How to Use Varenicline

How to Use Varenicline
Varenicline icon


Varenicline icon
  • You’ll need a prescription from a prescribing healthcare provider for varenicline. Take varenicline exactly as directed by your doctor or other healthcare provider.
  • Varenicline is a pill that comes in two strengths: 0.5 mg (a white pill) and 1 mg (a blue pill). Varenicline does not contain nicotine.
  • Your doctor or other healthcare provider will help you decide when to start taking varenicline. There are two ways that people commonly use it:
    • Option 1: You choose a quit date when you will stop smoking and then start taking varenicline one week before your quit date. This helps the medicine build up in your body before you quit. You can keep smoking during this time but be sure to stop smoking on your quit date.
    • Option 2: You start taking varenicline before you choose your exact quit date. Then you pick a quit date that is 8 to 35 days after you start taking varenicline. Be sure to quit smoking on the quit date you’ve set.
  • Your doctor or other healthcare provider will give you dosing instructions. Most people are started on a lower dose at first to get used to the medication:
    • Days 1 to 3: Take one white pill (0.5 mg) each day.
    • Days 4 to 7: Take two white pills (0.5 mg each) per day – one in the morning and one in the evening.
    • Days 8 until the end of treatment: Take two blue pills (1 mg each) per day – one in the morning and one in the evening.
  • Take varenicline with food or a full glass of water to minimize potential nausea from the medication.
  • If you miss a dose of varenicline, take it as soon as you remember. If it is close to your next dose, just wait and take your next dose at your regular dosing time.
  • Most people take varenicline for 12 weeks. Your healthcare provider might prescribe it for longer, if needed.
  • Varenicline can have side effects:
    • Be careful when driving or operating machinery until you know how varenicline may affect you. Some people may feel sleepy or dizzy, or have trouble concentrating.
    • If you are using varenicline and experience hostility, agitation, depression, suicidal thoughts, or changes in how you act that you don’t think are due to quitting smoking, you should stop taking the medicine and talk to your doctor right away. Get emergency medical help if needed.
    • Tell your doctor or other healthcare provider if you have new or worsening symptoms of heart disease while taking varenicline, including chest pain and shortness of breath. Get emergency medical help if needed.
  • Keep out of reach of children and pets. In case of accidental use or ingestion of varenicline, contact a Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) and/or visit an emergency room right away.
  • Learn more about varenicline, including side effects and precautions.
How to Use Varenicline to Quit Smoking
Varenicline is a prescription medicine approved by the FDA to help people quit smoking. When your doctor prescribes it, they will give you detailed instructions on how to use it. This video offers general instructions on how to use varenicline. This video is part of a collaboration with the National Cancer Institute’s Initiative.

For more help using medicines to quit smoking, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW or visit Talk with your healthcare provider about the best medicine for you. Using medicine together with behavioral counseling gives you the best chance of quitting smoking.

Quick varenicline tips
Doctor consulting with patient about quit smoking meds

No product endorsement implied.

  • Varenicline works differently than other quit-smoking medicines and may be a good option for people who have tried using other medicines to quit before but haven’t been able to quit successfully.
  • What if I can’t sleep or I start having unusual dreams while taking varenicline? Varenicline can cause sleep disturbances and abnormal or vivid dreams. If these bother you, contact your healthcare provider.
  • What if I feel nauseous while taking varenicline? Nausea is a common side effect of taking varenicline. If you feel nauseous, be sure you are taking varenicline with a full glass of water. You can also talk with your healthcare provider about lowering the dose of your medication.
  • For best results, use varenicline as part of a program that includes coaching support. Talk with your healthcare provider and connect with your state tobacco quitline (1-800-QUIT-NOW) for help.
The quit-smoking medicines talked about on this website are approved by the FDA for adults to use to quit cigarettes. If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or younger than 18, you should not use these medicines without talking to your doctor. If you use tobacco products other than cigarettes (like cigars, chew, snuff, hookah, or e-cigarettes), talk to your doctor or other healthcare provider or call the quitline (1-800-QUIT-NOW) to get help with quitting. All the ways to use medicines presented here are reviewed in Smoking Cessation: A Report of the Surgeon General (Chapter 6) [PDF-1.8 MB]. Some of the ways have not been evaluated or approved by the FDA.