Varenicline, an Effective Drug to Quit Smoking

Varenicline is a drug for quitting smoking. It's very safe and even patients with chronic diseases can use it.
Varenicline, an Effective Drug to Quit Smoking

Last update: 13 April, 2021

The drug Varenicline is a first-line treatment to quit smoking and reduce nicotine dependence. The effectiveness of this type of pharmacological treatment surpasses previous treatments, according to scientific evidence.

This drug is widely prescribed by smoking cessation specialists and other health professionals. This is because it meets the basic conditions for this kind of therapy. A drug to quit smoking must:

  • Minimize withdrawal symptoms
  • Reduce the pleasurable effects of nicotine in the brain
  • Provide positive reinforcement

The smoking disease

This disease has a high prevalence in the general population and its morbidity and mortality rates are high. In fact, it’s one of the leading causes of preventable death in the world. It’s also the main risk factor associated with diseases such as lung cancer and chronic inflammatory lung disease.

In addition, smoking leads to high health care costs that one can reduce by investing in a smoking cessation treatment. It’ll always be less expensive to invest in prevention rather than in definitive treatments once there’s a major disease.

How does varenicline work?

Labs developed this medication from an alkaloid present in several plant species. Researchers discovered these plant varieties because some Eastern countries have been using them for a long time.

Varenicline is specifically designed for smoking cessation as it selectively binds, partially, to nicotinic receptors in the brain.

Thus, it helps control the withdrawal syndrome and the uncontrollable desire to smoke by reducing anxiety symptoms and rewarding and reinforcing those areas targeted by smoking.

Varenicline can help smokers.
The design of varenicline is specifically for smoking cessation.

Characteristics of varenicline

This drug isn’t significantly different in terms of how it enters and moves around the body in terms of sex, age, race, and interaction with other medications. Varenicline is quite safe and the scarcity of side effects greatly facilitates its use.

Pharmaceutical companies market it in tablet form for oral administration. The body absorbs it well and people can take it with or without food. Its maximum concentration happens 3 to 4 hours after taking it, and it leaves the body in the urine. There’s hardly any metabolization — no chemical transformations of its structure.

Treatment with varenicline

It follows this protocol:

  • 0.5 mg once a day from days one to three
  • 0.5 mg twice a day from days four to seven
  • Finally, 1 mg twice a day on day eight and until the end of treatment

It isn’t necessary to stop smoking during the first seven days of treatment; however, a person must stop by the eighth day.

The duration of this treatment is 12 weeks, although some people stop earlier due to the deceptive sensation of having attained success. Know that quitting before the end of the 12-week treatment can lead to a relapse. Thus, the person must resume treatment as soon as possible.

Side effects

The most frequent ones are:

  • Nausea is the most frequent side effect of this drug
  • Sleep disorders with insomnia
  • Headaches

One can minimize nausea by taking varenicline tablets with meals. In addition, you can deal with insomnia by moving the second dose of the day forward. However, be aware that insomnia can also be due to withdrawal syndrome. People often think this is a side effect of the drug, but it isn’t.

A pack of cigarettes and a blister of gum.
People can use varenicline in combination with nicotine in the form of patches or gum in order to enhance the treatment.

Find out how to Kick The Habit: Nine Good Reasons To Stop Smoking

The perks of quitting smoking

The following are just a few proven benefits:

  • Improves oral health and blood circulation
  • The smell of tobacco on clothes, breath, and the yellow color of fingers disappears
  • Better breathing and more endurance when exercising
  • It decreases the risk of cancer and cardiovascular and respiratory diseases
  • There’s a recovery of the senses of taste and smell

People with COPD show an improvement of approximately 5% in their pulmonary function three months after quitting smoking. In addition, the risk of ischemic heart disease decreases by half a year after quitting.


Varenicline is a first-line option in the treatment of smoking. It’s an effective, safe, and well-tolerated drug overall, not only in seemingly healthy smokers but also in those with visible health conditions.

Finally, consult your doctor if you plan to quit smoking. They should be able to draw up a controlled plan to guide you in your decision and make it more bearable.

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  • Efectos cardiovasculares de la vareniclina: revisión sistemática y metaanálisis. (2011). Revista Uruguaya de Cardiología.

  • Solano Reina, S., Vaquero Lozano, P., Solano García-Tenorio, R., Márquez Nieto, J. C., de Granda Orive, J. I., & Jiménez Ruiz, C. A. (2012). Eficacia y seguridad de vareniclina en el abandono del tabaquismo. Revista de Patologia Respiratoria.

  • Sicras Mainar, A., Navarro Artieda, R., Díaz Cerezo, S., Martí Sánchez, B., & Sanz De Burgoa, V. (2011). Tasas de abstinencia de vareniclina frente a bupropión y terapia sustitutiva con nicotina en la cesación del tabaco en atención primaria. Atencion Primaria.