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Chantix: A Jekyll and Hyde Personality

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Marion, OHDaniel Arndt, a 44-year old father of twin boys, locked himself inside a room of the family home while everyone was away with a 12-pack of beer and two bottles of blood pressure pills. Arndt had been three weeks on Chantix, the smoking cessation drug from Pfizer that blocks nicotine from reaching key receptors in the brain.

He neatly typed an Email to his wife revealing all the computer passwords, before swallowing the contents of both pill bottles with his 12th beer.

"I was at the point where my wife would just look at me wrong and I'd get angry," he tells Christine Cox, a reporter with the South Bend Tribune in Michigan. "A couple times I got close to hitting my wife, and that's something I've never done."

Chantix SuicideHe was also never one to hit his kids, either. But he began throwing things, and one day when he threw a rake at his wife, the implement hit one of his little boys instead.

It was too much to bear. So he locked himself in the family office with a plan to kill himself, something that in his state of mind seemed quite "natural to do," he told a reporter. "I didn't even think about it."

Thankfully, the story has a happy ending. Arndt was found by his wife in time, albeit with no pulse. While he was eventually revived, the Marion Indiana man was twenty minutes away from death.

He was one of the lucky ones. There have been a reported 39 suicides amongst Chantix users, and scores of reports of adverse reactions. The concern has prompted the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to investigate Chantix, and the potential link to psychotic problems.

There is little doubt that Chantix has its fans. Since arriving on the market a few short years ago, up to five million prescriptions for Chantix have been written worldwide. Given that pre-market testing for Chantix carried no alarming observance of psychiatric difficulty, it was quickly embraced.

And it does work for some. Marcia, a 67-year-old who was battling a two-pack-a-day habit since the age of 18, experienced no adverse affects and quit on her target date. The woman had tried everything in the past, including patches, hypnosis, acupuncture, and Zyban.

And Dr. Jason Marker, a family physician based in Wyatt, is not one to discount the possibilities, and possible benefits of Chantix. "When you consider the effects that smoking has on people's lives, I don't think it would be a stretch to extrapolate that this is one of the most important drugs to come along in a long time," he tells the South Bend Tribune.

Still, he's careful whom he prescribes Chantix to, in light of recent concerns. The doctor stresses that knowing the patient's psychological profile, and indeed knowing the patient well--period--is a pre-requisite for prescribing Chantix safely.

Susan, a 55-year-old woman from Elkhart quoted in the Tribune story, had no history of depression at the time she started what would turn out to be an aborted five-week relationship with Chantix. She reported to her doctor bouts with confusion, mood swings, inability to concentrate and focus on the job, even short-term memory loss.

Susan went from being highly motivated, intelligent and a self-described 'sharp' cookie to a scruff who would don her pajamas after work and stare at the TV. Her productivity on the job nose-dived, and she would have trouble going to sleep and waking the next morning. Weekends would find her confined to the house, not wanting to go out.

Chantix literally sailed through pre-market testing. The success rate of trial participants successfully quitting smoking after completing the 12-week Chantix program was 44 per cent, which is considered high. And while few, if any of the psychological adverse effects were seen amongst pre-market trial participants, those close to the clinical trial process admit that drugs are tested on a fairly small population relative to the general population.

What's more, trial participants generally tend to be healthy, with fewer chronic conditions. It has also been reported that the original clinical studies for Chantix did not include people who had psychiatric problems, or major medical issues.

Furthermore, smokers as a population tend to have higher rates of medical illness and psychotic difficulty. Twenty percent of smokers are, in general, believed to exhibit symptoms of depression.

Thus, the trial participants who did well on Chantix during pre-market testing could not represent a true cross-section of the smoking population.

In the end, while the FDA continues to investigate Chantix, doctors are advised to weigh carefully each prescription for Chantix, and to monitor their patients as they progress through the program.

Chantix, it seems, carries a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde persona, depending upon the individual.

For some, it's been a godsend. For others, it's been very, very bad...



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