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Is it Safe to Drink Alcohol While Taking Wellbutrin?

The prescription medication Wellbutrin treats depression and major depressive disorder (MDD). In some cases, it is also prescribed to treat bipolar disorder or a related mental health condition.

It is also prescribed for smoking cessation (nicotine replacement) under the brand name Zyban.

Wellbutrin SR tablets 150mg

Wellbutrin SR and Wellbutrin XL (bupropion), sold under the brand name Aplenzin, are prescribed to treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Bupropion was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2006.

You’ll receive guidelines from your doctor if you are prescribed Wellbutrin for depression or smoking cessation. Medical experts consider Wellbutrin safe when used as directed and not mixed with alcohol or medications or drugs not approved by your doctor.

Before taking Wellbutrin, seek medical advice if you have high blood pressure, have had a heart attack, or have a history of other medical conditions.

Side Effects of Wellbutrin

Wellbutrin is an atypical antidepressant. It is a norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitor (NDRI), unlike many other antidepressants which are serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI). It works by balancing the brain’s neurotransmitters, which improves feelings of self-confidence and mood.

However, Wellbutrin use also comes with the risk of developing mild to severe side effects.

Common side effects may include:

  • Shakiness and sweating
  • Racing thoughts
  • Unusual changes in weight (weight loss or weight gain)
  • Headaches
  • Dry mouth
  • Sore throat
  • Eye pain
  • Anxiety
  • Unusual excitement or mania
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Lethargy
  • Increased urination
  • Gastrointestinal problems (constipation, upset stomach, etc.)

Serious side effects may include:

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Joint pain
  • Hallucinations
  • State of mental confusion
  • Paranoia
  • Panic attacks
  • Seizures

If you experience blisters, hives, chest pain, body swelling, hoarseness, or an allergic reaction to Wellbutrin, contact medical care immediately.

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What are the Side Effects of Wellbutrin and Alcohol?

Combining Wellbutrin and alcohol increases the risk and severity of the side effects of bupropion.

Many people who have experienced serious side effects when taking other antidepressant medications take Wellbutrin. The drug reduces their risk of common antidepressant side effects, such as fatigue, weight gain, and sexual dysfunction.

Epileptic seizures are one of the risks associated with taking Wellbutrin. This risk increases if you combine the drug and alcohol.

Other common side effects of Wellbutrin and alcohol use include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Digestive distress
  • Dry mouth

In addition to alcohol increasing the risks of side effects of Wellbutrin, the drug increases the effects of alcohol. Someone drinking alcohol while taking Wellbutrin is at risk of:

  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Dizzy spells
  • Blackouts
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Paranoia
  • Seizures
  • Poor judgment
  • Suicidal thoughts

Combining Wellbutrin with alcohol or any other mind-altering substance is potentially fatal. Despite some people drinking alcohol when using Wellbutrin without any adverse reaction, combining these two substances is dangerous. The risk of severe side effects increases with long-term combination of the two substances.

People with an eating disorder, especially anorexia or bulimia, should not use Wellbutrin. Some people using the drug find that symptoms associated with their eating disorder are worse when taking the drug. These include:

  • Fainting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Excitability
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability

The symptoms listed above indicate cardiovascular stress, which is a concern for people with eating disorders. Using Wellbutrin when you have an eating disorder can exacerbate these symptoms and put you at risk for serious health complications.

Wellbutrin (bupropion or bupropion hydrochloride) does not treat alcohol addiction. Wellbutrin users are advised not to consume alcohol while taking the drug.

Dangers of Drinking Alcohol with Wellbutrin

Drinking alcohol while using Wellbutrin increases a person’s risk of seizures. There is also a risk of addiction. Wellbutrin interacts chemically with alcohol, increasing the impact of both substances on the body.

Some of the most common intensified side effects someone experiences when mixing Wellbutrin and alcohol include:

  • Impaired motor control
  • Dizziness
  • Memory lapse
  • Paranoia and other unusual thoughts
  • Impaired judgment
  • Suicidal thoughts

There is also an increased risk of overdose when combining alcohol and Wellbutrin.

Alcohol is a sedative and it increases the risk of sleepiness when taken with Wellbutrin. This increases the risk of coordination and injuries. People taking Wellbutrin and drinking alcohol simultaneously face a higher risk of falling due to lightheadedness and impaired coordination.

Anyone mixing alcohol and Wellbutrin to achieve a chemical high is at a high risk of developing an addiction. Physical dependence on Wellbutrin and/or alcohol is a serious health concern and creates long-term medical problems.

The combination of Wellbutrin and alcohol also leads to long-term problems, including:

  • Decreasing the overall effectiveness of Wellbutrin, which leaves you with few options for using medication to treat depression
  • Increasing the risk of developing a physical dependence on alcohol
  • Increasing the risk of alcohol abuse disorder

Wellbutrin is also not recommended for use by people with an eating disorder.

Wellbutrin and Alcohol Overdose Risks

Mixing Wellbutrin with alcohol increases the risk of overdose. Taking Wellbutrin while drinking lowers your alcohol tolerance and causes you to become severely intoxicated, even after drinking small amounts of alcohol. If you keep drinking more alcohol, death can occur. 

The combination also impairs your judgment, so you might not be as careful when using these two substances. All of these factors put you at risk of accidentally overdosing. 

Wellbutrin and alcohol when used together enhances the effects of one another. There is a high risk of overdose and a greater potential for seizures when combining the drugs. 

Unfortunately, the combination of Wellbutrin and alcohol is one of the most commonly used dangerous drug combinations. Addiction and rehabilitation treatment is available for those who have developed a Wellbutrin and alcohol addiction.

If you believe you have developed an addiction to alcohol while using bupropion, Wellbutrin, or any drugs of related brand names, speak to your healthcare provider about treatment.

Does bupropion cause weight loss?

Most antidepressant medications can cause weight gain. Bupropion, however, is known for causing weight loss in some people.

What happens if you take too much Wellbutrin?

Taking more Wellbutrin than prescribed can lead to an overdose. Symptoms of an overdose include hallucinations (hearing or seeing things that aren't there) and seizures.

Can you smoke while taking Wellbutrin?

You should not smoke or use nicotine products while taking Wellbutrin because the combination can increase blood pressure. If you are using Wellbutrin to quit smoking, it takes eight days for the body to start easing the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal.

Is Wellbutrin used to treat alcoholism?

Wellbutrin (bupropion or bupropion hydrochloride) does not treat alcohol addiction. Wellbutrin users should not drink alcohol while taking the drug.

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Resources

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“Harmful Interactions.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), 25 Apr. 2019, www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/harmful-interactions-mixing-alcohol-with-medicines#:~:text=Commonly%20Used%20Medicines%20%28Both%20Prescription%20and%20Over-the-Counter%29%20That

Harris, C. R., et al. “Fatal Bupropion Overdose.” Journal of Toxicology. Clinical Toxicology, vol. 35, no. 3, 1997, pp. 321–324, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9140330/, 10.3109/15563659709001220.

Cooper, B R, et al. “Behavioral and Biochemical Effects of the Antidepressant Bupropion (Wellbutrin): Evidence for Selective Blockade of Dopamine Uptake in Vivo.” The Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Oct. 1980, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6778989/.

Cooper, Barrett R., et al. “Evidence That the Acute Behavioral and Electrophysiological Effects of Bupropion (Wellbutrin) Are Mediated by a Noradrenergic Mechanism.” Neuropsychopharmacology : Official Publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1994, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7840865/.

Ferris, R. M., et al. “Some Neurochemical Properties of a New Antidepressant, Bupropion Hydrochloride (Wellbutrin™).” Wiley Online Library, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 5 Oct. 2004, onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/ddr.430010103.

Granger, Arthur L., et al. “An Assessment of Patient Preference and Adherence to Treatment with Wellbutrin SR: A Web-Based Survey.” Journal of Affective Disorders, Elsevier, 15 Dec. 2005, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0165032705003046.

Perrine, Daniel M., et al. “A Short, One-Pot Synthesis of Bupropion (Zyban, Wellbutrin).” Journal of Chemical Education, ACS Publications, 2000, pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/ed077p1479.

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