Smoking Cessation Medication Chantix May Help Cocaine and Alcohol Addicts Too

By Emily Murray

For those experiencing the challenges of trying to break their addictive behavior, the idea of taking a pill to ease the suffering is one that sounds nearly too good to be true.

While the drug Chantix (varenisline) is most commonly associated with smoking cessation, two recent studies (conducted independently of any pharmaceutical company) have shown that other addictions may also be treated including cocaine and alcohol. While this is just the beginning for this type of research, it may yield some really exciting results for those suffering from addiction.

Study #1
Outcome: Cocaine addicts put more value in money than cocaine and have less interest in drinking alcohol on Chantix. 

The first study was published in the February edition of Alcohol and Drug Dependence. The research was conducted by the University of Pennsylvania and included 37 people, all of whom had cocaine addictions. Some were given a placebo while others were given Chantix. When urine samples were tested three times a week, researchers were able to conclude that those who took Chantix were half as likely to use cocaine then those who were given the placebo. Additionally, researchers found that those on the medication also had less interest in drinking alcohol. The next part of the test gave participants an option between money or cocaine, which those who have ever been around an addict (or seen them portrayed on TV) know is usually a no-brainer for an addict. Surprisingly however, those who were taking Chantix put more value in the money than the drug.

Study #2
Outcome:  The user’s drug of choice is less desirable or pleasurable when taking Chantix. 

The second study which was recently conducted and published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research consisted of 15 “moderate to heavy drinkers.” When those taking Chantix were questioned about the draw they felt towards alcohol, surprisingly they too did not desire it as much and did not find it as enjoyable while drinking. Additionally (as mentioned in a TIME article on the subject), researchers have noted that those taking Chantix for smoking cessation have reported less desire to drink alcohol.

How Chantix Works in the Body

Chantix is an oral medication that is commonly prescribed for those attempting to quit smoking. Unlike other smoking cessation remedies, it does not contain nicotine. The chemicals in Chantix work to block the nicotine receptors in the brain so that those who are smoking while taking the medication (which is recommended in the beginning) don’t experience the satisfying feeling they normally get when they smoke.

While it is too soon to know if Chantix can be successful in treating other addictions, these two studies provide hope that Chantix may help make the process easier in the future.