What is Wellbutrin? Also known by its generic name, bupropion, Wellbutrin is an antidepressant and smoking cessation aid, meaning it’s used to treat depression and quit smoking.
Wellbutrin can also be used to prevent depression caused by seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Like other medications, while effective when used for its intended purposes, Wellbutrin withdrawal symptoms can occur in people who become physically dependent on the drug. Today we’re looking into Wellbutrin withdrawals and why they occur.
How Does Wellbutrin Work?
Wellbutrin works by increasing the levels of chemicals norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain and preventing their reuptake, leaving them in the brain for longer periods. As a result, the individual may experience elevated mood as well as improved concentration, focus, and impulse control.
Norepinephrine is a naturally occurring neurotransmitter or chemical messenger that, together with adrenaline, increases heart rate and blood pumping to the heart. It also increases blood pressure, helps break down fat, and increases blood sugar levels to promote energy.
Dopamine is another neurotransmitter that’s linked to a sense of well-being and reward. Dopamine helps nerve cells communicate with each other, and also improves your mood, and contributes to a rewarding sensation when levels are elevated.
In addition to its desired side effects, such as increased mood and energy, Wellbutrin may also produce undesirable side effects like:
Trouble sleeping (insomnia)
Nausea and/or vomiting
Strange taste in the mouth
Wellbutrin’s impact on concentration and cognitive performance are also reasons why the medication may be used to treat symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). However, there are also downsides to taking Wellbutrin.
Although its potential for abuse and addiction is low, Wellbutrin can produce a high similar to that of amphetamines and cocaine when pills are crushed and snorted. By engaging in this form of Wellbutrin abuse, the drug can become addictive, and for the person to develop tolerance and dependence.
What Are the Withdrawal Symptoms of Wellbutrin?
Antidepressants are among the most commonly prescribed medications in the United States. Some people may take them for a few weeks to a few months, while others may have to take them for years to manage their depression symptoms.
Symptoms of Wellbutrin withdrawal occur in people who are physically dependent on the drug. Physical dependence occurs when the person’s brain and body are unable to function normally when the person isn’t using the drug.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about one in four people on antidepressants have been taking them for 10 years or more.1 If you’re one of these people, understanding the side effects of stopping Wellbutrin can help prepare you for the day you either switch to a different medication or choose to stop taking this one.
Bupropion withdrawal symptoms are the result of the brain and body’s attempt at regulating itself when it doesn’t have the drug in its system. Due to Wellbutrin’s effects on dopamine and norepinephrine, when it’s used for long periods, the brain slowly becomes accustomed to the elevated levels of these chemicals.
When the dose of the medication is suddenly decreased or use completely stops, all of the chemicals and moods associated with them that were once elevated suddenly begin to drop. As a result, the body undergoes a real shock and may respond to this sudden change with withdrawals.
Common Wellbutrin withdrawal symptoms include:
Nausea and/or vomiting
Loss of appetite and weight loss
Numbness in the extremities
Brain zaps or brain shake or shiver (electrical shock sensations in the brain that can cause disorientation and disrupt sleep)
The severity of Wellbutrin withdrawal side effects depends on the dose the person takes and how long they’ve been taking the medication. The longer someone uses Wellbutrin, the more intense and prolonged their withdrawals may be.
What also happens to some people who are taking antidepressants for long periods is that they develop a tolerance to them. This means that they may require higher doses to experience the same effects as when they first started using Wellbutrin.
If you realize that your antidepressants aren’t working the same as before, do not take more doses without speaking to your doctor first. Reach out to the prescribing physician, and they may be able to adjust your dosage or medication to help manage your symptoms safely.
How Long Does Wellbutrin Withdrawal Last?
The Wellbutrin withdrawal timeline depends on the person, their dose, how long they’ve been taking the medication, and whether they take any other prescription drugs. Bupropion is often used as an ingredient in an antidepressant cocktail to individualize treatment depending on the patient’s condition.
Generally, however, symptoms of withdrawal from Wellbutrin usually begin about two days after the last use and may last up to a week or longer. However, research also shows that withdrawal may occur even five days after the person’s last use of bupropion, as shown in a particular 1999 case study.2
Treatment for Wellbutrin Withdrawal
Although Wellbutrin withdrawal experiences aren’t usually life-threatening, it can be an uncomfortable process, so you may still benefit from participating in a detox program. Banyan Treatment Center offers medically monitored detox in several of our Florida rehab facilities, including our Stuart and Boca rehab centers.
Patients who have developed an addiction to their antidepressants or any other substance can then continue their treatment at our Pompano substance abuse treatment center. Here, we offer various levels of care, including partial and outpatient treatment services to help patients recover from drug and alcohol abuse while learning how to transition to sober lifestyles.
Alyssa who is the National Director of Digital Marketing, joined the Banyan team in 2016, bringing her five-plus years of experience. She has produced a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. Through strategic marketing campaign concepts, Alyssa has established Banyan as an industry leader and a national household name.