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Updated on February 2, 2023
6 min read

Alcohol and Wellbutrin

Mara Sugue
Dr P. E. Pancoast, MD
Written by 
6 Sources Cited
Mara Sugue
Written by 
6 Sources Cited

Wellbutrin is a brand name for the prescription medication bupropion. It treats depression and major depressive disorder (MDD).

Sometimes, doctors prescribe it to treat bipolar disorder or a related mental health condition. Under the brand Zyban, bupropion helps with smoking cessation (nicotine replacement).

You’ll receive guidelines from your doctor if you are prescribed Wellbutrin for depression or smoking cessation. 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.

Is it Safe to Drink Alcohol While Taking Wellbutrin?

It’s not safe to drink alcohol while taking Wellbutrin. Drinking and using Wellbutrin increases your risk of seizures and addiction. 

Wellbutrin and alcohol interact chemically. This interaction increases the impact of both substances on the body.

Medical experts consider Wellbutrin safe when used as directed and not mixed with alcohol, other medications, or drugs not approved by your doctor.

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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 (SSRIs). It works by balancing the brain’s neurotransmitters and improves self-confidence and mood.

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

Common 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

Serious side effects may include:

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

Life-Threatening Side Effects

Contact medical care immediately if you experience the following:

  • Blisters
  • Hives
  • Chest pain
  • Body swelling
  • Hoarseness
  • An allergic reaction to Wellbutrin

Side Effects of Mixing Wellbutrin and Alcohol

Combining Wellbutrin and alcohol increases the risk and severity of the side effects of bupropion. Despite some people drinking alcohol when using Wellbutrin without any adverse reaction, combining these two substances is dangerous.

Long-Term 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

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

Common Side Effects

Other common side effects of Wellbutrin and alcohol use include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Digestive distress
  • Dry mouth
  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Dizzy spells
  • Blackouts
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Paranoia
  • Seizures
  • Poor judgment
  • Suicidal thoughts

Side Effects Associated with Eating Disorders

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

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

The symptoms listed above indicate cardiovascular stress, 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.

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Wellbutrin and Alcohol Overdose Risks

Mixing Wellbutrin with alcohol increase the risk of alcohol poisoning. 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. 

Unfortunately, Wellbutrin and alcohol are among the most commonly used dangerous drug combinations. Addiction and rehabilitation treatment is available for those who have developed an alcohol addiction, including those who take Wellbutrin.

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

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Effects of Alcohol on Depression

Alcohol is a depressant, which means it can cause feelings of sadness or hopelessness. It also causes drowsiness and may slow your reaction time.

It's recommended not to drink alcohol when you're depressed. But if you decide to drink, try limiting yourself to one or two daily drinks. This will help keep your mood stable. If drinking makes you more unhappy, cut back gradually until you no longer crave alcohol.

Talk to your doctor about getting help if you're having problems with depression. They will work with you to find ways to manage your symptoms.

Alcohol Abuse and Addiction Treatment Options

There are many treatment options available for alcohol abuse and addiction, including:

Inpatient Programs

Inpatient treatment takes place at a licensed residential treatment center.

These programs provide 24/7 comprehensive, structured care. You'll live in safe, substance-free housing and have access to professional medical monitoring.

The first step of an inpatient program is detoxification. Then behavioral therapy and other services are introduced.

These programs typically last a couple of weeks but can last as long as 30, 60, or 90 days, sometimes longer. Most programs help set up your aftercare once you complete the inpatient portion of your treatment.

Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHPs)

Partial hospitalization programs (PHP) are sometimes referred to as intensive outpatient programs (IOP).

Compared to inpatient programs, partial hospitalization programs provide similar services. However, in a PHP program, you return home to sleep. These services include:

  • Medical services
  • Behavioral therapy
  • Support groups
  • Other customized therapies. 

Some services provide food and transportation, but these vary by program. PHPs accept newly recovering people and people who have already completed an inpatient program but still need intensive treatment.

Outpatient Programs

Outpatient treatment is less intensive than inpatient programs or PHPs. It is often part of aftercare treatment after completing either of the first two programs.

Outpatient programs organize your treatment session based on your schedule. Its goal is to provide therapy, education, and support in a flexible environment. They are best for people motivated to recover and cannot leave their responsibilities at home, work, or school.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Sometimes, medications may be used in alcohol addiction treatment. They can help reduce the adverse side effects of detoxification and withdrawal. Others can help you reduce cravings and normalize body functions.

When combined with other evidence-based therapies (such as cognitive behavioral therapy), MAT can help prevent relapse and increase your chance of recovery.

Support Groups

Support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and SMART Recovery are open to anyone with a substance abuse problem.

They are peer-led organizations dedicated to helping each other remain sober. They can be the first step towards recovery or part of a long-term aftercare plan.

Summary

Mixing Wellbutrin and alcohol is dangerous because it increases the side effects of either substance. If you're taking prescription medication, talk to your doctor about combining them to ensure safety. Various professional treatments are also available for those suffering from alcohol addiction.

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Updated on February 2, 2023
6 sources cited
Updated on February 2, 2023
All Alcoholrehabhelp content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable media sites, academic research institutions and, whenever possible, medically peer reviewed studies.
  1. “Harmful Interactions.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), 2019.
  2. Ferris et al. “Some Neurochemical Properties of a New Antidepressant, Bupropion Hydrochloride (Wellbutrin™).” Wiley Online Library, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 2004.
  3. Granger et al. “An Assessment of Patient Preference and Adherence to Treatment with Wellbutrin SR: A Web-Based Survey.” Journal of Affective Disorders, Elsevier, 2005.
  4. Perrine et al. “A Short, One-Pot Synthesis of Bupropion (Zyban, Wellbutrin).” Journal of Chemical Education, ACS Publications, 2000.
  5. Herxheimer, A. & Menkes, DB. "Drinking alcohol during antidepressant treatment — a cause for concern?" The Pharmaceutical Journal, 2011.
  6. Patel et al. "Bupropion: a systematic review and meta-analysis of effectiveness as an antidepressant." Ther Adv Psychopharmacol, 2016.

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