Last Updated Dec 2, 2021
Wellbutrin is a brand-name prescription drug that is prescribed to treat depression. It is also prescribed to treat SAD (seasonal affective disorder). Bupropion, the active ingredient in Wellbutrin, is also used for smoking cessation under the brand name of Zyban.
When used in addiction treatment, bupropion can help to reduce cravings and regulate the low moods and depression that often accompany drug withdrawal. The medication is used as an adjunctive treatment method in combination with therapeutic and supportive care during addiction treatment.
What Is Wellbutrin?
Wellbutrin is a prescription antidepressant medication with the active ingredient of bupropion. It is an atypical antidepressant that acts as a weak inhibitor on dopamine and norepinephrine reuptake, allowing more of these chemical messengers, or neurotransmitters, to remain active in the brain.
Dopamine and norepinephrine affect moods, energy levels, attention, and motivation, which can all be negatively impacted by depression. Wellbutrin can help to balance moods and improve symptoms of depression.
How to Use Wellbutrin
It is important to take Wellbutrin exactly as directed by your health care professional.
It is an oral tablet that is to be swallowed. Bupropion is available in immediate-release (IR), sustained-release (SR), and extended-release (XR) formulations. Your doctor will help to determine the correct formulation, timeline, and dosage for you.
You should not stop taking Wellbutrin suddenly. It is important to take a missed dose as soon as you remember it.
You will also need to be careful not to exceed your daily dosage. Increasing your dosage too quickly can lead to seizures, so your doctor will likely slowly increase your Wellbutrin over a safe period of time.
Talk to your health care provider about any other medications you are taking, as some can interact with Wellbutrin. Avoid illicit drugs and alcohol while on Wellbutrin.
Wellbutrin Side Effects
Common side effects of Wellbutrin can include the following:
- Dry mouth
- Weight loss
- Rapid heart rate
- Sore throat
Side effects will typically dissipate after about a week or so of taking the medication as directed.
More serious side effects are rare, but they include the following:
- Suicidal thoughts
- Vision issues and angle closure glaucoma
- Ringing in the ears
- Skin rash
How Is Wellbutrin Used in Addiction Treatment?
Wellbutrin can be used in addiction treatment to help with symptoms of depression and low moods that are often associated with drug withdrawal and recovery.
Since bupropion acts on levels of dopamine in the brain, which is often depleted from chronic drug abuse, it can be effective during addiction treatment. Bupropion can also help to dispel cravings by making changes in brain activity.
Since depression often accompanies drug addiction, Wellbutrin can be used to manage this mental health disorder during addiction treatment as well.
How Does Dosing Work?
The half-life of bupropion is 3 to 4 hours, but this is extended to 21 hours in people using it regularly for a period of time. The half-life of a medication is how long it takes to break down and be half as active in the system as it was.
The dosage of Wellbutrin for addiction treatment will depend on each person, what symptoms it is relieving, other medications taken, and underlying medical or mental health conditions.
For smoking cessation, bupropion SL is usually taken in doses of 150 mg once daily for the first three days and then increased to 300 mg (150 mg taken twice per day) for a period of 7 to 12 weeks. The dosage can be titrated up as necessary, not to exceed 450 mg per day in divided doses.
Generally, bupropion IR is taken in doses between 100 mg two times per day or 150 mg three times per day with four to six hours in between doses. You should take your last dose by mid-afternoon, and you can take the medication with or without food.
Bupropion SR is taken two times per day, once in the morning and once in the mid-afternoon in doses between 100 mg and 200 mg twice per day. Bupropion XL is taken in a dose ranging from 150 mg to 450 mg once per day in the morning.
How Can Antidepressants Improve Recovery?
Drug abuse and addiction can interfere with brain chemistry and make changes to the way the brain responds to positive stimulants. This can actually rewire the reward and motivation pathways and make it more difficult to feel pleasure without the substance’s interaction.
It can be hard to feel happiness from other things or experiences. Low moods, withdrawal symptoms, and drug cravings can lead to a relapse to try and feel balanced again.
Wellbutrin can help to regulate moods. It even has a slightly stimulating effect, which can increase energy levels and enhance motivation. Improved moods and decreased withdrawal symptoms and cravings can allow you to focus on learning coping mechanisms, tools, and life skills for sustaining recovery. This can give your brain time to rest and heal in recovery.
The use of medications during addiction treatment and recovery is often considered a first-line treatment method. Wellbutrin is used in conjunction with therapies and counseling for a comprehensive care approach.
How Does Wellbutrin Help You to Stay in Recovery?
Drug addiction is a chronic and relapsing disease, with relapse rates close to those associated with other chronic diseases at between 40 percent and 60 percent. Relapse is often a part of addiction recovery, and it is frequently the result of imbalanced moods, difficult withdrawal symptoms that are not being effectively controlled, and drug cravings.
Drugs such as Wellbutrin can help to mitigate some of the negative moods associated with drug withdrawal, which can minimize relapse risks and help you to stay in recovery.
Medications like Wellbutrin are best used as part of a complete treatment plan that will also include group and individual therapies and counseling as well as support groups and aftercare programs.
Depression and addiction commonly co-occur. It is important to treat both disorders at the same time with dual-diagnosis treatment, as the conditions are often linked. Wellbutrin can be helpful to manage symptoms of depression while in addiction treatment and recovery, which can help to sustain recovery. This can make it a vital part of a complete treatment plan that will improve your overall quality of life and well-being.
Who Can Prescribe Wellbutrin?
Medical doctors, mental health practitioners, and primary care providers (PCPs) can prescribe antidepressants like Wellbutrin. This group can include physician assistants, nurse practitioners, family doctors, internists, and geriatricians. Licensed medical doctors can also prescribe Wellbutrin online after completing a medical evaluation of the patient.
Addiction treatment programs have trained and licensed medical and mental health professionals on site who are commonly able to prescribe necessary medications during addiction treatment and recovery. These medications may include Wellbutrin.
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Bupropion. (October 2022). StatPearls.
Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction Treatment and Recovery. (July 2020). National Institute on Drug Abuse.