to differentiate Chantix’ effect on weight from the weight gained from the very act of quitting smoking.

How to Combat Weight Gain from Chantix

There is nothing special about weight gain from Chantix, and the same classic remedies can be applied.  Eating healthy foods and engaging in regular exercise still do the trick, but the person may have to go beyond his or her comfort level to achieve noticeable results. This is in light of the claims that aside from smoking cessation, the drug itself causes an increase in weight.  Again, weight gain from Chantix has not been verified by scientific studies, but a significant number of users have testified that they, indeed, put on some pounds when they started treatment.

A smoker on Chantix usually has to take the medicine for a full 12 weeks or even longer, which is long enough for any added weight to start showing. When weight gain from Chantix seems uncontrollable, it is best to seek a health care provider who can look into other possible causes, such as an existing medical condition or a nutritional deficiency.  In other cases, the person may well be advised to explore other treatment options.