Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Have Plan, Will Taper

Today continues to be Chantix Day 63 and Smoke-free Day 51, and I am still just thrilled about it.

The Whole Chantix Enchilada from Ramp Up to Taper Down
As promised, I've been working on getting together in some coherent form my plan to taper off of Chantix instead of going off of it suddenly. First, here's my plan from my first pill on Chantix Day One (June 6, 2007) all the way through to the end, which should be my last pill on Chantix Day 93 (September 6, 2007) with tapering (see disclaimer at end of post). You can click for a larger image.

Need to Taper?

I'm not convinced either way that tapering off Chantix is necessarily mandatory to avoid any onset of cravings or other general "bad things" since I've heard of it going both ways for different people, though none of those actually went the entire 3 months on Chantix. I'm not expecting any issues from withdrawal from the Chantix itself, so that doesn't concern me. Since my side effects experienced on Chantix have been really manageable and because my insurance made paying for 3 months of Chantix also really manageable (I have Kaiser, the only one I know of so far covering Chantix at co-pay only, but would love to hear what other ones do cover it), I've gone with the 3 month plan. I just want to give myself every chance of not having a bumpy ride if avoidable, and if tapering might improve my chances of smoother sailing while definitely not causing any harm by doing so, then tapering off sounds like not a bad idea, just in case. A bit more on this way below after some more on my overall process.

How Many Smoking Quit Dates?
Technically three on the calendar above, but really just one... My actual quit smoking date was later than the Chantix Day 8 prescribed, but I went into it with a drop dead absolutely no matter what no bullshit anymore last chance quit date of Chantix Day 15 (I strongly believe in these), so quitting on Day 13 was ahead of my schedule. I'm grateful that I gave myself a little time (based on the Chantix experience of a friend) but not too much more time because it simply took just that long for the Chantix to kick in to the point that I was feeling like it might really help. As I've said repeatedly, Chantix did not quit for me, but with my cooperation, it made my quit easier than previous miserable attempts filled with agony. By Day 13 I finally felt like suffering wouldn't be involved to such a large degree this time, so I was ready.

I Can't See the Picture Above, and I Hate the Colors; You're Doing What Now?
On August 22, 2007, when I open my last pack of the last box of Chantix, I will have 14 pills that are 1 mg each. Instead of taking 1 mg in the morning and 1 mg in the afternoon for a total daily dose of 2 mg as I have been and as originally prescribed, I'll start getting creative as follows:
  • 1.5 mg for 4 days
  • 1.0 mg for 4 days
  • 0.5 mg for 4 days
  • 0.25 mg for 4 days
(Yes, to do that you can buy pill cutters at most drug stores that will cut the pill in half or in quarters, and they are about $5.00 or so, give or take, for example, this one if you're curious and don't want to search.)

If you added up the above and scratched your head, nope, it's not bad Maggie Math (hopefully). I do know that I'll still have one pill left over (along with the 2 I've missed so far on my Chantix journey), so if I freak out or something, it's available, but otherwise, at that point, I'll just be ready to be done. Done with smoking, done with Chantix, ready to give it a go and do it all on my own steam. In fact, I'm already getting antsy to just stop the Chantix and get on with it, but I'm sticking with the 3 month deal anyway for lots of reasons, and it gives me something else to look forward to and to celebrate. With a reward. Like maybe an extra latte with an extra shot.

On My Own Steam
Maggie Math wasn't going to help me on just when the Chantix would be out of my system, so I just took a short cut and emailed my pharmacist ;) ...and then emailed another friend of a friend pharmacist because I was surprised by what the first one said. Here's part of what the first one said (I'd asked about both my tapering plan as well as without tapering), and the last sentence caught me by surprise:
The concept of 'half-life' is the time it takes half of the drug in your body to be eliminated from your system; as such, half of the total amount of Chantix in your body will leave in 24 hours, half of that will leave in the next 24 hours, and so forth, unless you continue to take the medicine. A dose is generally considered gone from your system after 5 full half-lives of the drug. So, in the case of Chantix, this would be 5 full days after the last dose, regardless of the amount of that dose [emphasis mine].
Really? Just 5 days? Tapering or not? Wow, that's much sooner than I'd thought. My friend of a friend pharmacist agreed that yep, 5 days after the last dose of any amount, the Chantix will be gone (actually, he said 3- 5 days, but 5 as the safest answer). He also said that there should be no actual withdrawal from Chantix itself, but I'm still not convinced about what it might do with my urges that could be lurking under where the Chantix now lives (like maybe increase, a lot, or something). So tapering it is for me, and I'm being told all around that there is no harm in doing so, even if it might or might not even be much different from suddenly stopping. Anyway, I'm very pleasantly surprised and more than content with just 5 days, and it's good to have an idea of when my training wheels are off, and now I do - 5 days after my last dose of any amount of Chantix.

And so, there you have it on my overall Chantix journey start to projected finish. Of course, the end of that phase is just the beginning of the next one where I just have to remember that I don't ever want to have to start down this road from the beginning again. As true as it is for any addiction, it's a hell of a lot easier to stay quit than it is to get quit again. My thanks for that to the people who I heard it from first years ago because it still applies across the board. You all will probably hear more of that from me now that I remember it because for me it's something worth keeping in mind.

Just a disclaimer here only because I feel like I have to do that because the world's gone batty anymore: this is my plan made for me and by me with the approval of my doctor (well, he said OK and told me to let him know how it goes...) and partly based on information I received from 2 pharmacists I asked, so consult your doctor if you decide to do creative Chantix dosing - I'm just sharing my story of what I'm doing; I'm recommending nothing to no one - other than deep breaths and water to get though any urges (and walking for anything stronger than that) and that you should "ask your doctor if Chantix is right for you," as they say.


  1. "I'm recommending nothing to no one - other than deep breaths and water to get though any urges (and walking for anything stronger than that) and that you should "ask your doctor if Chantix is right for you," as they say.


    Hi Maggie,

    I agree with what I quoted you saying directly above.

    Since, as you know, I've been blogging about quitting cigs via Chantix, I've found myself in the same position as you.

    I want to provide an accurate account that can be helpful; but, I also want everybody to remember that this is just one dude's experience, and, another person's mileage may vary. And, given our different and complex biological make-ups, most likely will vary at least a bit.

    As we've seen, some people have talked about nausea, insomnia (me), and, poor Stan's itching forced him off the Chantix.

    Now, as you know, I quit the Chantix after 2 months cold turkey style, and, so far so good... it's been, I think, as of tonight, 25 days without Chantix... so, the overwhelming majority of it is definitely out of my system.

    Your tapering method actually sounds quite smart. I thought about doing that myself, but, I found myself in a situation, unexpectedly, where the month's supply was up and I just didn't have the money to spare...

    So, obviously, I just stopped and thus far things are fine. Now, as you've already written about in your post, the Chantix has a natural, built-in sort of tapering due to its half-life.

    I've seen your level of commitment expressed time and again in your posting, and, based upon that, I have a feeling you will be fine regardless of whether you taper or turkey it...

    And, you are right... there's never any harm in recommending the breathing and water.

    Best wishes,

  2. That's pretty interesting. It's something I have been thinking about as well. I haven't posted about it yet, but I have been skipping my chantix for days at a time just to test the waters. I am concerned that I will start to have overwhelming urges when I totally go off of it so I have been avoiding that.

    I will be interested to hear how this goes for you.

  3. Thank you, John! It really is good to see what others are up to with Chantix and see the wide range of experiences. At 25 days since your last Chantix, it's gone. All gone. At least according to all the pharmacy folks. I'm not sure at what % they would say not even a trace, but for all intents and purposes, you are are doing your thing, and making it look good, even without the Chantix :)

  4. Wow, Nathan, that's a good sign if you've missed days at a time and been OK because if the 5 days is when it's all gone, you've at least skate pretty far in that direction. I'll be posting as I go!

  5. Sounds like a great plan Maggie!! I really think you will be fine coming off the Chantix you have done such a great job and your words have I am sure helped so many people.

  6. Thanks, Lakasha! It's good to see you again!

  7. Hi Maggie, I too am on the last of the chantix, quit date was 5/30/07, I am weaning off too, cut down from 2mg aday to 1mg and now have started .5mg aday, haven't really noticed any difference, seams like a few more cravings, but nothing bad, but am kind of afraid to completely quit :( I am looking forward to being chantix and smoke free! I didn't have any real side effects from chantix, little nausea in the morning and tiredness early on, Water and deep breathing helped wonders, and gum, lots of gum. good luck to all that are quiting, and Thank you Maggie your blogs have helped me thru my quit.

  8. Thank you, anon! Sounds like your experience has been similar to mine in a lot of ways. I do hope you'll pop in with comments on how your tapering off continues to go now that you are down to such low doses. That's awesome!

  9. Hi Maggie,

    Good luck with the taper and thanks so much for all the great information and inspiration.

  10. I have been on Chantix for 2 months and 2 weeks. I tried last week to go off cold turkey and I seemed fine for the first couple of day and then on the 4th day, I was so agitated, ill, just strange feeling. The feelings were so strong that I got home from work and immediately took a Chantix. I wonder if I would have this same effect if I tapper

  11. Anonymous, I'd check with your doctor to see if there is any reason not to give it a try. Tapering seemed to help me with the transition, even if, in theory, it's not supposed to matter. If you keep feeling strange, I'd definitely talk with your doc, too. Many, many congrats, though on your quit! Once you get past this part off the Chantix, it should be smooth sailing.

  12. Hi everyone. I've been reading your blogs and since I have been on Champix (Canadian Version) for 4 weeks, I am finding your stories very helpful!

  13. Hi Brenda! Glad you found my blog. If I can be of any help, please feel free to email me. I wish you the best of luck!

  14. Hi Maggie,
    I hope you still pop into your site from time to time. I am soon to start Chantix. I have put it off for a while hearing of others negative experiences. Then I found your website blog and am grateful for the information. I go to pick up my starter pack tomorrow and should start within the next week. I am at the point that I need to choose to breath or smoke. Of course I want to breath. I have much more living to do!! I will check in from time to time to let you know of my jorney with Chantix. Thank you for your blog. You are an inspiration! - Georgene


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