violence

  1. Quit smoking -- or die trying?

    Nearly 70 percent of all smokers want to quit -- and half of them have tried and failed over the last year, according to new numbers from the CDC.

    Obviously, it ain't easy.

    But if there's anything worse for you than tobacco, it's when the meds that are supposed to help you kick the habit up your suicide and depression risk instead.

    And researchers say Chantix, the med most commonly given to smokers, has been found to do exactly that -- with one new analysis concluding that it'll boost your odds of suicide or severe depression by a stunning 800 percent.

    Not exactly the type of "quit" you're looking for -- but instead of warning smokers away from the med or even issuing a long-overdue recall for Chantix, the feds are actually defending it.

    In fact, the FDA says its own review of data from two studies finds no difference in hospitalization rates for psychiatric problems. So case closed -- go ahead and take your Chantix, smokers.

    But before you fill that prescription, read the fine print on that reassuring new message from the FDA -- because the agency admits it didn't bother to look at psychiatric incidents that didn't lead to hospitalization.

    In other words, a suicide victim found dead wouldn't count, nor would a seriously depressed person who's never hospitalized (and remember -- many depressed people never seek any help at all).

    You know what's even crazier than the fact that the FDA didn't consider non-hospitalizations? It's that the agency actually has that extra data... and didn't even bother to look at it!

    That's where the new study comes in, because researchers combed the FDA's own Adverse Event Reporting System and found 3,249 reports of serious self-injury or depression linked to anti-smoking products like meds and nicotine gum since 1998.

    Chantix was only on the market four of those 13 years... but was involved in a whopping 2,925 of those cases, or 90 percent of the total.

    Try to explain that one, FDA.

    Other studies have also made the connection between Chantix use and serious behavioral issues -- and not just suicide and depression. One found that Chantix users are 18 times more likely to be involved in violence than people who take other meds.

    Violence, I should point out, also generally doesn't lead to a hospitalization -- although it could certainly end in prison or even death.

    Bottom line here: Quitting smoking is a great goal -- and with the New Year fast approaching (already!), it's the one resolution you should put at the top of your list.

    But do it without meds.

  2. How not to quit smoking

    A long list of risks just got even longer: The feds now say the anti-smoking drug Chantix can boost the odds of a heart attack.

    They claim the risk is small... but hey, they think you should know about it anyway.

    Isn't that nice of them?

    The FDA says a recent study of 700 smokers who already had cardiovascular disease found that patients who took the drug were a little more likely to suffer chest pain, non-fatal heart attacks, and other heart problems than those who were given a placebo.

    The agency says it'll update the warning labels and has ordered the drug's maker, Pfizer, to carry out a new analysis of previous trials to see if there's any other evidence of heart risk attached to the med.

    That's a little like asking a student to grade his own homework, isn't it?

    In this case, however, the "homework" is responsible for $800 million in annual sales -- so you can bet the student will give himself an "A+++" if he can.

    The truth is, we don't need a new analysis, a new study, or even a new warning to know that this med is bad news.

    Just look at all the risks -- including the possibility of suicide, even in patients who were not depressed before they started taking the drug. One recent study found that Chantix-related suicides could be twice as common as previously reported. (Read about it here.)

    The drug has also been linked to hostility, aggression and violence -- so much so that one analysis earlier this year found that Chantix users are 18 times more likely to be involved in violence than those who take any other drug. (Click here to read more.)

    Other side effects include hallucinations, paranoia, confusion and weird dreams -- and some of them can actually kick in even after you stop taking the drug.

    Of course, the feds say patients need to weigh the risks against the benefits -- and they think the risks of this drug are nothing compared to the benefits of kicking your tobacco habit.

    But that argument is a little ridiculous when you consider that up to 80 percent of all patients who try Chantix are back to smoking within a year.

    In other words, there's not a lot of benefit here... only more risk, hidden in a big cloud of FDA-approved smoke.

  3. Drugged into violence

    One of the most common drugs given to smokers is actually turning them into raging monsters, and could even make them homicidal: Chantix.

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