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It can also prevent depression that’s caused by seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and even as an adjunct to diet and exercise for long-term weight management in adults when used with naltrexone. For people with depression, Wellbutrin can help improve mood and feelings of well-being, as well as restore the balance of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin in the brain. As a monocyclic aminoketone (a drug class in itself), bupropion has limited serotonergic properties and a high risk of seizures. Today we’re going to look into Wellbutrin overdose and the dangers that using too much of this drug can present.
Yes, you can overdose on Wellbutrin, and the effects can be deadly. The question of whether you can overdose on bupropion (Wellbutrin) came up due to a result of frequently reported cases of poisoning and overdoses in people.
In 2014, antidepressants were the fifth most common drug involved in human poisonings in the U.S., with bupropion playing a hand in 11,222 reported poisonings.1 An earlier 2004 study found 385 cases of intentional bupropion overdoses reported to regional poison centers over two years. Of the several reported effects, the most common and deadliest was seizures.2
But how does Wellbutrin work that it could lead to overdose? Bupropion inhibits the reuptake of norepinephrine and dopamine, and unlike other antidepressants, has very little effect on serotonin. This means that Wellbutrin prevents proteins in the brain from reabsorbing any excess norepinephrine or dopamine that’s released by neurons, allowing them to accumulate.
As a result, the person’s mood may improve as well as their sense of well-being. Bupropion is also structurally similar to other stimulants, including amphetamine and cathinone derivatives. Due to its effects on these chemicals, bupropion has become the source of abuse for many people and has contributed to substance use disorders and incidents of overdose alike.
Wellbutrin overdose may occur if the person takes higher doses than prescribed by their doctor or if they mix it with other drugs or alcohol. Overdose is the result of an accumulation of bupropion in the body, which can cause various physical and psychological symptoms.
Common Wellbutrin overdose side effects include:
What happens if you overdose on Wellbutrin and the severity and duration of symptoms will depend greatly on the dose taken. Of the symptoms of bupropion overdose, the most life-threatening is seizures. Whether these occur and how soon they begin can vary widely from person to person and is likely dependent on both the drug formulation and the dosage.
The onset of seizures in Wellbutrin overdose ranges from 1 to 14 hours after ingestion. Individuals with a history of epilepsy may be at a higher risk of experiencing seizures if they overdose on bupropion. Do not take Wellbutrin if your doctor did not prescribe it to you, as doing so would qualify as drug abuse and can increase your risk of overdose as well as addiction and other immediate side effects.
How much it takes to overdose on Wellbutrin depends on the formulation. Doses for immediate release bupropion include 75 mg and 100 mg, while the dosages for sustained and extended-release bupropion include 100 mg, 150 mg, 174 mg, 200 mg, 300 mg, 348 mg, 450 mg, and 522 mg for patients taking Aplenzin, a brand-name version of bupropion.
Generally, the Wellbutrin overdose amount is 450 mg, as this is the maximum dosage that is usually prescribed to patients. However, some people may be prescribed 522 mg of Aplenzin once daily if lower doses of Wellbutrin are ineffective. Alpenzin’s unique formula allows doctors to help patients who do not experience relief from symptoms with Wellbutrin.
With that said, it’s equally as important to manage how you take your prescription Wellbutrin. Be sure to only take it as prescribed, as taking more than your directed dose can cause an overdose. Also, avoid drinking alcohol, as this can also increase your risk of intoxication or poisoning.
Yes, a Wellbutrin or bupropion overdose is fatal. Unfortunately, there have been numerous cases of bupropion-related deaths in those who were accidentally exposed to the drug as well as in those who purposely overdosed.
In one review of over 7,000 immediate-release and sustained-release bupropion exposures in the U.S. between 1998 and 1999, over 2,000 experienced life-threatening side effects like multiple seizures, and five died. Another 2014 review reported that 4 of the 11,222 people who were exposed to bupropion died. While these may seem like small numbers compared to the number of people who were exposed to high doses of Wellbutrin, if 4 to 5 people died out of every few thousand, the numbers quickly add up.
Additionally, a life lost to drug overdose is a tragedy that can be prevented with the right kind of help and caution. Antidepressant abuse can occur in anyone, so be sure to take your medications as directed and be ready to help anyone else you know who may be taking these medications as well.
Due to its effects on neurotransmitters like norepinephrine and dopamine, Wellbutrin does have a potential for abuse and addiction. It’s also notorious for causing seizures and other adverse side effects, especially in high doses, and chronic abuse only increases the risk of these problems.
Fortunately, prescription drug addiction treatment is available at our Central Texas rehab to help people who are addicted to medications like bupropion. No matter how severe your drug use is, our medically monitored detox offers medical assistance and round-the-clock care to help you recover from withdrawals and help you successfully transition to the next phase of treatment.
Our inpatient drug addiction treatment in Texas also utilizes various forms of therapy, including biofeedback and cognitive behavioral therapy, to help patients develop healthy habits that promote a sober lifestyle. Don’t wait to get help for an addiction.
Call Banyan Treatment Centers at 888-280-4763 to get started today.
NIH - 2014 Annual Report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers' National Poison Data System (NPDS): 32nd Annual Report