Understanding Wellbutrin Withdrawal: Symptoms, Causes and Coping Strategies

Last Updated: May 21, 2024

Dr. Norman Chazin Reviewed by Dr. Norman Chazin
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Wellbutrin is one of the most commonly prescribed medications to treat depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders. In 2021, over 29 million prescriptions for Wellbutrin were issued in the United States.

While the therapeutic benefits of Wellbutrin are well-documented, the discontinuation of this medication may, for some individuals, result in Wellbutrin withdrawal symptoms. As we navigate through this professional discussion, we will explore the intricacies of antidepressant discontinuation, offering a comprehensive exploration of withdrawal symptoms, underlying causes, and effective coping strategies.

Wellbutrin (Bupropion) Uses

Bupropion, a medication with a diverse pharmacological profile, serves several medical purposes. Its primary medical uses include:

Treatment of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)

Bupropion is approved as an antidepressant, offering an alternative for individuals with MDD. It works by inhibiting the reuptake of norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain. Bupropion is the only approved antidepressant with this chemical capacity.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Significant mood changes when the season changes fall under the winter-pattern SAD or winter depression. The symptoms typically start in late fall or early winter, dissipating during spring and summer. Bupropion is prescribed to alleviate symptoms associated with SAD.

Aid to Quit Smoking

Marketed as Zyban, Bupropion is a significant pharmacotherapy for smoking cessation in the Western world over the past decade. Unlike other smoking cessation pharmacotherapies, it constitutes a non-nicotine treatment. By reducing withdrawal symptoms and cravings, it assists individuals in overcoming nicotine dependence.

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

ADHD, a common neurobiological condition, features behavioral and cognitive symptoms like inattention, impulsivity, and/or excessive activity. It often comes with psychiatric comorbidities and links to educational and occupational underachievement.

While not a first-line treatment, Bupropion is sometimes considered in the management of ADHD, either as a monotherapy or in combination with other medications.

Off-Label Uses

Besides treating off-label diagnoses like ADHD, Bupropion’s unique pharmacological profile has led to its off-label use in conditions such as bipolar depression, anxiety disorders, and neuropathic pain.

What is Wellbutrin Abuse and Overdose?

Although Bupropion shares structural and pharmacologic similarities with amphetamine, it was initially believed to lack psychostimulant effects. Nevertheless, clinical observations and a growing number of case reports indicate instances of Bupropion abuse.

Wellbutrin Abuse

From recreational ingestion, nasal insufflation of crushed tablets, and, more recently, intravenous injection. Individuals abusing Bupropion report experiencing a “high” reminiscent of cocaine abuse, albeit of lesser intensity. Bupropion abuse involves altering its prescribed oral form for non-therapeutic purposes.

Wellbutrin Overdose

In cases of overdose, whether accidental or intentional, Bupropion can lead to serious medical consequences. The risk of overdose is heightened when exceeding prescribed dosages, combining Bupropion with other substances, or in individuals with pre-existing medical conditions.

Bupropion overdose symptoms may manifest as:

  • Seizures (the most severe symptom)
  • Hallucinations
  • Rapid Heartbeat (tachycardia)
  • Agitation
  • Confusion
  • Loss of Consciousness
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Blurred Vision

Wellbutrin Withdrawal Syndrome

Bupropion withdrawal syndrome refers to the collection of symptoms that individuals may experience when discontinuing or reducing the dosage.

This syndrome arises due to the adjustments the body and brain undergo when the medication is removed, leading to a temporary state of imbalance. Bupropion withdrawal can occur when individuals discontinue the medication, either as part of a prescribed treatment plan or after the abuse of the drug.

Medical Antidepressant Withdrawal

Medical antidepressant withdrawal, such as the discontinuation of Wellbutrin, may become necessary for a range of considerations.

  1. Successful resolution of depressive symptoms.
  2. Adverse reactions that significantly impact their well-being.
  3. A switch to an alternative, more suitable antidepressant medication.

Most people will not experience any withdrawal side effects. Yet approximately 20% of patients experience Wellbutrin withdrawal symptoms when abruptly ceasing or significantly reducing the dosage of an antidepressant they have been taking continuously for one month.

Abuse-Related Withdrawal

Although Wellbutrin is not generally considered addictive, cases of Bupropion abuse have been reported. When individuals misuse or abuse Wellbutrin, they may develop a dependence on the drug, leading to Bupropion withdrawal symptoms upon cessation.

Bupropion Withdrawal Syndrome Symptoms

Mild symptoms for this syndrome typically manifest after using any type of antidepressant.

These symptoms arise within two to four days after discontinuing the drug and generally persist for one to two weeks, with occasional persistence for up to one year. Initiating the same or similar drug results in the resolution of symptoms within one to three days.

However, Wellbutrin withdrawal symptoms can vary in duration and intensity and may manifest differently for each individual and can include:

  • Mood Changes: Mood swings, irritability, heightened emotional sensitivity.
  • Physical Symptoms: Headaches, fatigue, dizziness and flu-like sensations.
  • Sleep Disturbances: Insomnia or hypersomnia.
  • Cognitive Effects: Difficulty concentrating, memory lapses and cognitive fog.
  • Gastrointestinal Issues: Nausea, vomiting and digestive discomfort.
  • Sensory Disturbances: Blurred vision or heightened sensitivity to light and sound.

Coping Strategies for Bupropion Withdrawal

Coping with Bupropion withdrawal involves implementing strategies to manage and alleviate potential symptoms. Here are some coping strategies:

  • Gradual Tapering: Work closely with your healthcare provider to develop a tapering schedule. Gradual reduction of the medication can help minimize withdrawal symptoms.
  • Psychotherapy: Consider incorporating psychotherapy or counseling into your treatment plan. Therapy can provide support and a safe space to discuss emotional aspects of the Wellbutrin withdrawal process.
  • Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques: Practice mindfulness, deep breathing or meditation to manage stress and anxiety associated with withdrawal.
  • Social Support: Engage with a support network of friends, family or a support group. Receiving encouragement can be valuable during the withdrawal process.
  • Pharmacological Support: In some cases, healthcare providers may recommend temporary use of other medications to manage specific withdrawal symptoms, such as anxiety or insomnia.

Antidepressant Withdrawal Takeaways

Navigating Bupropion withdrawal can be a challenging and disheartening journey, but remember you’re not alone

Reach out to professionals for support. If Wellbutrin doesn’t work, don’t despair and follow your doctor’s advice. Be patient, trust the recovery journey, and know that healing is a collaborative effort with dedicated professionals by your side. Gradual tapering, open communication with healthcare providers, and a robust support network are paramount.

People Also Ask

What happens when you stop taking Wellbutrin?

Discontinuing this medication may lead to Wellbutrin withdrawal manifestations, including mood changes, fatigue, and irritability. Consult a healthcare professional for personalized guidance on tapering off the medication to ensure a smoother recovery.

Do I need to taper off 150 mg Wellbutrin?

Yes, it is generally recommended to taper off 150 mg of Wellbutrin gradually under the guidance of a healthcare professional. You should not try to start getting off Wellbutrin by yourself, as abrupt discontinuation may lead to withdrawal symptoms while weaning off Wellbutrin slowly helps to minimize potential side effects.

How to taper off Wellbutrin?

You should not stop taking Wellbutrin without first speaking to your healthcare provider. If you need to stop taking Wellbutrin, follow your physician’s instructions on how to stop taking Wellbutrin safely. They may slowly lower your dose over 6 to 8 weeks to prevent withdrawal symptoms. This is called tapering down and a common timeline that your doctor can recommend when tapering off a moderate dose of 150mg is the following wellbutrin taper schedule:

  • Week 1-2: Reduce to 100 mg daily
  • Week 3-4: Reduce to 75 mg daily
  • Week 5-6: Reduce to 50 mg daily
  • Week 7-8: Discontinue

How long does Wellbutrin anxiety last?

Wellbutrin-induced anxiety is usually transient and may last a few days to a couple of weeks after starting the medication. If anxiety persists or worsens, consult your healthcare provider for guidance on managing side effects or adjusting your treatment plan.

Page Sources

Retrieved on February 27, 2024.

Published on: July 5th, 2019

Updated on: May 21st, 2024


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