Wellbutrin Uses, Side Effects, Dosage and Addiction Risks

Last Updated: June 10, 2024

David Levin Reviewed by David Levin
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Wellbutrin, the brand name for bupropion, is a multipurpose medication widely prescribed. In 2021, it ranked as the 18th most commonly prescribed medication in the U.S.

Initially approved by the FDA to treat depression and seasonal affective disorder and aid smoking cessation, Bupropion has proven effective for off-label uses such as antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression associated with bipolar disorder, and obesity.

Yet, Bupropion has emerged as a substance with potential for abuse with recreational ingestion either by crushing or snorting Wellbutrin due to its comparable lesser “high” to cocaine or amphetamines. Keep reading to learn about the risks of bupropion snorting, its approved uses and side effects.

What Is Wellbutrin?

Brand name: Wellbutrin®, Zyban®

Generic name: Bupropion

Wellbutrin, also known by its generic name bupropion, is a prescription medication used primarily for the treatment of mental health and addiction-related conditions such as major depressive disorder (MDD) in adults, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and a smoking cessation aid.

Unlike many antidepressants, which fall under the category of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), Wellbutrin is classified as a norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitor (NDRI). The exact bupropion mechanism of action is not completely understood. Still, it is thought to work by influencing norepinephrine and dopamine, two brain chemicals crucial for mood regulation.

Available in immediate-release (Bupropion IR), sustained-release (Wellbutrin SR), and extended-release (Wellbutrin XL) formulations, Wellbutrin medication is generally well-tolerated. It is usually a preferable choice since bupropion side effects sexually are less severe than SSRIs.

Wellbutrin Uses

Bupropion has been evaluated for various approved and non-approved uses, focused on clinical observations or theoretical reasons linked to its NDRI mechanism. From its “anti-smoking” effects to Wellbutrin for ADHD in children, understanding the full spectrum of this medication can help patients and healthcare providers maximize Wellbutrin benefits while managing its risks.

Below, you can consult the complete approved and off label Wellbutrin uses:

Wellbutrin FDA-approved Uses

  • Major depressive disorder (MDD) by restoring the balance of mood regulation neurotransmitters.
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that occurs usually in the fall and winter.
  • Smoking cessation (Zyban) by antagonizing acetylcholine at neuronal nicotinic receptors.

Wellbutrin Uses Off-Label

  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) to potentially enhance attention and concentration.
  • Anxiety disorders, particularly when comorbid with depression (not a first-line treatment).
  • Bipolar depression for occasional depressive episodes (use with caution to avoid triggering mania).
  • Obesity for weight management in people who have not been diagnosed with depression.
  • SSRI-induced sexual dysfunction for reversing sexual dysfunction caused by other antidepressants.

Wellbutrin Side Effects

Although evidence suggests that bupropion has a highly favorable side effect profile and can even be considered a safe and effective treatment for depression in older adults, it’s reported that important Wellbutrin side effects may occur in more than 10% of patients.

These side effects may be dose-dependent or due to undiagnosed psychiatric conditions. From common to severe, find below the bupropion side effects:

  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea (particularly when first starting the medication)
  • Constipation
  • Agitation
  • Insomnia
  • Headache
  • Weight loss (slight, approximately equal to 3 lb. with initial treatment).
  • Dizziness
  • Seizures
  • Allergic reactions (rash, itching, swelling, and difficulty breathing)
  • Mood changes (increased depression or suicidal thoughts)

Concerning seizures, with the immediate-release (IR) version, there is a 0.4% chance (or 4 in 1,000) of experiencing seizures at daily doses between 300 and 450 mg. This risk increases significantly if the dose exceeds 450 mg daily. With the sustained-release (SR) version, the risk drops to 0.1% (or 1 in 1,000) at the recommended dose of 300 mg/day.

Patients must be evaluated for any medical conditions or other concomitant medications that might lower their seizure threshold before being prescribed Wellbutrin.

How Long Do Wellbutrin Side Effects Last?

Bupropion usually takes about 1-2 weeks to work, and after this Wellbutrin adjustment period, side effects often improve as you continue to take the medication. If side effects persist, become more severe, or worsen, it’s important to contact your healthcare provider immediately.

Wellbutrin Dosage

Determining the appropriate dosage of Wellbutrin is essential for maximizing its therapeutic benefits while minimizing potential side effects. Wellbutrin is available in three formulations:

  • Wellbutrin XL (extended-release)
  • Wellbutrin SR (sustained-release)
  • Wellbutrin IR (immediate-release)

Each formulation has distinct characteristics that influence the drug administration and its frequency. Consult the Wellbutrin dosage chart for a clear understanding of Wellbutrin strengths and forms:

Formulation Dosage Frequency Notes
Wellbutrin XL (Extended-Release) 150 mg Once daily Gradual release into the body. Typically taken in the morning. Known as Bupropion HCL XL or Bupropion HCL ER.
Wellbutrin SR (Sustained-Release) 100 mg Twice daily More rapid release than XL. It should be taken more than once daily. Requires a 14-day washout period if previously on an MAO inhibitor.
150 mg Twice daily Same notes as 100 mg dosage.
200 mg Twice daily Same notes as 100 mg dosage.
Wellbutrin IR (Immediate-Release) 100 mg Twice daily A basic formulation with a shorter duration. It needs to be taken multiple times daily. Avoid taking more than one product containing Bupropion.
150 mg Three times daily Same notes as 100 mg dosage.

Remember that bupropion can only be administered orally. No alternative ways are available.

Also, ensuring the delivery matrix remains intact is crucial for maintaining the extended release of the medication. Altering tablets by chewing, cutting, or crushing Wellbutrin disrupts this matrix, leading to the immediate release of the medication and potentially severe side effects.

Wellbutrin Addiction

Often referred to as the “poor man’s cocaine,” Wellbutrin abuse is an increasing concern among health professionals and rehabilitation facilities.

Research suggests that this form of substance abuse is notably prevalent within prison populations, and the drug can be misused in various ways. Since Wellbutrin can cause a lesser euphoria-like sensation similar to that of cocaine, people may take higher doses than prescribed to experience its stimulant effects.

Individuals may try to crush, dissolve, or snort Wellbutrin. But can you snort Wellbutrin?

What Happens If You Snort Wellbutrin?

Snorting Bupropion, or any medication not intended for nasal insufflation, is highly dangerous and can lead to severe health consequences. Wellbutrin is exclusively designed for oral administration, and altering its intended delivery route can significantly increase the risk of adverse effects and complications.

Snorting Wellbutrin causes the drug to enter the bloodstream quickly through the nasal mucosa, leading to a rapid onset of effects. This can result in an intense, though short-lived, euphoric high. The fast absorption can also amplify common side effects such as agitation, anxiety, dizziness, nausea and insomnia.

  • Wellbutrin snorting can cause severe irritation and damage to the nasal passages.
  • Snorting bupropion may cause chronic nosebleeds and long-term damage to the nasal mucosa.
  • The practice increases the risk of infections in the nasal and sinus cavities.
  • High concentrations of bupropion in the bloodstream can significantly increase the risk of seizures.
  • If you snort Wellbutrin, it can lead to a cycle of addiction, driving repeated misuse and dependency.
  • Abrupt cessation after Wellbutrin snort can lead to withdrawal symptoms.

Signs of Wellbutrin Addiction

While Wellbutrin is not considered as addictive as other substances, some individuals may still misuse it. Signs of bupropion abuse may include:

  • Taking higher doses than prescribed
  • Snorting or injecting Wellbutrin
  • Experiencing intense cravings
  • Needing an increasing dosage to achieve the same effects
  • Neglecting responsibilities at work, school or home
  • Continuing use despite negative consequences
  • Withdrawal symptoms when not using Wellbutrin
  • Doctor hopping to obtain multiple prescriptions
  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviors
  • Mood swings
  • Using Wellbutrin in risky situations (e.g., driving)

Risk of Wellbutrin Overdose

Bupropion, even at normal doses of 150–450 mg per day, can lower the seizure threshold. This means that seizures could happen within a few hours after taking a massive dose, but this might be delayed up to 24 hours if extended-release versions are ingested.

Some individuals may take an excessive amount of Wellbutrin in an attempt to achieve a stronger effect or in a suicide attempt, or it can be an accidental overdose. In any case, recognizing the symptoms of a Wellbutrin overdose is essential for prompt medical intervention.

If an overdose is suspected, seek emergency medical assistance immediately. Symptoms can vary based on the amount ingested and individual patient factors but generally include:

  • Seizures
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Agitation
  • Delirium

Wellbutrin Uses and Addiction Risks − Bottom Line

Wellbutrin effectively treats conditions like major depressive disorder, seasonal affective disorder, and smoking cessation with additional off-label applications. While generally well-tolerated, Wellbutrin carries a risk of abuse and addiction, particularly when misused.

Individuals struggling with Wellbutrin dependence need professional addiction treatment, which may include outpatient or residential rehab programs and detoxification under medical supervision. Follow your prescribed dosage for safe treatment, and contact your doctor if you have questions.

If you or someone you know is dealing with Wellbutrin addiction, seek professional help immediately. Find a local rehab center to start the journey toward recovery.

People Also Ask

Is Wellbutrin an SSRI?

No, Wellbutrin is not an SSRI. It is classified as an atypical antidepressant, specifically a norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitor (NDRI).

How does Wellbutrin work?

Wellbutrin works by inhibiting the reuptake of norepinephrine and dopamine, which increases these neurotransmitters’ levels in the brain, enhancing mood and focus.

What happens when you snort Bupropion?

Snorting Bupropion can lead to rapid absorption, increasing the risk of an overdose and seizures, intense side effects, and potential nasal and respiratory damage.

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Page Sources

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Published on: July 5th, 2019

Updated on: June 10th, 2024

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