Updated on July 17, 2023
6 min read

Is Wellbutrin Addictive? Risks & Treatment

What is Wellbutrin (Bupropion)?

Bupropion is an antidepressant drug typically prescribed to treat depression and other mental health conditions. It's available by its brand name Wellbutrin and several generic versions like Zyban and Aplenzin.

Wellbutrin's one of the most frequently prescribed medications in the U.S. to treat depression. These medications are also unique among antidepressant drugs.


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Is Wellbutrin Addictive?

Wellbutrin is generally considered non-habit-forming and non-addictive. But like any drug, there's potential for abuse, leading to Wellbutrin addiction and necessitating drug addiction treatment.

There's also limited research on its non-medical use. However, its effects on dopamine and norepinephrine levels in the brain are similar to illicit stimulants like cocaine.

Symptoms of Wellbutrin Abuse and Addiction

Here are some potential signs of Wellbutrin abuse:

  • Taking the medication in a higher dose than prescribed
  • Consuming the medication in a way other than specified (e.g., snorting or injecting)
  • Becoming obsessed with the drug
  • Losing interest in hobbies or daily activities

Other symptoms of Wellbutrin abuse include:

  • Agitation
  • Dizziness
  • Increased heart rate
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Muscle twitches

Abruptly stopping the medication may lead to withdrawal symptoms, indicating the presence of drug dependence.

What Does Wellbutrin Treat?

​​Wellbutrin is mainly used to treat depression, but healthcare providers may prescribe it for other mental health disorders. These include:

  • Depression: A condition where a person may feel sadness, low self-esteem, an inability to enjoy life, and a lack of motivation and energy
  • Seasonal affective disorder: A type of depression that affects people during certain times of the year, often during fall and winter
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): Characterized by difficulty staying focused, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness
  • Bipolar disorder: A condition in which a person experiences extreme fluctuations in mood, from mania to depression

Doctors often prescribe Wellbutrin for people who have failed to respond to other medications or treatment options. While effective, it's still worth noting that Wellbutrin misuse can lead to drug abuse.

Wellbutrin as a Smoking Cessation Aid

In addition to being used for mental health disorders, Wellbutrin is also prescribed to those trying to quit smoking. It can help reduce cravings for nicotine and alleviate withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting smoking.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Wellbutrin as a smoking cessation aid. It's available as an extended-release tablet taken once a day.

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How Does Wellbutrin Work?

Rather than acting like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), most bupropion drugs are norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitors (NDRI). It boosts the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine.

These increased levels in the brain can lead to alertness, less fatigue, and an improved mood. Wellbutrin can also affect people’s moods, emotions, and energy levels. 

Forms of Wellbutrin Releases

Wellbutrin comes in three forms: immediate release (IR), sustained release (SR), and extended release (Wellbutrin XL). IR Wellbutrin is taken once or twice daily, and SR and XL are taken once a day.

The extended-release version of the drug works over 24 hours, so you don't need to take several doses throughout 24 hours. It gradually releases small amounts of medication over time, allowing for a more sustained therapeutic effect.

Side Effects of Wellbutrin

Common side effects of Wellbutrin include:

  • Appetite loss and weight loss
  • Changes in the way food tastes
  • Strange taste in the mouth
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation and abdominal pain
  • Frequent urination
  • Flatulence
  • Weakness
  • Restlessness
  • Dizziness
  • Nervousness and anxiety
  • Increased sweating
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Tinnitus (ringing in ears)
  • Hair loss
  • Flushing
  • Decreased sex drive

These effects usually cease in a few weeks once the body adjusts to the drug. But abusing bupropion can intensify these consequences and may lead to more severe health complications, such as:

  • Severe headaches
  • Seizures
  • Changes in vision
  • Confusion
  • Aggressiveness or hostility
  • Delusions or hallucinations
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Suicidal thoughts and ideation
  • Chest pain
  • Fever and chills
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Jaundice (Yellow skin or eyes)
  • Dark urine
  • Skin rash or swollen and blistered skin
  • Changes in the menstrual cycle

If you experience Wellbutrin side effects, seek medical attention from healthcare professionals immediately.

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Risks of Wellbutrin

Before taking Wellbutrin or any antidepressant medication, discuss potential risks and benefits with your healthcare provider.

Although most aren’t serious and will likely disappear once the body becomes used to the drug, other side effects may be severe and even life-threatening.

  • Seizures: Approximately 4 out of every 1,000 people taking doses less than 450 mg/day experience seizures. And when they exceed that amount, the risk increases tenfold. Though the risk of seizures is rare, it's approximately four times greater than in other antidepressants.
  • Suicidal thoughts: Wellbutrin may also increase the risk of suicidal thoughts and behavior. This is especially true at the treatment's beginning or when the dose increases or decreases.

People of all ages who start taking Wellbutrin should be monitored for any signs of clinical worsening, suicidality, or unusual changes in behavior.

Wellbutrin Interactions with Other Medications

Bupropion may interact with various medications and substances. These may include:

  • Dopamine-boosting drugs
  • Other depressants
  • Antipsychotics
  • Alcohol (but it can lower your alcohol tolerance)

Bupropion can lead to false-positive urine drug test results for amphetamine and methamphetamine. 

Off-Label Uses of Wellbutrin

Despite lacking approval from the FDA, doctors prescribe Wellbutrin for its effective off-label uses. This includes treating:

  • Sexual dysfunction caused by antidepressants 
  • Anxiety
  • Obesity

These conditions may also include managing withdrawal symptoms from other substances. However, the risks of abusing bupropion increase when used off-label without medical supervision.

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Addiction Treatment

According to research literature, Wellbutrin is generally considered non-habit-forming. However, there is limited information available specifically regarding Wellbutrin addiction and treatment. It’s important to consult a healthcare professional for guidance on addiction treatment.

Drug addiction treatment programs typically:

  • Focus on the psychological and physical aspects of Wellbutrin addiction
  • Aim to identify and treat the underlying causes of your dependence, including any mental health disorder or co-occurring conditions

Treatment options for Wellbutrin addiction include therapy, medication management, lifestyle changes, and other evidence-based approaches to help a person become and remain abstinent.

Experts also advise against abruptly stopping to take Wellbutrin. Unless it results in a seizure, talk with your doctor first about gradually tapering off the medication or medically assisted detoxification. Doing so can help reduce the risk of Wellbutrin withdrawal symptoms.

Safe Recovery

A safe recovery begins with a safe detox. After detoxification and Wellbutrin is no longer in your system, participation in therapy and addiction treatment programs is necessary. This may include recreational therapy and group therapy.

If you still experience depression, many other SSRIs are available. Switching medication may also help.

If you or a loved one is struggling with Wellbutrin addiction, seeking professional addiction treatment is the first step to living a substance-free life.


Wellbutrin is an effective antidepressant medication for many people. It can treat depressive disorders and may benefit those with bipolar disorder. However, becoming dependent on the drug is possible, and withdrawal can be dangerous.

Speak with a doctor if you're considering Wellbutrin or need help overcoming addiction. With the right help, you can safely recover from Wellbutrin addiction and begin a new life in sobriety.

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Updated on July 17, 2023

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