Thursday, September 06, 2007

Noticing the Taper Off Chantix

Today is Chantix Day 92 (or day 3 of the 0.25mg dose while tapering) and Smoke-free Day 80.

OK, after days and days of saying that I wasn't experiencing any difference while tapering off Chantix (ask your doctor), I do think it's now fair to say that I am noticing a slight increase in tuggings, not even quite urges, certainly not cravings, more frequently the past few days, starting on Monday. I wasn't sure if it was just coincidence over the weekend, but since it's sticking around through this morning, I'm thinking it might be related to the taper. It's nothing dramatic, and I don't feel in danger of running out to buy a carton of poison or anything, but things are a little different than they have been. Being on Day 80 helps because I know I've come too far to want to go back to the start, especially since the pull isn't very strong.

The tuggings are a little different now, too. It's difficult to explain, but it's like sometimes my lungs are reaching out for something that's no longer there. Then, just like in the good old early days of quitting, I take a deep breath, and they are content.

Except when that doesn't work so well because I feel like I'm suffocating.

This gets weird, and I hesitate to post about it because I don't have answers, but I did experience this very early on in previous quits, and I thought I was home-free this time since it wasn't happening until now. It's difficult to explain, but basically you know when you yawn, but it gets interrupted for some reason, and you feel like it didn't satisfy that whole yawn thing that it's supposed to do? This same feeling can happen with breathing, too, and in fact, sometimes I'm yawning to get a deep breath. When it just won't work for unknown reasons, it can be pretty unsettling.

If I let myself pay much attention to it, I get the return of the heart flutteries leading to more bad breathing leading to more heart flutteries and the vicious cycle (similar to a panic attack, but kind of different, and stress doesn't seem to be related at all) that I had checked out a couple quits ago (and, in fact, cured it myself by starting smoking again after waiting months for an answer with no relief, and smoking "fixed" it - stupid, stupid move, but I share the truth even when it makes me sound ridiculous). I've read some things that others have experienced with this crazy thing, and interestingly enough, several of them first got this weirdness after quitting smoking, and most haven't gotten much in the way of a solution from their doctors, but I'm going to try (again) next time I go to the doctor. I'm still functioning, it's not constant, and it might even go away on its own, but it really is curious to me that the Chantix was holding it at bay this long.

I do know that I will not again use this goofy breathing thing as an excuse to start smoking this time because it took me too long to get back to quit, and I'm done playing this time. That chapter is over and just not an option.


  1. The breathing's awful. I know, I have been dealing with it, on and off, for years. Every doctor I have been to has diagnosed it as "in my head." It is anxiety/stress caused. The weird thing is that it sometimes happen when I feel completely stress-free and most of the times when I am stressed out I don;t get it. So, it seems like the anxiety or stress is on a subconcious level, not a concious one.
    I too am on Chantix (since mid May) and have started to wean. I had the breathing thing shortly after I quit smoking for a few days to a week. It went away but came back in mid July. I had it very bad. There are times it is so intense I feel like going to the ER but I never do because I know it is "in my head." The interesting thing is I have not had it since the wean. I was on the full dose both times when I got it this summer. Good is truly a miserable thing.

  2. Thank you, Chuck. It's good to know I'm not alone since it is such a nutty thing to describe to someone who hasn't had it and assumes it's something it's actually not. Interesting that you had it while on the full dose of Chantix and not on the weaning. Subconscious level - I totally agree because it's not when I'm worried that it creeps up on me (though once I'm aware of it, I do get anxious and probably make it worse). I'm hoping for both of us it will eventually just go away. Really, thank you for sharing that. It helps knowing someone "gets it."

  3. OMG, my huuuuge comment just vanished! k, i'll write one at home

  4. OMG! So good to hear that others have the same thing!

    It's been happening to me daily and I just brushed it off as damage that I had done to my lungs that hadn't healed yet.

    Thank you Maggie for writing about it. It's good to know that you're not alone.

    Congrats on day 80!

  5. Oh I definately "get it."
    It is just awful. I find myself constantly yawning just to "catch" a breath. When that doesn't work (it usually only works 1 out of ten times) I do whatever else I can. I bend my neck, punch myself in the chest, beat my fists!, whatever I can do to try top get some relief. I don't have the problem right now, it went away a couple weeks ago (it goes as mysteriously as it comes) and hopefully it won;t be back for a long time. I'd say I get it on average 2-3 times a year, lasting from 1 day to a week or more in severe cases. I definitely feel some additional tension now that I am reducing the Chantix but so far, so good with the breathing.
    One thing that I found that helps...exercise. While I am exercising, I can breathe normally. It's as though my mind "forgets" about the issue while I am doing any kind of moderatley cardio intensive exercise. Sort of ironic. You would think that the breathing problem would make exercising more difficult or impossible, but in reality it seems to (temporarily) fix the breathing issue.
    Here is another weird thing that has been happening to me...and this is just started lately when scaling back on the Chantix. My jaw feels very tight/tense. It was so bad the other night it woke me up. It lasts for hours. It's not so bad right now but for a few days it was a real pain. If you ask me, the breathing issue and the jaw issue are both withdrawl symptoms. It's tension that has no where to go. Before I quit, I could just smoke which did help calm my nerves. Without the smoking crutch, the stress has to show up somewhere. Here is my #1 long should it take until I am "totally" over the smoking issue. No more cravings, no more weird stuff like the jaw pains, no more of any of that. Just back to normal, whatever normal really is. I have heard different things...a month, 3 months, 6 months, a year. I'm not sure what to believe. I'm just going on faith that at some point, this will all get easier. I will add...I have tried to quit many times. Nothing has come close to working as well for me as the Chantix. The side effects (especially in the beginning) are the worst but as far as a product that really helps you quit...I love it.

  6. Maggie, I just wanted to drop a quick note to say "Hang in there". I have been having pretty decent urges as well since going off the Chantix. For your sake I was hoping it was because I went off early. Sounds as though it might have diminished them but that they come just the same.

    I don't have the breathing thing, but whatever, I am sure we are just experiencing similar things but in different ways.

    I know you won't smoke, but I will send you a "stay strong" anyway.

  7. Ok. Here's what my doctor told me. He said that when you smoke, you paralyze those little cilia things in your lungs. One thing the cilia do is help to move muck out of your lungs - basically, they help you to cough. That's why when a smoker has a hacking fit, they reach for the smokes - to paralyze the cilia and make the coughing stop. He said one of the biggest reasons smokers don't last with a quit is because they start having all sorts of breathing and coughing problems. He said this is because those cilia are slowly waking up and starting to function again. But this does not happen all at once. They will be sluggish and weird for a while. And until your lungs get healthy again, you can have some weird problems - but that you SHOULD stick it out because given enough time your lungs will be healthy once more (assuming you don't already have emphysema or lung cancer).

    Anyway, this is just what one doctor told me. You should definitely ask your own doctor.

  8. aww, Tasina's mention of sluggish cilia just put me in this sad state of mind. I hope mine aren't sluggish for long. I want them going in wave-like motions from a little ballet of little lung hairs.

    I was really hoping you wouldn't feel a thing and just go on without Chantix like it never even happened. That's still not largely possible. But if it gets a little bumpy and hickuppy here and there, just keep thinking that it will surely pass. It sounds strange and yet very logical - your body will be adjusting to function without Chantix. So it'll be a little adaptation, and that's it. You're smart enough to figure it all out! :)

    Wanted to also mention that my discovery is that there are some additives in coffee that addict you to it! I never drink coffee, I don't have a taste for it, I don't understand it. I had three mochas at Starbucks. Then yesterday I caught myself CRAVING a mocha. Ok, that is impossible since I don't have an appreciation or addiction (supposedly) to coffee. They gotta be putting some stuff in coffee. That's why you're addicted. Sorry just couldn't wrap my mind why you are so into coffee. Mystery solved. lol :D

  9. Stan, I hate it when a comment gets lost like that.

    Sue, I'm surprised how many have experienced this. I thought it was just me ;)

    Chuck, I noticed while exercising that my breathing issue is a little worse - probably because you know I'm running my mouth while I'm walking my legs ;) I haven't noticed any jaw issues, and I'm grateful for that. What you said makes sense, though, about the tension. How long any of this stuff remains after quitting is hard to say. The first time I quit, I'd swear it lasted almost a year, but other times much less. I think I will always have an occasional thought of smoking, just rarer and rarer with time.

    Nathan, I'm glad to hear that you are hanging in there, too, off Chantix and even with a few extra urges thrown in for effect. I'm still convinced that that worst is well behind us and that it's just keeping on going from here.

    Tasina, I'll definitely let my doctor have another crack at it, but last time even after all of the tests, they could only confirm that my heartbeat was irregular and that they were not worried. I knew about the other typical coughing and back to breathing again cilia-related stuff (because we all know how I feel about my cilia - go cilia!), but it's good to know that they might possibly also be part of having just general weird problems because that's what I've got, and I'd love to see it gone. Just not enough to start smoking again because I don't want that back.

  10. If your health permits, I'd recommend that you take up jogging a bit. See how you feel.

  11. Stan, I commented before I saw that your comment made it through to the other side this time :)

    So far, so smooth on tapering off because the tuggings really are just so small still. The breathing thing is its own issue that might or might not be related.

    Mmm, coffee. I love coffee. For me, it's the flavor and the smell of it brewing and all of the neat gadgets and ways of brewing it. The caffeine, too, to some degree, but truthfully, on most weekdays I only have about a cup or two, and at night I'm usually on the decaf. Herbal tea, too, sometimes. Something cozy about a mug full of warm and yummy beverages. If I'm a coffee addict, that's one vice I'm keeping for a good long while along with playing the Sims2. At the same time.

  12. John, the jogging thing was so miserable when I tried it, but it does look like I'll be walking twice a day now, and I do get breathing pretty heavy by the end. Someday I might give jogging another go, though.

  13. Oh, one more thing....some days ago I was browsing your Japan little notes/pictures on your website, and came across that snuggly thing that you loved the most - Kotsutsu or something like that. Well, in the picture of it, the integral part of the landscape is an ashtray with butts. That was the first thing that stood out to me on the picture! It was just funny how you are totally associated with a non-smoker in my mind, and seeing an ashtray on your kotsutsu in your place in Japan was kind of shocking. I had to make a mental effort to connect Maggie with the smoking past. Sorry, just wanted to share. Erase this comment from your short memory now. :)

  14. Maggie, I'm sorry you're running into ... not *difficulties*, but, let's say, slight bumps in the road. I thought your tapering off was going so well!

    I have to ask -- although I think I should know the answer -- how long were you on Chantix before you started tapering? My doctor wants me to be on Chantix for six whole months. She says this is because I smoked *so* much for *so* long. I don't know if you were a two-pack-a-day smoker, but I know you smoked for a while. Maybe you just need the Chantix a little longer than you thought?

    Then again, if anyone can get through this weird breathing thing and wean herself off of Chantix and *still* be a non-smoker -- IT'S YOU!!! GO, MAGGIE!!!!!!!

  15. Stan, yep, I sure was all smoker, all the time. It kind of bothers me that so many pictures of my life feature cigarettes. Strange but true, I guess.

    Bay, I was basically on Chantix about 11 weeks before starting to taper off it at the start of week 12. As ready as I am to be done, I do think that there may be something to your doctor's advice to stay on for 24 weeks if that sounds helpful - some folks do.

  16. Interesting! This is the first I've heard of the breathing issue. I've had a years-long quit before and several failed quits along the way... can't say I've ever experienced what you describe. It sounds very scary and I'm hoping NOT to experience it. To be honest, I'm not sure I really understand. You mentioned panic attacks... I've had those before in my younger days, while I was still a smoker. I know how they feel, the sudden loss of breath, the rapid heartbeat, etc. Is it like that?

  17. MsTek, it's really hard to describe since I've never had an actual panic attack, but it feels similar to how I would expect one to feel, but a little different when just the breathing, and it seems to be worse when there is zero stress instead of when there is reason to panic ;) Thankfully, today, it's not so bad again, and the heart thing hasn't been as much of an issue this time. A couple of quits ago was when it was all really extreme.

  18. Maggie, I hope the breathing thing doesn't get too bad for you. As I said in my previous post, it sounds very scary, but I'm sure it's nothing you can't handle! :-) A couple of people have suggested exercise. Have you tried that?

    The "E" word is a dirty word to me, lol, but I know it's good for you, so eventually I will have to come up with some type of exercise regimen...especially since I'm eating a lot more since quitting... but for me, that's not a bad thing! I'm one of those naturally thin people and when I smoke, i get even thinner...on top of that, I lost more weight after the sudden death of my baby sister earlier this year... so for me, it is a good thing to pick up some weight...i don't really like talking about that because people give me a hard time, always have...but imho, it's just as unhealthy to be underweight as it is to be overweight! Anyway..

    Speaking of food! In reply to your post on my blog... OMG!!! A Taste of Chicago pack??!! WOW! My folks back home must be holding out on one told me I could have the Taste delivered down south! I'm going to check the link you sent as soon as I post this. Mmm, I'm already salivating!! LOL

  19. Thanks, MsTek. Yep, I've been exercising since quitting. Walking my 20 min mile each day, and recently adding another of the same later in the day. I do think it was temporary, but I just remembered it from a previous quit. Today - all gone.

    Until the last few years, I always weighed more on the lower end of my idea range (now approximately higher end, but still within ideal range). I understand completely about people thinking it's OK to be rude about a skinny person's weight. Believe me, been there. Still mad.

    I'm very sorry to hear about your sister. That is a unique kind of grief and pain all its own. I do hope that having some pizza shipped your way will give you reason to put on at least an extra yummy pound or two.

  20. Hang in there, keep up with the exercise it should help, it releases endorphins and also gets your mind off the "tuggings". Good Luck!

  21. Hi there and congrats! I had this problem when I tried hypnosis, thought it had to do with the breathing excercises. I was told (and it works for me) exhaling very slowly is the key. Many people in their mind are more focused on getting oxygen into their body during these moments when actually they need to focus on how they're exhaling, releasing the carbon dioxide. I'm on Chantix now and on the rare occassions I feel this come on now, this always works for me. Maybe this will help some of you :)


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