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Wellbutrin (Bupropion) Withdrawal: Symptoms, Timeline, & Treatment

Wellbutrin is a common antidepressant used to manage major depressive disorder and seasonal affective disorder. Taking it long-term can lead to physiological dependence, which means you’ll experience withdrawal symptoms after discontinuing this antidepressant medication.

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When you take your Wellbutrin as prescribed, you will develop a dependence on the medication. This isn’t concerning and doesn’t mean you are addicted—it’s simply the body’s natural adaptation to the presence of Wellbutrin. When you abruptly stop taking bupropion, you may experience Wellbutrin withdrawal symptoms, also known as antidepressant discontinuation syndrome. These may include mood swings, insomnia, nightmares, and body aches.

However, these symptoms are less common with Wellbutrin than with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like Zoloft and Lexapro. If you are thinking of quitting Wellbutrin, talk to your doctor. They can create a gradual tapering schedule in which you slowly wean off the medication, which can reduce withdrawal symptoms and help your body adjust to lower doses

What is Wellbutrin Withdrawal?

Quick Answer

Wellbutrin withdrawal occurs when you suddenly stop taking your medication. You may experience withdrawal symptoms like brain zaps, insomnia, suicidal ideation, vomiting, dizziness, and tremors. The best way to prevent Wellbutrin withdrawal symptoms is to talk to your doctor about creating a tapering schedule.

Wellbutrin Withdrawal Symptoms: Antidepressant Discontinuation Syndrome

Many people may experience no withdrawal symptoms at all when they stop taking Wellbutrin, while others may experience mild to moderate bupropion withdrawal symptoms, such as:[2],[3]

  • Insomnia
  • Nightmares
  • Headache
  • Body aches
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dizziness
  • Tremors
  • Brain zaps, which feel like an electric shock in the head
  • Numbness in the face or limbs

Unlike popular antidepressants that act on serotonin, such as Prozac, Zoloft, and Lexapro, Wellbutrin affects norepinephrine and dopamine. As such, Wellbutrin withdrawal symptoms tend to be far milder than these other antidepressants, and often, symptoms may not appear at all.[3]

Common Wellbutrin Withdrawal Symptoms

Wellbutrin Withdrawal Timeline

The Wellbutrin withdrawal timeline largely depends on the half-life of this antidepressant medication. The half-life refers to how long it takes for the medication to be reduced by 50% in the body. Generally, the half-life is three or four hours if someone takes it just a few times; however, when taking it every day as prescribed by a doctor, the half-life is about 21 hours.[1] 

As such, Wellbutrin withdrawal symptoms may appear within two days if stopping bupropion, once the levels in the blood decrease. 

These symptoms of quitting bupropion may last for a few days to a couple of weeks, depending on many factors, including:

  • Wellbutrin dose
  • Duration of use
  • Individual physiology
  • Physical and mental health
  • Whether you tapered your dose or not

When to Seek Professional Help for Wellbutrin Withdrawal

Generally, bupropion withdrawal is expected to be fairly mild and can be managed at home or on an outpatient basis with a doctor. However, some people may experience concerning mental health symptoms when they discontinue Wellbutrin. You should call 911 or your doctor immediately if you experience:

  • Thoughts of hurting yourself or others
  • Thoughts about how you would hurt or kill yourself
  • Severe depression
  • Extreme anxiety or panic attacks that interfere with functioning
  • Agitation or manic behavior
  • Extreme impulsivity or reckless behavior

How to Prevent Bupropion Withdrawal Symptoms

The best way to prevent bupropion withdrawal symptoms is to work with your doctor to gradually taper off the Wellbutrin. They will create a schedule individualized to meet your needs and they will adjust the tapering regimen if you experience unwanted side effects or withdrawal symptoms.

This tapering schedule may last for a few weeks until you eventually reach 0mg. If you are struggling with depression or anxiety, it’s best to seek out mental health treatment, such as therapy and counseling sessions. It’s important to commit to attending therapy on an ongoing basis so you can work through various issues, address mental health symptoms, and work through problems together.

Your doctor may also recommend you switch to a different antidepressant if the reason for your tapering was because of Wellbutrin side effects. 

How to Cope with Wellbutrin Discontinuation Syndrome

If you are experiencing Wellbutrin withdrawal symptoms after stopping this antidepressant, make sure you alert your therapist or doctor so they can support you during this uncomfortable time. You may need extra therapy sessions to help you manage for a while. 

Some things you can do to ease your symptoms at home may include:

  • Meditate and practice mindfulness, which can help manage anxiety and cause relaxation.
  • Spend time with loved ones, which can help reduce depressive symptoms. [4]
  • Engage in joyful movement, such as dancing, yoga, an exercise class, taking the dog for a walk, hiking, or playing a sport.
  • Eat balanced, nutritious meals and get enough sleep.
  • Take relaxing baths or get a massage.
  • Use a nicotine patch or gum if you were using Wellbutrin to quit smoking.
  • Take over-the-counter herbal supplements, such as St. John’s Wort.

Detox Options for Wellbutrin Withdrawal and Addiction

Although Wellbutrin is most commonly used to treat depressive disorders, some people may misuse it in order to get high. This is most common in incarcerated individuals.[5] They tend to abuse bupropion by crushing the pills and snorting the powder, although some people also inject this antidepressant. [6]

People refer to Wellbutrin as “poor man’s cocaine” due to its stimulant-like effects and high.[6] And chronic Wellbutrin abuse can lead to more severe physiological dependence and subsequent withdrawal.

If you misuse Wellbutrin and are struggling with an addiction to it, then professional detox is likely needed to help you quit—followed by a comprehensive drug rehab program where you can learn coping skills to help you avoid relapse in the future.

Detox settings for Wellbutrin withdrawal may include:

  • Medical detox: Occurring in a hospital, acute care setting, or freestanding detox center, this is the most intensive detox option, offering 24/7 medical care and support to keep you safe during withdrawal.
  • Non-medically managed residential detox: You live at the detox facility during Wellbutrin withdrawal but there is limited access to medical care.
  • Partial hospitalization or intensive outpatient: You live at home and attend detox treatment sessions at a clinic for up to 30 hours per week, depending on the specific program.
  • Standard outpatient detox: You reside at home and attend detox sessions for a few hours each week. This is not typically recommended for a severe addiction or someone who has a co-occurring medical or psychological condition.

Once you complete bupropion detox, it’s best to transition into an inpatient or outpatient drug rehab where you can address the underlying reasons you misused Wellbutrin in the first place.

Updated January 19, 2024
Resources
  1. Bupropion. (May 2022). StatPearls.
  2. Bupropion-Associated Withdrawal Symptoms: A Case Report. Berigan, T. R., & Harazin, J. S. (1999). Primary care companion to the Journal of clinical psychiatry, 1(2), 50–51.
  3. Going off antidepressants. Harvard Health Publishing Harvard Medical School. May 2022. Accessed August 2023.
  4. The effect of social interaction quantity and quality on depressed mood and loneliness: A daily diary study. Kuczynski AM, Halvorson MA, Slater LR, Kanter JW. (2022). Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 39(3):734-756.
  5. Wellbutrin®: misuse and abuse by incarcerated individuals. Phillips D. (2012). Journal of addictions nursing, 23(1), 65–69.
  6. A Systematic Review of Abuse or Overprescription of Bupropion in American Prisons and a Synthesis of Case Reports on Bupropion Abuse in American Prison and Non-prison Systems. Aikoye S, Basiru T O, Nwoye I, et al. (March 15, 2023). Cureus 15(3): e36189. doi:10.7759/cureus.36189
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