Wellbutrin Addiction: Signs, Symptoms And Treatment Options

Last Updated: July 6, 2021

Authored by Dr. Ahmed Zayed

Wellbutrin drug is often utilized as a medication to assist people who are suffering from symptoms associated with depression or anxiety. Failure to adhere to bupropion dosage schedule or using this medication for purposes that are different from what it was prescribed for can be harmful. Wellbutrin addiction may develop. There are numerous potential risk factors involved in the abuse of Wellbutrin, some of which may cause potentially fatal complications. Understand what Wellbutrin addiction is and who is at the highest risk can help a patient understand the dangers of this particular antidepressant.

Wellbutrin Drug Overview

Wellbutrin is a brand name for an antidepressant medication that has been officially approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The FDA first approved its use for the treatment of depression and some related mental health conditions in 1985. Since the approval of Wellbutrin pills as an antidepressant, the use of the medication has become prevalent in the United States, as well as other countries.

White medical pills and tablets spilling out of a drug bottle.

What Is Bupropion?

When looking at what exactly the Wellbutrin drug is, it is crucial to consider certain factors. One important question is, how does Wellbutrin work? Many patients think that bupropion is classified as a selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitor. So, is Wellbutrin an SSRI?T No, bupropion does not act in the same way as SSRI antidepressants. This medication is classified as an aminoketone class antidepressant. It means that bupropion has an impact on other brain neurotransmitters. In particular, the use of bupropion alters dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain of the patient one use Wellbutrin for anxiety or MDD the balance of dopamine and norepinephrine neurotransmitters are restored, and a patient may experience an alleviation of their depressive symptoms.

Wellbutrin Names

The drug is also known as bupropion, which is the term used to reference the active ingredient contained in this antidepressant medication. This is also the name used to describe the generic form of the drug.
Except for the most common brand name, Wellbutrin is also known by names:

  • Forfivo XL,
  • Zyban,
  • Aplenzin,
  • Budeprion XL and SR.

Bupropion also has a bunch of street names like:

  • Wellbee,
  • L.A.,
  • Quartz,

The most popular street name for bupropion, that also describes it’s addictive properties, is “poor man’s cocaine”. Wellbutrin can actually act as cocaine substitute because it can cause an energy boost, or a kind of euphoria feeling, and Wellbutrin costs much cheaper than cocaine.

Wellbutrin Formulations

When it comes to looking at what bupropion is, it is essential to consider the different formulations of bupropion. For example, when asking what Wellbutrin XL is, it is vital to note that this formulation tends to differ from other options.

Scientists researching wellbutrin formulations in laboratory
There are three main formulations that are used for depression and related illnesses. It is important for patients to understand the difference between Wellbutrin XL, SR, and basic option –  IR (immediate release). While Wellbutrin side effects may be similar in both of these formulations, the way they work tend to differ.
Below is an overview of Wellbutrin XL vs. SR vs. IR:

  • Bupropion XL: this is the extended-release form of the medication. It is generally taken once a day. Dose range from bupropion HCL XL 150 up to around 450mg. The medication provides a gradual release of the active chemical into the patient’s body. In turn, this means the individual is not required to take multiple doses daily. This particular formulation may also be referred to as bupropion HCL ER.
  • Bupropion SR: this is not an extended release version like the XL formulation, but rather delivers the active chemicals at a more rapid rate into the person’s body. When a patient has prescribed Wellbutrin SR, they will usually need to take the drug more than once a day.
  • Bupropion IR: is the basic formulation, which effects last less time, than XL or SR, so it needs to be taken three times per day.

Wellbutrin Addiction and Abuse

Bupropion is known to cause certain changes to the neurotransmitters in a person’s brain and mood, so is Wellbutrin addictive?

Is Tolerance A Sign Of Wellbutrin Addiction?

For example, after using the medication for a while, a person may tell their doctor that Wellbutrin stopped working. This happens when the body builds up a tolerance to bupropion. The medication becomes less effective each time a patient takes their daily dose. In such a case, the physician may advise an increase in the person’s Wellbutrin dosage.
When a patient is constantly increasing their dose, they build up not only tolerance to the drug but also an addiction to the effects that the medication has on their brain. At the time they stop taking bupropion, that a patient starts to experience Wellbutrin withdrawal symptoms.
There are cases where people suffer from bupropion abuse – in such a case, they deliberately start to take more of the drug or perhaps use the medication even when they do not suffer from any mental problems that the medicine is known to treat.

Other Signs Of Bupropion Addictive Behavior

When a person decides to snort Wellbutrin, inject excessive amount of it or take large doses of the drug orally Wellbutrin addiction may develop.
Some people may also mix it with substances to experience a Wellbutrin high.

Mixing alcohol with medical drugs
It is also inadvisable to mix Wellbutrin and alcohol containing substances. While the euphoric effects may be elevated for a short period, the person also risks many complications and potentially harmful side-effects, and, again, risks of developing alcohol or Wellbutrin addiction are higher in this case.
Considering these facts, when it comes to asking is bupropion addictive? Individuals should realize that it is possible to experience an addictive behavior to the effects that it has on the brain and the body itself.

Risks Of Wellbutrin Abuse and Addiction

A person who starts to abuse bupropion faces a large number of potential risks and consequences. Wellbutrin sexual adverse effects, along with all other adverse events associated with the use of the drug in general, will be worsened.
A person abusing the medicine also faces a higher risk of Wellbutrin overdose. This can be a dangerous situation where too much of the drug enters the bloodstream. Various symptoms may be experienced when a patient overdoses on the drug, whether that is by accident or on purpose. Some people may also experience Wellbutrin hair loss as a side-effect. One of the more severe signs that a person might have taken a lot of extra bupropion can include seizures.
Wellbutrin half-life needs to be taken into consideration when determining how long such risks and consequences may be present in a person who started to abuse the medicine.
When a person starts to abuse Wellbutrin with the hopes of experiencing specific results, such as Wellbutrin weight loss, they may experiment with other administration methods. When injecting, for example, additional risks are faced. In such a case, there is a risk of damage to the blood vessels, the development of skin lesions, and other complications that can cause death in some cases.

Wellbutrin Addiction Treatment

Individuals who suffer from Wellbutrin addiction t will often require professional medical treatment in order to help that person overcome their substance abuse issues. There are many locations that are able to assist individuals who do suffer from an addiction to this antidepressant. It is, however, important that the right strategies are implemented and used in order to provide the individual with more successful results.

patient having consultation with doctor about wellbutrin abuse
A rehabilitation program can offer patient access to other outpatient treatment protocol or rather a residential addiction treatment plan. The specific options that will be made available to the person depend on a few factors. The location visited will have an impact, as there are many centers which are only able to accommodate people through outpatient services. Furthermore, the severity of the person’s addiction to bupropion may also have an impact on what the best protocol would be.
Detoxification usually forms the basis for this type of treatment. During this process, the patient is placed in an environment where they are unable to gain access to bupropion. Careful medical supervision is provided. Sometimes, certain drugs that are known to help reduce the cravings for substances that a person has abused in the past may also be used.

Page Sources

  1. WELLBUTRIN® (bupropion hydrochloride) Tablets Prescribing Information, https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2009/018644s039s040.pdf
  2. Nathan Stall, Jesse Godwin, David Juurlink, Bupropion abuse and overdose, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4162783/
  3. Schifano F, Chiappini S., There a Potential of Misuse for Venlafaxine and Bupropion?, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29618978

Published on: July 5th, 2019

Updated on: July 6th, 2021

About Author

Dr. Ahmed Zayed

Dr. Ahmed Zayed is a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery. He is graduated from the University of Alexandria, Egypt. Dr. Ahmed Zayed has a passion for writing medical and health care articles and focuses on providing engaging and trustworthy information to readers.