Description: There are many medications that help individuals handle withdrawal from nicotine in order to quit smoking. In addition to nicotine replacement agents (gum, inhalers, lozenges, nasal spray, skin patch) there are a variety of prescription medications including bupropion and varenicline. The neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin (chemicals that help nerve cells communicate with each other) are linked to smoking dependence, and these agents work by increasing the availability of these key neurotransmitters involved in smoking and addiction in general.
Summary of Side Effects from Smoking Cessation Medications
Bupropion is an antidepressant medication that is used to treat depressive disorders and help people handle the withdrawal symptoms of smoking. It works by blocking the reuptake of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine – which results in more of the chemicals being available in the body.
Buproprion side effects include: seizures, fast pulse (tachycardia), blurred vision, severe skin reaction, dry mouth, muscle pain and changes in appetite.
Varenicline replicates the effect of nicotine in the brain and blocks the chemical from attaching to receptors in the brain. Thus, nicotine withdrawal symptoms and craving are reduced. Varenicline is a well-tolerated by most but it can cause adverse reactions including: nausea, headaches, constipation, chest pain and shortness of breath.
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Contributors to this Article: Michael Sapko, MD, Phd and Deborah Kallick, PhD, Medicinal Chemistry