By now, many of you have probably read the MySpace bulletin from Carter Albrecht's bandmate, Sorta bassist Danny Balis, about the passing of his best friend. In it, Balis mentions the prescription stop-smoking drug Chantix, which Albrecht and his girlfriend had recently begun taking. Balis writes:
"i later learned through a close friend that he had firsthand knowledge of two separate couples who had tried to quit smoking using chantix, and in each case, one spouse had tried to kill the other with no previous domestic conflct. one was successful, and many refer to this drug as a psychotic."
According to the Chantix Web site, the drug's most common side effects are "nausea, changes in dreaming, constipation, gas and/or vomiting." But the Pfizer drug's FAQ section doesn't mention more serious psychological side effects, and there are many, including "psychotic disorder" and "suicidal ideation."
Here are some listed from Rxlist.com:
"PSYCHIATRIC DISORDERS. Frequent: Anxiety, Depression, Emotional disorder, Irritability, Restlessness. Infrequent: Aggression, Agitation, Disorientation, Dissociation, Libido decreased, Mood swings, Thinking abnormal. Rare: Bradyphrenia, Euphoric mood, Hallucination, Psychotic disorder, Suicidal ideation."
So I Googled "Chantix" and "psychotic," and came up with a few disquieting comments on various blog posts and message boards.
"My husband who has never had ANY mental health problems, tried to take his own life after being on Chantix for 13 days. He has no recollection of the day it happened."
"My brother in law committed suicide Aug 19. He had taken Chantix and went off it in the spring, then we found out he had started retaking it 7 days before his suicide."
"2 days upon stopping, I went into a complete meltdown of suicidal thoughts, depression, crying for no reason, panic, agitation, lack of concentration....it was a nightmare."
And a post from someone who combined heavy drinking and Chantix, like Albrecht did, from WebMD:
"… While intoxicated I did some things that were completely out of character for me. It is probably in my best interest not to share all of the details here even when posting anonymously, but the police were involved. I just want to make it clear that I did not hurt anyone or anything like that. I apparently just made a few bad decisions even after I was apprehended by the police …. I am not saying that it was the Chantix that caused this abnormal behavior… When I called Pfizer though, they told me that there have not been any studies on the effects of alcohol on people taking Chantix."
All of this is, of course, completely unconfirmed and anecdotal. But according to this article from Healthline.com with regard to mental illness and Chantix, there haven't been a lot of studies on how the drug affects people with mood disorders, mental illness, etc. Now, the few times I met Albrecht, "good" or "pleasant" would be the only words I'd use to describe his mood, so I’m not calling him crazy or anything else. But I think there's strong evidence to suggest that something in Chantix has a particularly significant emotional effect on some people. Throw booze into the equation, and anything can happen. --Andrea Grimes