Bupropion (Wellbutrin/Zyban) Side Effects & Uses in Addiction Treatment

2 min read · 5 sections

Bupropion is an antidepressant and smoking cessation medication used to treat depression, bipolar disorder, as well as nicotine withdrawal and cravings. Bupropion is widely known by its brand names: Wellbutrin, Wellbutrin SR, Wellbutrin XL, Zyban, and Aplenzin.

History of Bupropion

bupropionBupropion is manufactured and marketed by GlaxoSmithKline. Before it was developed, amphetamines were used to treat depression well into the 1930s.

Bupropion was created in 1966 and patented by GlaxoSmithKline (then Burroughs-Wellcome) in 1974. It was approved by the FDA in 1985 and was marketed under the name Wellbutrin. At that time, seizures were a common side effect because of the 400-600mg recommended dosages. Later the amount of the drug was capped at 450 mg per dose.

As a result, the drug was removed from the market in 1986. In 1996, a sustained-release tablet was introduced so bupropion could be released into the body at slower rates, and this was the version approved for reentry into the market by the FDA. This version of the drug was released for prescription in 1997 as Zyban.

In 2003, Wellbutrin XL was released in an extended-release format. This version of bupropion only needs to be taken once a day. Partially due to this lowered dosing, the likelihood of seizures occurring is the same as it is with other antidepressant medications.

How Bupropion Treats Addiction

Under the name Zyban, bupropion has successfully been used to treat people who want to stop smoking. Thus, one does not need to have depression or its symptoms in order to receive this prescription. The drug helps reduce cravings for tobacco and ease the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal, but it doesn’t have nicotine as an ingredient. Even so, those who want to use bupropion to stop smoking can increase their chances of success if they use other nicotine replacements, such as nicotine gum, inhalers, or patches.

Bupropion can be prescribed to people over the age of 18 who smoke 10 or more cigarettes daily. It should be taken 1-2 weeks before quitting smoking, and it is normally taken 7-12 weeks after quitting smoking completely. It can also be safely taken by some between 6 months to 1 year after quitting smoking. By taking bupropion before quitting, the right levels of medicine can stabilize in the body to aid the quitting process.

Bupropion Side Effects

Some of bupropion’s documented side effects include dry mouth, drowsiness, difficulty staying or falling asleep, headaches, anxiety, excitement, weight loss, ringing in the ears, frequent urination, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, constipation, and excess sweating.

Some of the more serious side effects include seizures, confusion, irregular heartbeat, pains in a particular muscle or joint, hallucinations, and confusions.

Those who experience side effects, such as fevers, rashes, blisters, chest pain, hoarseness, hives, chest pains, or swelling in the face, ears, throat, or legs should consult their doctor immediately and get emergency medical care.

Bupropion Dose & Half-Life

A qualified physician will determine the correct dosage for each patient. The typical dosage is one 150-mg tablet daily for three days. The dose is then increased to no more than 300 mg per day. Patients must wait eight hours between doses.

The pill should be swallowed whole and not crushed, cut, or chewed in any way. Disrupting the method of delivery in these ways can increase the risk of seizures. Bupropion can be taken with or without a meal.

Patients who have liver (hepatic) problems might have to take a lower dosage of 150 mg for their treatment. Doctors can individualize treatment with bupropion depending on the patient’s risk or past dependence on tobacco.

People with alcohol use problems, eating disorders, who are also taking medication that contains bupropion (such as Wellbutrin or its generic version), who have seizures or who have health conditions that put them at risk for receiving seizures, and who are currently taking a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) should not take bupropion. Women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant should consult with their doctors before taking bupropion.

The half-life of bupropion seems to depend on individual metabolisms, but it averages 21 hours, with a nine-hour margin. It takes eight days for the body to have enough bupropion to start easing the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal and reduce tobacco cravings.

Risk of Overdose

In case of overdose, call 911. Stay on the line with the dispatcher and report as much information as you can, including if the person taking bupropion has collapsed or is otherwise not responding.

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