Do Anti-Smoking Drugs Increase Risk Of Suicide?

By John Lavitt 10/26/15

Stop smoking drugs like Champix and Zyban have been linked to mental health problems in the past.

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Although Champix (varenicline) and Zyban (bupropion) have been prescribed for over a decade in Great Britain, both drugs have been linked to reports of suicides, depression, and even murder. But a major study conducted by the Universities of Edinburgh and Dusseldorf tracked the health of 150,000 smokers prescribed the drugs and found no evidence of increased risk.

Current advice about both drugs says those taking either drug should stop and contact their doctor if they develop depressed or suicidal feelings. In the United States, warnings have been placed on the drug, highlighting the dangers of depressive episodes and suicidal thoughts. But the new study appears to refute such claims.

"On the basis of our extensive analysis, we believe it is highly unlikely that varenicline has any significant adverse effects on cardiac or mental health," said Professor Aziz Sheikh, co-director of the University of Edinburgh's Centre for Medical Informatics. "Regulators such as the United States Food and Drug Administration should review its safety warning in relation to varenicline as this may be unnecessarily limiting access to this effective smoking cessation aid."

The study found those taking Champix (called Chantix in the United States) and Zyban were no more likely to suffer depression or self-harm than those using nicotine replacement therapy. Additional research in Great Britain has found that Champix is the most effective stop-smoking aid, with more than 60% of those using it reporting that they have successfully quit. Although not as popular, Zyban is effective as well.

"Smokers typically lose three months of life expectancy for every year of continued smoking. Our research supports the use of varenicline as an effective and safe tool to help people quit," said Professor Daniel Kotz.

Researchers at Maastricht University, University College London, and Harvard Medical School also contributed to the study published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine. The study hopes to remove any unnecessary stigma from the anti-smoking drugs.

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Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.