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Wellbutrin Withdrawal: How To Stop Taking It Safely?

Last Updated: January 4, 2022

Authored by Nena Messina, Ph.D.

Reviewed by Michael Espelin APRN

Patients usually use Wellbutrin for prolonged durations, because Bupropion is a slow-acting drug, and it takes weeks for it to improve patients’ health. Because Bupropion promotes the release of norepinephrine and dopamine in patients’ brains, some individuals tend to become dependent on this drug, which may result in Wellbutrin addiction. If one is stopping Wellbutrin cold turkey, it can be a real shock to the system. Antidepressant discontinuation syndrome, more commonly known as antidepressant withdrawal, tends to produce mild to severe withdrawal symptoms in the body of the person withdrawing.

Find out information on how to wean off Wellbutrin with minimal risks for the patient’s health.

Wellbutrin Withdrawal Overview

While taking an antidepressant, the potential side effect is antidepressant discontinuation syndrome. It happens when physical dependence on the drug ensues and medicine is stopped abruptly without tapering or lowering dosage strategically. Antidepressants work by altering levels of neurotransmitters in the brain. These are the chemicals that attach to neurons to activate various functions in the body. After long-term intake of antidepressants, neurons become accustomed to having a certain level of these neurotransmitters in the body. The body adapts to these levels of neurotransmitters and sudden changes can cause a variety of uncomfortable effects, including sexual side effects of Wellbutrin.

The drug promotes release of dopamine in the brain. This hormone is also known as the reward hormone which is associated with the feeling of wellness and happiness. Once the body gets acclimated to the drug, it needs a certain amount of drug in the system to produce even the normal amount of dopamine or epinephrine. Bupropion withdrawal occurs when one is taking it for a long period. Abuse of drugs by taking more than the recommended dosage for a long time can cause physical dependence. It means it takes an even higher dose to produce the same effect. When the patient stops using Bupropion abruptly, the body reacts by showing a variety of symptoms. This is called the withdrawal effect. 20% of patients using it for a long time can experience withdrawal effects. These statistics increase as the dose and duration of drug abuse is increased.

Wellbutrin Withdrawal Symptoms

Antidepressants are notorious for their withdrawal symptoms which makes them difficult to quit and get free from their dependence. These withdrawal symptoms are mostly associated with fluctuation in hormonal production and altering neurotransmitter levels too fast. Wellbutrin withdrawal symptoms are mainly associated with changes in dopamine and norepinephrine level. There are both physical and mental symptoms. They are not life-threatening but they can be extremely uncomfortable.

When one is weaning off Wellbutrin, they may experience at least some of the following common Wellbutrin withdrawal symptoms:

  • Digestive System– Nausea, Vomiting, diarrhea
  • Central Nervous System– Headache, Insomnia, Vivid dreams, hallucinations, Changes to perception or vision, Numbness, mood swings, Crying spells
  • Balance And Movement– dizziness, vertigo, loss of balance, uneven gait, incoordination, and tremors

It is widely reported that it gets difficult for patients to quit this drug when they are experiencing severe discontinuation symptoms from antidepressants. Hence, it is recommended to contact a medical specialist or visit a rehab as soon as possible to keep the person’s health from getting worse, as only a doctor can consult regarding the possible alternatives to the medications, such as for example Wellbutrin vs Prozac.

When prescribing the medication, patients usually start on low Bupropion doses and increase it until the ideal dosage is achieved, and the symptoms of the illness are either controlled or minimized. However be cautious as any increase in dosage poses a risk of overdose on Wellbutrin drug.  It is believed that the full effect of the medication may not be felt for up to four weeks. The same steps should be followed, when someone wishes to get off Bupropion, doctors may tell them to taper doses downward for two weeks before complete termination.

Wellbutrin Withdrawal Symptoms.

Wellbutrin Withdrawal Timeline

As one starts to discontinue Bupropion treatment, it is crucial to know the information on the timeline of the process. This includes knowing how long Wellbutrin withdrawal lasts and how long does Wellbutrin stay in one’s system? As well as how long will it take to get completely free from the effects? The withdrawal timeline of antidepressants depends on their half-life, the person taking it, and the duration for which one was taking it.

Drugs having a shorter half-life leave the body quickly and produce severe side effects and such unwanted reactions as for instance weight loss due to Wellbutrin use. It is essential to know that the timeline for Wellbutrin withdrawal is shorter as compared to withdrawals from other antidepressants because it has a longer half-life. It means it remains in the body for a longer duration and causes a less severe medication discontinuation effect.

Bupropion and its active metabolites have a longer half-life than some antidepressants Bupropion has a half-life of 14–21 hours and its metabolites have up to 33 hours, so the symptoms may not be as severe.  In most cases, Wellbutrin withdrawal will last about one to two weeks. Although it affects a person’s physical and mental health for 3 to 4 weeks, that only happens in rare cases. Discontinuation symptoms will be quick to appear but symptoms will subside as the body gets acclimated to a new level of drug. If untreated, symptoms usually subside within 3 weeks. Discontinuation syndrome is not life-threatening, and severe symptoms will usually resolve in 3 days or less as 99% of the drug gets eliminated from the body within 3 days.

Stopping Wellbutrin Safely

There are a lot of reasons one may look for quitting Bupropion, such as the addiction potential of this medicine, adverse reactions like hair loss due to Wellbutrin, tolerance, or one may not feel any need to use Bupropion anymore. Although, the longer a person is on a course of antidepressants and the more excessive is the dosage they are prescribed, the more likely it will be not easy to stop taking Bupropion. Without properly lowering Bupropion dose, a patient may experience withdrawal symptoms when they decide to get free from drug dependence.

Stopping Wellbutrin Cold Turkey

If someone who has been taking Bupropion for their depression for a while now is thinking about discontinuing their treatment, it is essential to note that the worst way to go about it would be going off Wellbutrin cold turkey. Going off Wellbutrin abruptly can result in several Wellbutrin xl side effects. Therefore it is NOT recommended by almost all medical experts.

Tapering Off Wellbutrin

The most secure approach to get off Bupropion is a very gradual tapering of the Bupropion doses. This method is considered the safest because it minimizes any Wellbutrin withdrawal effects while stopping Wellbutrin cold turkey may allow symptoms of depression to return at any time. It is also recommended that a healthcare professional should give appropriate information and guide an individual through the entire process of withdrawing from the drug, alongside screening and keeping track of patients’ advancement.

How To Manage Discomforting Wellbutrin Withdrawal Symptoms

Even if one is slowly tapering the Wellbutrin dose and following all the medical advice, they can still experience some withdrawal effect. It doesn’t mean they have become addicted to the drug, it just means the body is getting used to having a low amount of medicine in the body and trying to adjust accordingly.

Here are some ways to manage those uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms one can experience:

  • Stay in contact with the medical professional: staying in touch with a medical professional as one goes through the process of weaning off Wellbutrin and keeping them updated regarding mental and physical symptoms can help in understanding the symptoms. A doctor can give information and reassurance regarding these symptoms and possible dangerous Wellbutrin interactions.
  • Closely monitor your tapering dose: carefully tapering dose is a very important step in managing these symptoms. With time, the doctor will cut down the dose in small fractions.  Keep taking the dose as recommended even when the dose becomes extremely low can greatly reduce withdrawal symptoms.
  • Join a medically assisted detoxification program: Medically assisted detoxification programs can help with the detox process without the extra pressure. It can not only keep a close eye on any withdrawal symptoms but also provide information on which symptoms are temporary and which might need medical attention.
  • Consider herbal products containing ginger: major withdrawal symptoms include digestive disturbances. These can be readily managed by the use of herbal products containing ginger. It can help with nausea and diarrhea and make this process a little more bearable.
  • Stay active: Staying physically active has a great antidepressant effect and can prevent relapse and reduce symptoms of withdrawal from Wellbutrin. Regulating sleep, treating with good nutrition and relaxation techniques can help in the management of Wellbutrin withdrawal symptoms and promote mental health.
How To Manage Discomforting Wellbutrin Withdrawal Symptoms.

Getting Professional Help During Withdrawal

Slowly taking less and less Wellbutrin XL or other formulations gives the person’s body the time it needs to respond to smaller amounts of the treatment. Tapering over a more extended period will also be immensely helpful in reducing the potential for withdrawal symptoms to appear. It is important to note that lowering the Bupropion dose should be done only under the supervision of a medical professional. With the aid of a medical professional who is tracking every change in the body during the withdrawal timeline, a patient is reassured that no further harm will come to their body system.

When a professional is guiding the patient through every step, it becomes easier for an individual to undergo all stages of the withdrawal process, such as tapering, drug detox, and other therapies. Choosing the treatment center that fits all patient’s needs is an important step during withdrawal from Wellbutrin. Every patient has their own set of needs and requirements to let their body get used to the lack of medication in a safe atmosphere, and the assistance of a medical professional and center is the first step to achieving that set of needs and requirements. Peace of mind is also vital for recovery.

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Page Sources

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Published on: July 5th, 2019

Updated on: January 4th, 2022

About Author

Nena Messina, Ph.D.

Nena Messina is a specialist in drug-related domestic violence. She devoted her life to the study of the connection between crime, mental health, and substance abuse. Apart from her work as management at addiction center, Nena regularly takes part in the educational program as a lecturer.

Medically Reviewed by

Michael Espelin APRN

8 years of nursing experience in wide variety of behavioral and addition settings that include adult inpatient and outpatient mental health services with substance use disorders, and geriatric long-term care and hospice care.  He has a particular interest in psychopharmacology, nutritional psychiatry, and alternative treatment options involving particular vitamins, dietary supplements, and administering auricular acupuncture.