November 11, 2008


Staring. Staring. Staring.
So I started taking the anti-smoking drug Chantix last Wednesday, for a quit date of November 13th, the day after my 39th birthday. So far, the drug has left me feeling listless, confused, disoriented, fatigued, and vacant -- quite zombified all-around. I find myself staring absently into space for hours at a time. I certainly hope these side-effects settle down soon!

As I understand it, Chantix is supposed to work by blocking the nicotine pleasure receptors, while giving you a burst of dopamine to even you out. Unfortunately, it has a tendency to block other pleasure receptors, too, I've heard, so tasting food, having orgasms, or enjoying basic social interactions seem unimportant. These negatives have only been reported in a certain number of takers of the drug, but I can see how pleasure in general could be drained from life if these chemical effects persist. I'm hoping that my body chemistry adjusts to the drug chemistry and evens out a bit over time, while still lessening my urge to smoke. At the moment, though, I feel like an awkward zombie, while my smoking cravings have seemed to double or even treble. (Although that might be from my desperate terror of the impending quit date approaching rapidly.)

And DOPAMINE! I've been getting flashes all week of scenes from Awakenings -- Robin Williams throwing rubber balls at zombified wheelchair-bound seniors who snap to attention to catch the ball suddenly. Will I become Robert De Niro in a bad suit and bad haircut?

Other people online have reported only being able to sleep three or four hours a night; eerie, vivid dreams; extended effort in ejaculation; social anxiety, including agoraphobia; fatigue, and an avoidance of volition; and difficulty separating the boundaries of reality and imagination.

So how would that be greatly different from the way I live now?

I've always found myself rather tolerant of psychosomatic drugs, and adjust to them easily. Certainly things never leave, no matter how fucked-up my brain is processing perception: reading comprehension, sense of direction, an ability to compose sentences. And here I am, otherwise zombified, but this post is flowing easily, without struggling for words. The words I do struggle for are the spoken ones -- my ability to talk and form speech is easily upset, and I have found myself wrestling with the next word in conversation.

The worst side-effect Chantix users have reported is "suicidal ideation" -- considering offing yourself, often with endlessly repeated loops of inner voices reiterating your general worthlessness and urging you do just end it all. So far, my inner voices are the usual demons and angels with their endless chatter and backtalk, but nothing out of the ordinary. I'm not that worried about potential obsession over suicidal consideration; I've got too much shit I want to do: books to write, orgasms to have, conversations to struggle through, movies to criticize or to make me cry, cats to pet, chocolate to eat.

And it's been suggested endlessly that smoking is a form of slow suicide. I must not want that, either.

So if it takes a little zombification to quit smoking, then so be it.

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