Prescription treatments to stop smoking

You can get medicine on prescription to help you stop smoking. It can triple your chances of quitting successfully. Your GP or a stop smoking advisor can help you decide the best treatment for you.

Prescription treatments can reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms include restlessness, irritability, low mood and weight gain.

Make an appointment with your GP before you plan to give up smoking. You need to start taking the medicine around 2 weeks before your quit date.

Types of medicine to quit smoking

The following medicines are generally safe and side effects are not common. Zyban and Champix do not contain nicotine and they are not addictive.

You can use a prescription medicine in combination with nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). It is safe and recommended in Ireland's National Clinical Guideline on Stop Smoking Care.

The Drugs Payment Scheme (DPS) can help with the costs of prescription medicines. There is no means test for a DPS card.

Champix (varenicline HCL)

Champix is a safe and effective licensed medicine. It is used under medical supervision to help people stop smoking. Champix acts on your brain to reduce cravings for nicotine and symptoms of nicotine withdrawal.

You take Champix for 12 weeks. It does not contain nicotine and it is not addictive.

How it works:

  • You continue to smoke for the first 12 to 14 days of treatment.
  • As the medicine builds up in your system, you do not get the same enjoyment from cigarettes and you’ll want to smoke less often.
  • When you quit smoking, the medicine takes over the role of nicotine by stimulating your brain to release the chemical dopamine.
  • This makes you feel good and reduces cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

At your appointment, your GP will ask you about your medical history and other medicines you take. They will tell you if Champix is suitable for you.

Information:

There are some issues affecting the supply of Champix. Work is ongoing to fix this.

Side effects of Champix

Side effects of Champix are not common. But like any medicine, some people may experience them.

Side effects may include:

  • nausea
  • gastrointestinal upset such as constipation or diarrhoea
  • headaches
  • abnormal dreams
  • difficulty sleeping

It is common for people to experience symptoms of nicotine withdrawal when they stop smoking. Sometimes these can be confused with side effects of medicines.

Talk to your GP if you are worried about any side effects.

Zyban (bupropion HCL SR)

Zyban is a safe and effective licensed medicine. It is used under medical supervision to help people stop smoking.

Zyban acts on your brain to help treat nicotine addiction. It does not contain nicotine and it is not addictive.

You continue to smoke for the first 2 weeks of treatment. You take Zyban for 9 more weeks after you stop smoking.

Your GP or stop smoking advisor will discuss how to take this medicine. They will help you plan how you should stop smoking with help from Zyban.

Your GP will ask you about your medical history and other medicines you take. They will tell you if Zyban is suitable for you.

Side effects of Zyban

Side effects of Zyban are not common. But like any medicine, some people may experience them.

Side effects may include:

  • difficulty sleeping
  • changes to your mood
  • headaches
  • nausea
  • gastrointestinal upset such as constipation or diarrhoea

Twitching and fits (seizures) are rare side effects. This is why Zyban must be used under medical supervision.

It is common for people to experience symptoms of nicotine withdrawal when they stop smoking. Sometimes these can be confused with side effects of medicines.

Talk to your GP if you are worried about any side effects.

Finding your patient information leaflet online

Your patient information leaflet (PIL) is the leaflet that comes in the package of your medicine.

To find your PIL online, visit the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) website.

  1. In the ‘Find a medicine’ search box, enter the brand name of your medicine. A list of matching medicines appears.
  2. To the right of your medicine, select ‘PIL’. A PDF of the PIL opens in a new window.

You can also:

  1. Select the brand name of your medicine.
  2. Scroll down to the Documents section.
  3. From the Package Leaflet line, select PDF version. A PDF of the PIL opens in a new window.

If your PIL is not on the HPRA website, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) website opens in a new window when you select ‘PIL’.

Finding your PIL on the EMA website

If your PIL is not on the HPRA website, you will be sent to the European Medicines Agency (EMA) website.

To find your PIL on the EMA website:

  1. In the Medicines search box, enter the brand name of your medicine and the word ‘epar’. For example: ‘Zoely epar’. A list of matching medicines appears.
  2. Select the ‘Human medicine European public assessment report (EPAR)’ for your medicine.
  3. From the table of contents, select Product information.
  4. Select the EPAR – Product Information link for your medicine. A PDF opens in a new window. The PIL information is in Annex III of the PDF under ‘labelling and package leaflet’.

Page last reviewed: 5 October 2022
Next review due: 5 October 2025