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Comments: February 25, 2008

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1. “This Is My Brain on Chantix,” by Derek de Koff (February 18), about his experience taking the controversial anti-smoking drug, inspired readers to share their own travails with quitting smoking. The major issue debated on nymag.com was whether it was Chantix that caused the worrisome side effects that De Koff described or whether they were unavoidable symptoms of nicotine withdrawal. Nicotine is “a horrible addiction to have,” wrote Ano O. “At least with Chantix, I didn’t find myself suddenly smoking after weeks off the nicotine with no explanation as to how I got the cigarettes. Chantix has probably saved my life, not the inverse.” Another reader added, “If you have ever tried cold-turkey, well, agitation and anxiety are associated with it. I don’t mean to sound sarcastic here, but … I’d much rather have a quick and easy death by means of taking my own life, rather than the long, painful suicide people choose for themselves by continuing with their cigarette habit.” But there were also many who put the blame directly on the drug. “I have no history of suicidal thoughts or depression or mood swings—nothing,” wrote Megan83. “I took Chantix for 5 weeks and I became depressed, irrational, and plain old mean! I would not recommend this to anyone! My fiancé was on it as well and he had a dream during a 5-minute nap that he blew his head off with a shotgun. When he awoke, he felt like he was supposed to kill himself. Thankfully he didn’t.” A commenter who identified himself as a doctor acknowledged the risks of Chantix but said he prescribes it for certain patients because it “is better than anything we have ever had for smoking cessation. Cigarette addiction is so powerful and so nasty people will put up with hallucinations and near-suicidal thoughts.” Some had yet to make up their minds—“Chantix has made me not want to smoke, but if I don’t get my head back soon it will not have been worth it”—and more than one commenter empathized with De Koff’s mental anguish, never mind the cause: “Your ‘Chantix madness’ state describes my everyday living. I had no idea of the profound differences between my view of the world and the view of normal people. Maybe I should give myself a little more slack when I pop off on someone every month or so.”

2. One interesting thread that came out of the discussion on nymag.com about Dead Man’s Float(February 18), Stephen Rodrick’s story about the hard, fast life of the late hedge-funder Seth Tobias, was whether the magazine should ever write about such sleazy characters. One reader quoted Eleanor Roosevelt: “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people,” while another simply asked, “Aren’t there more interesting things, more useful things, more, let’s be frank, decent material for the magazine to publish?”

3. The reference to Skinny Shakes in What We’re Eating in “Strategist 1968” (February 18, 2008), the opening salvo of our 40th anniversary celebrations, triggered this vivid memory from Lynn Hecht Schafran: “In the summer of 1968 I was working at the Museum of Modern Art and pregnant with my first child. I was so enamored of Skinny Shakes that I walked back and forth to Peter Pan in the West Forties every day at lunch to get one, and because I believed that Skinny Shakes were only 88 calories, I forced myself to eat a sandwich as well for the benefit of the imminent baby. The day my son was born my husband even went down to Peter Pan and brought a Skinny Shake to the hospital. And then came the news that it was a fraud; Skinny Shakes were vastly more than 88 calories. Alas, they were delicious.”


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