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Wellbutrin Withdrawal Symptoms

Wellbutrin (bupropion) withdrawal symptoms can be mild, moderate, or 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.

Wellbutrin withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Seizures can occur while taking, tapering, or even after stopping bupropion. Seizures can be life-threatening. Monitor carefully during and after cessation.1
  • Suicidality can occur while taking, tapering, or even after stopping bupropion. Monitor carefully during and after cessation.4
  • Worsening depression 13
  • Dizziness, loss of balance 17
  • Changes in mood, appetite, and sleep 8,14
  • Headaches 8,9
  • Agitation, irritability, aggressive compulsive behaviors 8,9,18
  • Lethargy 18
  • Cramps 18
  • Hallucinations 18
  • Sweating 18

Despite the known dangers of antidepressants, they are generally still 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.

Depression, smoking addiction, fatigue, and other symptoms for which Wellbutrin is prescribed can actually be the result of hormonal imbalances, vitamin D deficiency, dietary failings, food allergies, adrenal fatigue, neurotoxic accumulation, and many other reasons.

successful wellbutrin withdrawal

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About Wellbutrin and Wellbutrin Withdrawal

Bupropion, ( trade names Wellbutrin, Zyban ) is a second-generation NDRI antidepressant medication for the treatment of depressive disorders, and FDA approved as “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 (bupropion) and others 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 thoughts in those under the age of 25 both during clinical trials and after discontinuation.5

wellbutrin suicidal ideationThe stimulant effects of bupropion have been studied because its molecular profile is similar to that of amphetamines and cocaine. Studies on rats showed a likely increase in dopamine availability after ingesting bupropion.11 Wellbutrin has developed a significant street presence for the “high”, described as similar to cocaine, that is produced by crushing and snorting the drug.12 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 most antidepressants, gradually stopping the drug over weeks or months is the safest approach and should be done under careful monitoring and guidance.6 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 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.4,7

Discontinuing/Quitting Wellbutrin

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

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 preferably in an inpatient setting where physical, as well as psychological factors can be immediately observed and addressed for successful recovery in a supportive atmosphere.

What is Wellbutrin Used For?

Wellbutrin (bupropion) 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. Off-label prescribing may include these and other uses:

  • 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 2012 the drugmaker was fined $3 billion in fines for promoting Wellbutrin for several of these unapproved uses. 19

Wellbutrin Side Effects

Four out of every thousand people taking less than 450 mg Wellbutrin daily experience seizures. Over 450 mg daily, the risk increases sevenfold. 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

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 include:

  • Suicidality (Wellbutrin is associated with suicidal thoughts, and behaviors, including deaths by suicide. Wellbutrin is high-risk in overdoses, meaning often fatal.)
  • Seizures 1
  • Cardiovascular, i.e., tachycardia
  • Respiratory, i.e., rhinitis, pharyngitis
  • Central Nervous System, i.e., insomnia, headache, migraine, agitation, dizziness, akathisia, restlessness, aggressive or compulsive behaviors
  • Dermatologic, i.e., diaphoresis, flushing, hives, rashes
  • Endocrine, i.e., weight loss
  • Gastrointestinal, i.e., constipation, dry mouth, nausea, stomach pain, nausea, cramps
  • Musculoskeletal, i.e., tremor, twitching, shakiness
  • Ophthalmologic, i.e., blurred vision
  • Psychiatric symptoms, i.e., 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

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 both on city streets and in prison populations. Wellbutrin or bupropion 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 (bupropion) FAQs

The 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 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.2,3,20

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

  • Euphoria, high, exhilaration
  • Insomnia
  • Hallucination
  • Paranoia, feelings of persecution
  • Seizures
  • Necrosis of the injection site
  • Cellulitis

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 are identical drugs despite the different name tags and FDA approval categories.

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 not FDA approved for quitting smoking.4

Treatment for Wellbutrin Abuse and Addiction

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

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 abruptly stopping the drug are well-documented, as cited earlier.

An integral component in healing from drug dependence involves not only safely mitigating Wellbutrin withdrawals but in finding out as much as possible about what may have caused a person’s symptoms in the first place. Then these symptoms can resolve with proper treatment, and in most cases, without drug-based treatment.

inpatient drug rehab sedonaAlternative 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.22 Nutritional testing and correction of 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. 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 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 are highly enriched with alternative treatments to safely resolve underlying causes of symptoms. Working with an Equine therapist, yoga instructor, acupuncturist, or learning Qi Gong, for some examples, may be of great help 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 discovering and treating 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 may be interested in.


1. Hill S et al., “A Case Report of Seizure Induced by Bupropion Nasal Insufflation” Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry [ 2007 ] PMID 17599174 [cited 2020 Dec 2]

2. Sub Laban T, Saadabadi A. Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOI) [Updated 2021 Apr 16]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK539848/ [cited 2021 July 19]

3. Victoria, “Difference Between Zyban and Wellbutrin” DifferenceBetween.net. 2011 Jan 27 [cited 2020 Dec 2]

4. FDA drug label “Wellbutrin (bupropion hydrochloride Tablets.” [N.D] Ref. No 2978172 [cited 2020 Dec 2]

5. Wooltorton E, “Health and Drug Alerts: Bupropion (Zyban, Wellbutrin SR) : reports of deaths, seizures, serum sickness.” CMAJ 2002 Jan 8, PMID 11800252 [cited 2020 Dec 2]

6. Wilson E, Lader M. A review of the management of antidepressant discontinuation symptoms. Ther Adv Psychopharmacol. 2015;5(6):357-368. doi:10.1177/2045125315612334 [cited 2021 July 19]

7. Xue C, Zhang X, Cai W. Prediction of Drug-Drug Interactions with Bupropion and Its Metabolites as CYP2D6 Inhibitors Using a Physiologically-Based Pharmacokinetic Model. Pharmaceutics. 2017 Dec 21;10(1):1. doi: 10.3390/pharmaceutics10010001. PMID: 29267251; PMCID: PMC5874814. [cited 2021 July 19]

8. Berigan TR, Harazin JS. Bupropion-Associated Withdrawal Symptoms: A Case Report. Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry. 1999;1(2):50-51. doi:10.4088/pcc.v01n0205 [cited 2021 July 19]

9. Berigan TR. Bupropion-Associated Withdrawal Symptoms Revisited: A Case Report. Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry. 2002;4(2):78. doi:10.4088/pcc.v04n0208a [cited 2021 July 19]

10. Hill S, Sikand H, Lee J. A case report of seizure induced by bupropion nasal insufflation. Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry. 2007;9(1):67-69. doi:10.4088/pcc.v09n0114a [cited 2021 July 19]

11. Cooper BR, Hester TJ, Maxwell RA. Behavioral and biochemical effects of the antidepressant bupropion (Wellbutrin): evidence for selective blockade of dopamine uptake in vivo. J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 1980 Oct;215(1):127-34. PMID: 6778989. [cited 2021 July 19]

12. Stassinos GL, Klein-Schwartz W. Bupropion “Abuse” Reported to US Poison Centers. J Addict Med. 2016 Sep-Oct;10(5):357-62. doi: 10.1097/ADM.0000000000000249. PMID: 27504927. [cited 2021 July 19]

13. Tint A, Haddad PM, Anderson IM. The effect of rate of antidepressant tapering on the incidence of discontinuation symptoms: a randomised study. J Psychopharmacol. 2008 May;22(3):330-2. doi: 10.1177/0269881107081550. Erratum in: J Psychopharmacol. 2009 Nov;23(8):1006. PMID: 18515448. [cited 2021 July 19]

14. Lejoyeux M, Adès J. Antidepressant discontinuation: a review of the literature. J Clin Psychiatry. 1997;58 Suppl 7:11-5; discussion 16. PMID: 9219488. [cited 2021 July 19]

15. Fava M, Rush AJ, Thase ME, et al. 15 years of clinical experience with bupropion HCl: from bupropion to bupropion SR to bupropion XLPrim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry. 2005;7(3):106-113. doi:10.4088/pcc.v07n0305 [cited 2021 July 19]

16. Stahl SM, Pradko JF, Haight BR, Modell JG, Rockett CB, Learned-Coughlin S. A Review of the Neuropharmacology of Bupropion, a Dual Norepinephrine and Dopamine Reuptake Inhibitor. Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry. 2004;6(4):159-166. doi:10.4088/pcc.v06n0403 [cited 2021 July 19]

17. Wilson E, Lader M. A review of the management of antidepressant discontinuation symptoms. Ther Adv Psychopharmacol. 2015;5(6):357-368. doi:10.1177/2045125315612334 [cited 2021 July 19]

18. Fava GA, Benasi G, Lucente M, Offidani E, Cosci F, Guidi J. Withdrawal Symptoms after Serotonin-Noradrenaline Reuptake Inhibitor Discontinuation: Systematic Review. Psychother Psychosom. 2018;87(4):195-203. doi: 10.1159/000491524. Epub 2018 Jul 17. PMID: 30016772. [cited 2021 July 19]

19. Huecker MR, Smiley A, Saadabadi A. Bupropion. [Updated 2021 Apr 19]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470212/ [cited 2021 July 19]

20. Strike M, Hatcher S. Bupropion injection resulting in tissue necrosis and psychosis: previously undocumented complications of intravenous bupropion use disorder. J Addict Med. 2015 May-Jun;9(3):246-50. doi: 10.1097/ADM.0000000000000114. PMID: 25822212. [cited 2021 July 19]

21. Munoli RN, Kongasseri S, Praharaj SK, Sharma PS. Bupropion precipitating acute psychosis: a case report. Am J Ther. 2014 Mar-Apr;21(2):e45-7. doi: 10.1097/MJT.0b013e31823581c8. PMID: 23698185. [cited 2021 July 19]

22. NIDA. Impacts of Drugs on Neurotransmission. National Institute on Drug Abuse website. March 9, 2017 [cited 2021 July 20]

23. Barry JD, Wills BK. Neurotoxic emergencies. Psychiatr Clin North Am. 2013 Jun;36(2):219-44. doi: 10.1016/j.psc.2013.02.003. Epub 2013 Apr 11. PMID: 23688689. [cited 2021 July 20]

24. Orisakwe OE. The role of lead and cadmium in psychiatry. N Am J Med Sci. 2014;6(8):370-376. doi:10.4103/1947-2714.139283 [cited 2021 July 20]

25. Rare Diseases Govt. Fact Sheet, “Heavy Metal Poisoning.” April 27, 2017 [cited 2021 July 20]

26. Lissemore, J.I., Sookman, D., Gravel, P. et al. Brain serotonin synthesis capacity in obsessive-compulsive disorder: effects of cognitive behavioral therapy and sertraline. Transl Psychiatry 8, 82 (2018). [cited 2021 July 20]

27. Penckofer S, Kouba J, Byrn M, Estwing Ferrans C. Vitamin D and depression: where is all the sunshine?. Issues Ment Health Nurs. 2010;31(6):385-393. doi:10.3109/01612840903437657. [cited 2021 July 20]

28. Weir, K, “The Exercise Effect.” American Psychological Association Vol 42, No. 11 [cited 2021 July 20]

29. Understanding nutrition, depression and mental illnesses Indian J Psychiatry. 2008 Apr-Jun; 50(2): 77–82. T. S. Sathyanarayana Rao, M. R. Asha, B. N. Ramesh, and K. S. Jagannatha Rao. [cited 2021 July 20]

30. Hage MP, Azar ST. The Link between Thyroid Function and Depression. J Thyroid Res. 2012;2012:590648. doi:10.1155/2012/590648. [cited 2021 July 20]

31. Schifano F, Chiappini S, Corkery JM, Guirguis A. Abuse of Prescription Drugs in the Context of Novel Psychoactive Substances (NPS): A Systematic Review. Brain Sci. 2018 Apr 22;8(4):73. doi: 10.3390/brainsci8040073. PMID: 29690558; PMCID: PMC5924409. [cited 2021 July 20]

Originally Published Sep 13, 2018 by Diane Ridaeus


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 of Science degree with a major in biology and minors in chemistry and philosophy. He graduated from 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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Wellbutrin Withdrawal Symptoms, Bupropion Side Effects, Treatment Help
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