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Wellbutrin (Bupropion) Side Effects, Withdrawal and FAQs

Bupropion, trade names Wellbutrin, Zyban and others, is an antidepressant medication for the treatment of depression disorders, and to quit smoking, that showed an increased risk of completed suicide and suicidal thoughts in those under the age of 25 in clinical trials or after discontinuation.
The FDA has issued warnings that restrict prescribing Wellbutrin (bupropion) or Zyban for smoking cessation to those under the age of 25 due to increased risk of suicidality, suicidal ideation and completed suicide either during the prescription period or after discontinuation of the drug.

Other side effects and withdrawal adverse effects are featured below along with some of the most commonly asked questions about the antidepressant Wellbutrin.

Please note that with all antidepressants, gradually stopping the drug is the safest approach and should be done under careful monitoring and guidance. Some withdrawal effects may present unexpectedly, even after some time has passed since stopping the drug.

This is especially pertinent where bupropion has been used in addition to other medications in the treatment of depression or other types of disorders. Many medications and substances, including alcohol, can interact negatively with bupropion and such combinations require exact guidance under medical supervision, and require discussion with your primary doctor to avoid these risks.

What is Wellbutrin (Bupropion) Used For?

Wellbutrin (bupropion) is used for many purposes but was initially FDA-approved for these uses primarily:

  • MDD (major depressive disorder)
  • Smoking cessation
  • Seasonal affective disorder

Off-label uses have developed in the treatments of:

  • PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder)
  • Anxiety disorders
  • ADHD (attention deficit hyperactive disorder)
  • Social phobia
  • Neuropathy (nerve pain)
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Cocaine dependence
  • Parkinson’s disease

Wellbutrin (Bupropion) Alternative Names and Slang

Brand names in the US include Aplenzin, Buproban, ForfivoXL, Wellbutrin SR, Wellbutrin XL, Zyban, Zyban Advantage Pack and Budeprion XL. There are dozens of other brand names for other countries.

Wellbutrin and its various versions have been shown to be particularly subject to abuse, and there are substantial risks for recreational users, which has become a growing trend.

On the streets in Toronto, the drug is commonly  referred to as “poor man`s cocaine“ for its cocaine-like stimulant effects.    

Wellbutrin (Bupropion) Side Effects

Four out of every thousand people taking less than 450 mg daily experience seizures; over 450 mg daily, the risk increases seven fold. Also important to note is that 68% to 77% of bupropion-induced seizures occur within the first 4 hours of taking the drug. The higher the dose, the more likely a seizure is to occur, and some seizures can be fatal.  (1)

Apart from the risk of seizure, other side effects of taking Wellbutrin can include:

  • Suicidality (Wellbutrin is associated with suicidal thoughts, and behaviors, including deaths by suicide. Wellbutrin is high-risk in overdoses, meaning often fatal.)
  • Depression
  • Worsened depression
  • Digestive issues such as indigestion, cramps
  • Tachycardia
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Confusion
  • Rashes
  • High blood pressure
  • Hives
  • Nausea
  • Chest pain
  • Stomach pain
  • Migraine, headache
  • Fever
  • Flushing
  • Twitching
  • Hot flashes
  • Agitation
  • Nervousness
  • Shakiness
  • Tremors
  • Weight loss
  • Sore throat
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle pain
  • Myalgia (pain in a group of muscles)
  • Frequent urination
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation
  • Sinusitis
  • Problems swallowing
  • Loss of balance
  • Heat intolerance

When used as a meth-like or cocaine-like stimulant, the drug is snorted or injected, releasing the drug into the blood stream nearly instantly, causing such effects as:

  • Euphoria
  • Exhilaration
  • Increased self-esteem
  • Increased energy, activity
  • Loss of appetite
  • Reduced need for sleep
  • Long periods of wakefulness
  • insomnia

These effects can lead to repeated use and addiction.

Wellbutrin (Bupropion) Withdrawal Symptoms

Wellbutrin (bupropion) withdrawal symptoms can be mild, moderate, or severe enough to require hospitalization. While some people do not experience more than mild discomforts, be cautious when stopping this medication. Gradually tapering can help to avoid life-threatening or health compromising risks.

Here are some of the withdrawal symptoms associated with Wellbutrin (bupropion) or Zyban:

  • Seizures can occur while taking, tapering, or even after stopping bupropion. Seizures can be life-threatening. Monitor carefully during and after cessation.
  • Suicidality can occur while taking, tapering, or even after stopping bupropion. Monitor carefully during and after cessation.
  • Flu-like symptoms (fever, chills, aches, pains, sweats).
  • Insomnia
  • Vertigo
  • Loss of balance
  • Headaches
  • Agitation
  • Nervousness
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Tachycardia
  • Sweating
  • Irritability
  • Hostility
  • Aggression

Discontinuing/Quitting Wellbutrin (Bupropion)

Warning: Withdrawal symptoms may not appear until some days have passed since the last dose was taken. Monitor symptoms even well beyond the cessation period is complete. (1)

Discontinuing Wellbutrin can be managed safely and though it can carry some risks and discomfort, discussing cessation with your prescribing doctor is recommended beforehand.

The safest recommendation is to seek medical guidance for cessation, preferably in an inpatient setting where physical as well as psychological factors can be addressed for successful recovery in a supportive atmosphere.

Wellbutrin (Bupropion) FAQs

Following are some of the most frequently asked questions regarding Wellbutrin (bupropion), Zyban, etc., and which data applies equally to all other versions of the drug.

Can Wellbutrin Cause Weight Loss?

Yes, Wellbutrin is associated with weight loss in some who take it. The reasons are not clearly understood, but may relate to the appetite suppressant effect of the drug.

Since it acts on stimulatory aspects of the neurochemistry, this amphetamine-like effect is likely a component.

Can Bupropion Get You High?

Bupropion has structural similarities to cocaine, amphetamines, and various compounds of amphetamines which class includes methamphetamines and MDMA, otherwise known as ecstasy. (1)

The drug is sometimes used recreationally by crushing and snorting or injecting it, which users say causes a cocaine-like high. Injecting the drug causes gruesome lesions and blood vessel damage, clots and infected abscesses, which despite their risks to health, do not significantly deter or curb such use from continuing. It is estimated that in one large Canadian city, approximately half of all IV drug users there have used bupropion in this fashion. (2) (3)

When used as a meth-like or cocaine-like stimulant, the drug is snorted or injected, releasing the drug into the blood stream nearly instantly, causing such effects as:

  • Euphoria
  • Exhilaration
  • Increased self-esteem
  • Increased energy, activity
  • Loss of appetite
  • Reduced need for sleep
  • Long periods of wakefulness
  • insomnia

Can Wellbutrin Be Used for Smoking Cessation (Quitting Nicotine)?

Wellbutrin is the brand name when prescribed for depression or PTSD, etc., but the active ingredient is identical to that used in over-the-counter drugs such as Zyban, sold for quitting smoking or other nicotine products. Therefore, Zyban and Wellbutrin are identical drugs despite the different name tags.

However, in a somewhat confusing set of guidelines, Zyban is recommended for quitting smoking but not recommended for the treatment of depression.

Conversely, Wellbutrin is recommended for the treatment of depression, but not recommended for quitting smoking. (4)

Treatment for Wellbutrin (Bupropion) Abuse and Addiction?

While Wellbutrin (bupropion) has not been considered habit-forming per se, nonetheless many persons become inadvertently dependent on the substance, or become addicted when used in ways that cause similar effects to cocaine, crack cocaine, or methamphetamines.

Whether or not the drug was used as prescribed, i.e., to treat PTSD or other disorders, or whether it became a drug of choice for abuse, the risks, barriers and difficulties of abruptly stopping the drug are well-documented, as cited earlier.

Assistance and medically guided gradual tapering is recommended to avoid the potential discomforts and risks of cessation when done on one’s own, and especially if attempted all at once which can be catastrophic. Never abruptly stop an antidepressant.

The safest and most stress-free way to discontinue Wellbutrin is to enroll in an inpatient facility which is equipped to carefully monitor and avoid severe withdrawal symptoms. Programs that offer methods to safely treat underlying symptoms are also preferred, such as drug-free methods of quitting smoking, or alleviating mental disorders such a depression or anxiety.

Alternative to Meds Center offers a dual-diagnosis set of protocols well-equipped to address both sides of addiction or drug dependence, as well as discovering and treating the root cause of such difficulties without drugs. Please contact us for more information on the programs we offer at the Alternative to Meds Center which have been designed to successfully treat dependence or addiction, and also to find solutions for the underlying symptoms that may have led to addiction or dependence on antidepressant drugs in the first place.


This content has been reviewed, and approved by a licensed physician.

Dr. John Motl, M.D.

Dr Motl is currently certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology in Psychiatry, and Board eligible in Neurology and licensed in the state of Arizona.  He holds a Bachelor’s of Science degree with a major in biology and minors in chemistry and philosophy. He graduated Creighton University School of Medicine with a Doctor of Medicine.  Dr. Motl has studied Medical Acupuncture at the Colorado School of Traditional Chinese Medicine and at U.C.L.A.

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