Home Anxiety Medications About Bupropion (Wellbutrin, Zyban): A Patient’s Guide

About Bupropion (Wellbutrin, Zyban): A Patient’s Guide

by Alli Hill
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  • Bupropion is most commonly used as an antidepressant but may also help with weight management and smoking cessation.
  • This medication prevents the reuptake of dopamine and norepinephrine, two neurotransmitters in the brain associated with reward, motivation, and pleasure.
  • Bupropion comes in several dosage strengths and formulas, including immediate-release, sustained-release, and extended-release.
  • Common side effects may include nausea, constipation, insomnia, headache, dizziness, and feelings of anxiousness.
  • Bupropion is generally safe for most people, but it may not be the best option for those who have heart, liver, or kidney problems, diabetes, or narrow-angle glaucoma.
  • As with other antidepressants, some individuals may experience an increase in suicidal thinking when taking bupropion.

Many patients use prescription medication to treat depression and related conditions. In fact, about one in 10 Americans age 12 and older take some form of antidepressant. Bupropion (also known as bupropion Hcl and sold as brand names Wellbutrin and Zyban) is a common option for those with certain depressive conditions.

While antidepressants are generally safe for most people, it’s important to be informed about your medication and how it may affect your daily life. Learn more about bupropion in this guide, including what bupropion is used for, how it works, formulas, potential side effects, warnings, and precautions to take when using this medication.

What Is Bupropion and What Is It Used For?

bupropion for smoking cessation

Bupropion is a medication primarily used as a depression medication but may also be prescribed for other conditions, including:

  • Major depressive disorder (MDD)
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
  • Smoking cessation
  • Weight management
  • Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Bipolar depression (rarely and with close monitoring; bupropion can cause manic episodes in individuals with bipolar disorder)

Bupropion was first developed in 1966 as a possible treatment for depression. It was unique at the time because it differed from tricyclic antidepressants and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). By 1985, bupropion gained FDA approval and gained rapid popularity due to having fewer sexual side effects compared to some other antidepressants.

Bupropion is sold under these brand names:

  • Wellbutrin
  • Zyban
  • Others in combination with other medications

How Does Bupropion Work?

Bupropion’s mechanism of action is distinct from other antidepressants. Though it’s not entirely understood how it works, it primarily affects the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain, particularly dopamine and norepinephrine.

bupropion as an antidepressant

Bupropion is a norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitor (NDRI). It prevents neurons from reabsorbing these two neurotransmitters after they’re released in the brain, leading to prolonged availability.

Dopamine and norepinephrine are believed to have an impact on depressive symptoms. Dopamine is a reward chemical associated with motivation and pleasure, while norepinephrine plays a role in attention, mood regulation, and arousal.

Unlike SSRIs, a popular option to treat depression, bupropion has a minimal effect on serotonin. This makes it an attractive option for patients who may experience side effects related to serotonin fluctuations, such as sexual dysfunction or weight gain.

What Formulas Are Available for Bupropion?

Bupropion is available in multiple formulas, including:

  • Immediate-release (IR) tablets. This formulation is typically taken two to three times a day to maintain steady levels of the medication in the bloodstream throughout the day.
  • Sustained-release (SR) tablets. Sustained-release tablets are designed to be taken twice a day. The medication is released slowly over time to prolong its effect and maintain more consistent blood levels.
  • Extended-release (XL) tablets. Extended-release tablets are taken once a day. This formulation provides a slow release of medication over 24 hours, allowing for a once-daily dosing schedule.
  • Bupropion plus naltrexone (Contrave). This combination is used for weight management and smoking cessation.
  • Bupropion plus dextromethorphan (brand name Auvelity). This combination is used to treat major depressive disorder.

Bupropion Dosage and Administration

Bupropion is administered orally. While immediate-release tablets are typically taken multiple times a day, sustained-release and extended-release options allow for once or twice daily dosing. The specific dosage and administration frequency depend on the individual’s condition and response to treatment.

Maximum daily doses are defined to minimize the risk of side effects, with the timing of doses spaced to maintain consistent drug levels in the body. However, the exact dosing regimen should be customized by a healthcare provider, considering the patient’s health status and treatment goals.

Dosage instructions and duration of treatment may vary depending on the purpose of the medication. The initial dose and subsequent maintenance doses of bupropion may also vary.

If you’re taking bupropion, it’s important that you work closely with your provider to make any dosage adjustments that might be needed during your treatment course.

How Should I Take Bupropion?

woman taking bupropion

Bupropion can be taken with or without food. However, if the medication causes stomach upset, it’s recommended to take it with food. All tablets should be swallowed whole and never chewed, crushed, or divided.

If you struggle to fall asleep after taking bupropion, avoid taking this medication close to bedtime.

Follow all instructions on your prescription label. Consult your doctor if you have any questions.

What Are the Potential Side Effects of Bupropion?

No medication is without side effects. Common side effects when taking bupropion may include:

  • Constipation
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Tremors
  • Insomnia
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Agitation
  • Rhinitis
  • Weight loss
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Feelings of anxiousness

Less common but serious side effects have also been reported when taking bupropion. These include:

  • Tachycardia
  • Blurred vision
  • A lower seizure threshold
  • Increased suicidal thoughts
  • Unusual changes in mood or behavior

Report any side effects and concerns to your doctor.

What Should I Avoid When Taking Bupropion?

Following are precautions you should take while you’re on this medication:

  • Do not suddenly stop using alcohol, seizure medications, or sedatives, as this may increase your risk of seizures.
  • Do not take more than one medication containing bupropion.
  • Do not operate a car or machinery until you know how bupropion will affect you, as this medication may cause drowsiness.
  • Do not stop taking bupropion or change your dose without first consulting your doctor, as sudden cessation of this medication may cause withdrawal symptoms.

For answers to specific questions, consult with your doctor.

What Should I Do If I Miss a Dose of Bupropion?

If you miss a dose of bupropion, skip the missed dose and take your next dose at your normal time. Never double up on doses to make up for a missed dose. Always allow the total scheduled time to pass between doses.

What Should I Do If I Overdose on Bupropion?

If you believe you have overdosed on bupropion, call the poison control helpline at 1-888-222-1222. If the person is struggling to breathe, has a seizure, or has collapsed, call 911 immediately.

What Precautions Should I Take with Bupropion?

reading precautions to take with bupropion

Before taking bupropion, understand and follow these precautions:

  • Allergic reactions and MAO inhibitors: Before taking bupropion, inform your doctor if you’re allergic to it or any related medications. If you’re using or recently stopped using MAO inhibitors within 14 days, your doctor may advise against bupropion to avoid adverse reactions.
  • Avoid multiple bupropion products: Refrain from consuming multiple bupropion-containing products simultaneously as it can lead to excessive medication intake and severe side effects.
  • Keep your providers informed: Provide your doctor with a comprehensive list of all medications—prescription, over-the-counter, vitamins, supplements, and herbal products—you’re currently taking or planning to take. This includes specific medications like beta blockers, antidepressants, and others that may interact with bupropion.
  • Medical conditions and habits: Inform your doctor about your medical history, particularly seizures, eating disorders, alcohol consumption, substance use, heart problems, and other health conditions. Additionally, discuss your pregnancy or breastfeeding status with your doctor.
  • Drowsiness and alcohol: Bupropion might induce drowsiness. Until you understand its effects, avoid driving or operating machinery. Discuss the safe consumption of alcoholic beverages while using bupropion with your doctor.
  • Blood pressure and glaucoma: Regularly monitor your blood pressure while on bupropion, as it might elevate it. Discuss the potential risk of angle-closure glaucoma with your doctor before starting this medication and report any eye-related symptoms immediately.
  • Behavioral changes and mental health: Some individuals may experience behavioral changes or mood swings while taking bupropion, particularly when used for smoking cessation. Report any new or worsening symptoms of depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts to your doctor promptly.

Always consult with your healthcare provider before starting or stopping any medication, especially if there are concerns about potential interactions or if you experience any adverse effects.


Some people should not take bupropion. Others should use it with caution under close medical supervision.

Keep in mind that these lists are general guidelines. In special cases, doctors may feel the benefits of taking a particular medication outweigh the risks, so if you are in one of these groups, talk to your doctor about your personal situation.

Who Should Not Take Bupropion?

Bupropion may not be recommended for certain individuals, including those who meet one or more of these criteria:

  • History of seizures
  • Eating disorder
  • Currently taking an MAOI
  • Suddenly stopped using alcohol, seizure medications, or sedatives
  • Currently taking another form of bupropion

Who Should Take Bupropion with Caution?

For some individuals, the benefits of bupropion may outweigh the risks. Talk to your doctor if you currently or have ever had the following:

  • A head injury
  • Brain or spinal cord tumor
  • Heart disease
  • Heart attack
  • High blood pressure
  • Narrow-angle glaucoma
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney or liver disease
  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depression or other mental illness
  • Pregnancy or plans to become pregnant
  • Breastfeeding or plans to breastfeed

Some young peoplehave also experienced thoughts of suicide when first starting bupropion. Ensure that you and other family members or caregivers are alert to any changes in mood or behavior when taking this medication. People experiencing these symptoms should seek medical attention immediately.

Are There Any Other Potential Drug Interactions with Bupropion?

pharmacist expaning bupropion drug interactions

According to Drugs.com, a total of 492 drugs and supplements can interact with this medication. Of these, 217 are considered major.

The most important interactions to be aware of include:

  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). Combining bupropion with MAOIs, like isocarboxazid (Marplan) or phenelzine (Nardil), can dangerously elevate blood pressure and lead to a hypertensive crisis. This combination is strictly contraindicated.
  • Antidepressants. Certain antidepressants, particularly SSRIs like fluoxetine (Prozac) or paroxetine (Paxil), can increase bupropion levels, raising the risk of seizures and other side effects. Dosage adjustments or alternative medications might be necessary.
  • Antipsychotics. Some antipsychotics, like haloperidol (Haldol) or risperidone (Risperdal), can further lower the seizure threshold when taken with bupropion. Close monitoring and dosage adjustments are essential.
  • Anticonvulsants. While bupropion itself can lower the seizure threshold, specific anticonvulsants like phenytoin (Dilantin) or carbamazepine (Tegretol) can decrease bupropion levels, potentially reducing its effectiveness. Dosage monitoring and adjustments might be required.
  • Stimulants. Combining bupropion with stimulants like amphetamines or methylphenidate (Ritalin) can significantly increase the risk of seizures, especially in individuals with a pre-existing seizure risk. This combination should be avoided if possible.
  • Antipsychotic medications. Some antipsychotic medications can increase the risk of seizures when taken with bupropion, especially for individuals with a history of seizures.
  • Alcohol and drugs that lower the seizure threshold. Bupropion lowers the seizure threshold. Consuming alcohol or using other drugs that also lower the seizure threshold, such as antipsychotics and certain antibiotics, increases the risk of seizures.
  • Beta blockers: Bupropion may increase the concentrations of these drugs, potentially leading to enhanced effects and side effects.
  • Dopaminergic drugs: Because bupropion affects dopamine levels, combining it with other dopaminergic drugs (used for Parkinson’s disease, for example) can alter the effectiveness and side effects of these medications.
  • Benzodiazepines and sedatives. There may be an interaction affecting the efficacy and side effects of these medications when used with bupropion.

For the complete known interactions list, visit the Drugs.com Drug Interactions Checker.  However, no list of potential drug interactions is complete, so let your provider know if you experience any new or unusual symptoms after taking this medication.

Finding Relief from Depression with Bupropion

Bupropion is an antidepressant medication that has been prescribed by healthcare providers for decades. Its tenure in the market and fewer sexual side effects make it a popular choice for many patients. Still, this medication can have other serious side effects and potential interactions that need to be considered.

Now that you’ve taken time to learn about bupropion and its uses, the next step is to find out how to get this medication at the most affordable price.

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This information is intended for general informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or medication.


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