I used a medication called Champix (varenicline) successfully in 2007, and gave up for seven months, but unfortunately started again. I used Champix a second time in June 2008, and have discovered some serious side effects, so much so that I can no longer recommend its use.
I was aware of the depersonalising effects of Champix, and associated these with the sleep disturbance, but while we were on holiday, one evening when we’d all been enjoying a few drinks, I experienced what can only be described as a psychotic episode. I could not explain this episode at all; up until then I had been pretty happy, enjoying a much needed break.
As you might imagine, I was pretty upset about what happened, but discovered by chance when doing some research for a teaching session on suicide that the mix of varenicline and alcohol can be extremely dangerous.
Recently there has been some discussion over the death of the musician Carter Albrecht, who was shot by a neighbour following his use of alcohol with Champix (known as Chantix in the US). Albrecht, best known as a member of Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians, started taking Chantix in late August 2007. He was well liked in the community, and had no prior history of violence. Immediately, Albrecht began to complain of vivid, hallucinatory dreams (a Chantix side effect). One night about a week after he started taking Chantix, Albrecht had a violent encounter with his girlfriend.
The episode occurred after Albrecht had consumed a couple of alcoholic drinks. Albrecht’s girlfriend reported that he was confused, and did not recognize her. Before the night was over, Albrecht had been shot dead by a terrified neighbour on whose property he had trespassed. After Albrecht’s death, many other Chantix users complained of similar episodes of violent or suicidal behaviour, especially when they had consumed alcohol. The Chantix label does caution against alcohol use, but it does not warn that drinking alcohol while taking Chantix could lead to violent or suicidal behaviour. Furthermore, Chantix’s reaction with alcohol has not been studied in clinical trials.
This page shocked me. Read some of the stories, and you might begin to imagine what might have happened while we were on holiday.
UPDATE: There is now accumulating scientific evidence that varenicline is associated with thoughts and acts of aggression/violence see these articles -
Thoughts and Acts of Aggression/Violence Toward Others Reported in Association with Varenicline
Prescription Drugs Associated with Reports of Violence Towards Others