Wellbutrin withdrawal symptoms (AKA bupropion) can range from mild to moderate or be severe enough to require hospitalization. Be cautious when stopping this medication. Gradual tapering can help to avoid otherwise hard to tolerate discomforts as well as life-threatening or health-compromising risks. More information on the risks and phenomena of Wellbutrin withdrawal can be found below.
Wellbutrin withdrawal symptoms include:
Seizures can occur while taking, during tapering, or even after stopping Wellbutrin. Seizures can be life-threatening. If possible, arrange a constant companion or caregiver who is easily accessible to you during and after cessation.18,33
Suicidality can occur while taking, tapering, or even after Wellbutrin withdrawal is completed. Stay in close contact with someone who can monitor carefully during and after cessation.4,18
Neuropsychiatric phenomena during withdrawal of Wellbutrin are noted on the FDA drug label, but not otherwise specified beyond suicidality and seizures.4
Two case studies, one male and one female, each at the same dosages reported nearly identical withdrawal symptoms of anxiety, insomnia, irritability, headache, generalized aches and pains, and feeling like they wanted to crawl out of their skin.8,9
Despite the known dangers, antidepressants are still typically prescribed without any investigation into other life factors, lab testing, or even a conversation informing the patient about Wellbutrin withdrawal and potential withdrawal symptoms. The shortcomings of this approach seem self-evident.
Alternative to Meds has been the leader in safe antidepressant withdrawal for 15 years. Our founding members and many of the staff are survivors of medication debacles. We have outcome studies and published evidence validating our success. We have seen the worst of the worst, and we want you to know that you are not alone.
This video details the story of a woman who had lost the ability to function entirely. She explains how she got her life back from the adverse effects of antidepressants and benzodiazepines. Many people who come to us for help say “no one can be as bad off as me.” We are not the typical spin-dry rehab. You will easily see that ATMC takes on the worst of the worst, and is truly creating miracles.
15 Years Experience by Professionals Who Understand Your Journey.
As for all antidepressants, gradually stopping Wellbutrin over weeks or months is the safest approach and should be done under careful monitoring and guidance.6,18
Can I Quit Wellbutrin Cold Turkey?
Cold turkey Wellbutrin withdrawal is NOT recommended, except in the case of seizures presenting while on this antidepressant drug. There are many reasons to NOT quit Wellbutrin cold turkey, or too suddenly.
Some withdrawal effects may present unexpectedly, even after some time has passed since stopping the drug. Protracted withdrawal symptoms can be debilitating and may require reinstating the drug to stabilize the person before successful titration can occur. According to the FDA drug label, if seizures occur, the drug should be stopped immediately. If other disturbing psychiatric symptoms emerge, these should be reported to your physician so that medication changes can be initiated. Always seek medical guidance for the stopping of and management of drugs like Wellbutrin.4
This is can introduce complexity where Wellbutrin 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 Wellbutrin and such combinations require exact guidance under medical supervision and require discussion with your primary doctor to avoid these risks.4,7
Wellbutrin is a second-generation NDRI antidepressant medication for the treatment of depressive disorders and is FDA-approved under the name “Zyban” for smoking cessation. Wellbutrin inhibits the reuptake of both dopamine and norepinephrine, according to research by Stahl et al, published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.16 First-generation antidepressants (TCAs such as amitriptyline and MOAIs such as Eutonyl) have largely fallen out of popularity due to their significant burden of adverse side effects including suicides, seizures, and dangerous interactions with other drugs, as well as many foods and beverages common to the Western diet.2 Tragically, second-generation antidepressants such as Wellbutrin and other bupropion-based drugs have not panned out to be as risk-free as drug manufacturers had initially hoped. For example, as stated on the package insert, Wellbutrin showed an increased risk of completed suicide and suicidal attempts, and suicidal thoughts in those under the age of 25 both during clinical trials and after discontinuation.5
The stimulant effects of Wellbutrin were overlooked in early research, but have been more closely studied in recent years, showing that its molecular profile is similar to that of amphetamines and cocaine.
Studies from recent decades have shown a likely increase in dopamine availability after ingesting Wellbutrin.11,13,16,33
This research clarifies why Wellbutrin has developed a significant street presence for the “high,” described as similar to cocaine, that is produced by crushing and snorting or injecting the drug.12,33 Other side effects and withdrawal adverse effects are featured below along with some of the most commonly asked questions about the antidepressant Wellbutrin.
Special Warning About Wellbutrin Withdrawal Symptoms
Withdrawal symptoms may not appear until some days have passed since the last dose was taken. Symptoms should be closely monitored even well beyond completing the cessation period.18
Discontinuing Wellbutrin can be managed safely, though being under the care and supervision of a prescribing doctor familiar with discontinuing antidepressants is most highly recommended.
The safest recommendation is for Wellbutrin withdrawal to take place in an inpatient setting where physical and psychological factors can be immediately observed and addressed for successful recovery in a supportive atmosphere.
What Is Wellbutrin Used For?
Wellbutrin is FDA approved for the treatment of MDD, (major depressive disorder) in adults aged 25 and older. Under the brand name Zyban, it is prescribed to help in smoking cessation. Despite black box warnings, off-label prescribing 19 may also include:
ADHD in the pediatric population
Seasonal affective disorder
Antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction
Weight loss, obesity
Depression in bipolar disorder
It should be noted that in July 2012 the drugmaker was fined $3 billion for fraudulently promoting Wellbutrin and other prescription medications and for withholding safety data, resulting in the largest drug fraud case in US history up to that date.32
Wellbutrin Side Effects
Four out of every thousand people taking less than 450mg of Wellbutrin daily experience seizures. Seizures are potentially life-threatening and are a hallmark of toxicity.33 Over 450mg daily, the risk increases sevenfold. Also important to note is that 68% to 77% of Wellbutrin-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
The side effects listed below are taken from various sources. A comprehensive list of Wellbutrin side effects can be found on the drug label information,4 and in the book entitled “Bupropion” authored by Huecker et al, published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information.19
Wellbutrin side effects can include:
Suicidality: Wellbutrin is associated with suicidal thoughts, and behaviors, including deaths by suicide. Wellbutrin is high-risk in overdoses, meaning an overdose is often fatal.
Cardiovascular adverse events: tachycardia
Respiratory issues: rhinitis, pharyngitis
Central Nervous System adverse events: insomnia, headache, migraine, agitation, dizziness, akathisia, restlessness, aggressive or compulsive behaviors
Psychiatric symptoms: activation of acute psychosis 20 and/or mania, depression or worsened depression, hallucinations, paranoia, confusion
When used as a meth-like or cocaine-like stimulant, the drug is snorted or injected, releasing the drug into the bloodstream nearly instantly.31 These effects can lead to repeated use and addiction. More information on these phenomena can be found below.
Wellbutrin (bupropion) Alternative Names and Slang
Wellbutrin and its various versions have been shown to be particularly subject to abuse, and there are substantial risks for recreational users, a growing trend both on city streets and in prison populations. Wellbutrin is commonly referred to as “poor man’s cocaine” for its cocaine-like stimulant effects. Prescription drug diversion has become a huge concern for health care workers.31
Wellbutrin Withdrawal FAQs
The following are some of the most frequently asked questions regarding Wellbutrin. It should be noted that the 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 neurochemistry, this amphetamine-like effect is likely a component.
Can Wellbutrin Get You High?
Wellbutrin has structural similarities to cocaine, amphetamines, and various compounds of amphetamines which class includes methamphetamines and MDMA, otherwise known as ecstasy.1
This is why some features of Wellbutrin withdrawal mimic those of stimulant drugs with similar structures and mechanisms of action.
Bupropion or Wellbutrin is sometimes used recreationally by crushing and snorting or injecting it, which users say causes a cocaine-like high. Injecting Wellbutrin has been shown to cause 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 Wellbutrin in this fashion.2,3,20
When used as a meth-like or cocaine-like stimulant, the drug is snorted or injected, releasing bupropion into the bloodstream nearly instantly, causing such effects as:
Euphoria, high, exhilaration
Paranoia, feelings of persecution
Necrosis of the injection site
Can Wellbutrin Be Used for Smoking Cessation (Quitting Nicotine)?
Wellbutrin is the brand name when prescribed for depression or prescribed off-label for other reasons, but the active ingredient is identical to that used in Zyban, sold for quitting smoking. Therefore, Zyban and Wellbutrin and bupropion, the generic name, are identical drugs despite the different name tags and FDA approval categories. Please note that information on Wellbutrin and Wellbutrin withdrawal would apply to all of these drug names.
In a somewhat puzzling set of guidelines, Zyban is recommended for quitting smoking but not FDA approved for the treatment of depression.
Conversely, Wellbutrin is recommended for the treatment of depression but is not FDA approved for quitting smoking.4
Can You Stop Taking Wellbutrin Suddenly?
According to Stall et al, early research described Wellbutrin to be without psychostimulant effects. However, the authors report that more recent research shows growing concern over Wellbutrin as an addictive drug with a high risk of abuse. Many persons have become inadvertently dependent on the substance, especially where the drug has become recreationally abused through snorting or injection for increased drug effects, which are described as similar to cocaine or amphetamines.33
Whether or not the drug was used as prescribed, or whether it became a drug of choice for abuse, the risks, barriers, and difficulties of abrupt Wellbutrin withdrawal are well-documented.
An integral component in healing from drug dependence involves gradually and gently overcoming Wellbutrin withdrawals. Stopping antidepressants suddenly is NOT recommended because the harshness of the kickback can cause a person to fail, and continue in the trap of drug dependence and drug addiction. Gradual reduction helps a person reach their goal of stopping Wellbutrin safely.
Treatment for Wellbutrin Abuse and Addiction
Alternative to Meds Center offers holistic treatments that are extremely useful for Wellbutrin withdrawal. Research shows that drugs decrease the production of natural neurochemical receptors, a leading cause of drug tolerance and dependence.22Nutritional testing and correction of nutritional deficiencies which is part of the treatment regimen at the center aims to provide the raw materials so the body can rebuild its neurochemistry back to a healthy and functioning state.34
A large body of evidence demonstrates that neurotoxic substances such as mercury, lead, cadmium, pesticides, etc., lodged in the body can create symptoms that are overlooked, and often labeled “mental illness.” 23-25 The logical approach is neurotoxin removal which allows stasis to return in a natural and healthy way. Cleansing therapies are some of our most popular therapies delivered during Wellbutrin withdrawal. CBT and other genres of counseling are also extremely helpful in drug recovery, providing authentic relief for areas of unhandled trauma, life upheavals and losses, and other personal areas that respond well to counseling.26 The safest and most stress-free way to discontinue Wellbutrin is to enroll in an inpatient facility that is equipped to carefully monitor and avoid severe withdrawal symptoms. Programs at Alternative to Meds Center utilize holistic psychiatry and are highly enriched with alternative treatments to safely resolve underlying causes of symptoms. Nutritional psychiatry is a fundamental pillar of regaining mental wellness.
Adjunctive therapies provided at Alternative to Meds Center, such as working with an Equine therapist, yoga instructor, acupuncturist, or learning Qi Gong, for some very popular examples, may be of great help not only during recovery but for the rest of your life. You may be interested in drug-free methods of quitting smoking, alleviating stress, or learning how to implement lifestyle changes including the importance of diet, supplements, and exercise for natural mental health, that can empower a person to maintain natural mental health for real, without medication.27-30
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 discover and treat the root cause of such difficulties without drugs. Please contact us for more information on the programs we offer at Alternative to Meds Center, 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. Please also feel free to inquire about insurance coverage, estimated length of stay, and any other details about our Wellbutrin withdrawal program you or a loved one may be interested in.
Diane is an avid supporter and researcher of natural mental health strategies. Diane received her medical writing and science communication certification through Stanford University and has published over 3 million words on the topics of holistic health, addiction, recovery, and alternative medicine. She has proudly worked with the Alternative to Meds Center since its inception and is grateful for the opportunity to help the founding members develop this world-class center that has helped so many thousands regain natural mental health.
Medical Disclaimer: Nothing on this Website is intended to be taken as medical advice. The information provided on the website is intended to encourage, not replace, direct patient-health professional relationships. Always consult with your doctor before altering your medications. Adding nutritional supplements may alter the effect of medication. Any medication changes should be done only after proper evaluation and under medical supervision.