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    Varenicline vs cytisine

    On this page
    1. What is varenicline?
    2. What is cytisine?
    3. How are varenicline and cytisine the same?
    4. Varenicline vs cytisine – the differences
    5. Is varenicline better than cytisine for quitting smoking?
    6. Which treatment is right for me?
    7. Stop smoking advice

    Reviewed by Dr Sameer Sanghvi

    On average it can take 30 or more attempts to quit smoking. Using a stop smoking treatment alongside your willpower can help you quit. But it can be hard to know what type of smoking cessation might work for you.

    In the article we look at varenicline and cytisine prescription-only treatments. How they work, how they’re different and which one may be right for you. 

    Varenicline vs cytisine

    What is varenicline?

    Varenicline is a tablet that you take every day. When you smoke nicotine binds to receptors in your brain and stimulates them. Varenicline binds to the same receptors and stimulates them. These receptors are now blocked, which means nicotine can’t bind to them.

    Varenicline works to reduce the cravings and withdrawal symptoms that happen when you stop smoking. A 12-week course is recommended and side effects such as nausea can occur. This tends to be mild and gets better over time.

    What is cytisine?

    Cytisine mimics the effects of nicotine. It’s a tablet that you take every day. It reduces the urge to smoke by ‘tricking’ your brain into thinking you’ve had a cigarette. Cytisine also helps curb cravings and other withdrawal symptoms. The standard course of treatment is 25 days. It can also cause headaches and nausea; however, the side effects are less common.

    How are varenicline and cytisine the same?

    Both treatments can increase your chances of quitting smoking. These treatments are designed to help with withdrawal symptoms. Neither treatment contains nicotine – the substance that makes cigarettes addictive.

    They both attach themselves to the same neuronal receptors in your brain as nicotine does. The medications can lessen the pleasure people experience when they smoke. So that cravings for cigarettes are lessoned while you’re taking the medication.

    Varenicline vs cytisine – the differences

    Although both medications are used to help smokers quit, they have different ways of working and effectiveness. Other differences include:

    • How long you take the treatment
    • Price
    • Dosages
    • Dosing schedule
    • Side effects  

    Is varenicline better than cytisine for quitting smoking?

    In studies varenicline has been shown to be more effective against other smoking products including cystine. However, findings highlighted that participants experienced fewer side effects when taking cytisine and were more likely to finish the course. It’s important to note that they’re both medications that can help you stop smoking.

    Which treatment is right for me?

    Everyone is different and what works for one person may not work for another. When it comes to quitting smoking, it may take some time to find a treatment that works for you. You may even find you have to try a treatment a few times to really quit for good.

    With our Online Doctor service, you’ll be asked a few questions. One of our clinicians will review your answers and then prescribe the most appropriate treatment for you. This will either be varenicline or cytisine, you can then choose to have it delivered to your home or collect it from your nearest convenient location.

    Stop smoking advice

    The most important thing is not to give up. Keep trying until you find the right combination of treatments that work for you. Let your friends and family know you’re quitting smoking so they can support you too.

    To keep you motivated read about the benefits of quitting smoking. Also, what to expect day by day with our stop smoking timeline. We have a library of healthy lifestyle advice online to help you make lasting changes.


    Authors and editors

    • Reviewed and updated by

      Dr Sameer Sanghvi
      GMC number: 7085078
      Date reviewed: 3rd April 2024

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