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By Kajal Jain

M. Pharm

06 January 2023
Medically reviewed by
CAN I DRINK ON WELLBUTRIN
Table of Contents

Depression is a mental health condition that adversely affects how you feel, think, and acts. It can lead to various physical and emotional problems and reduce your ability to function at work and home. Depression can occur at any period, but on average, it first appears during the late teens. 

Women are more likely to experience depression than men. Some studies show that one-third of women experience a major depressive episode in their lifetime. An estimated one in 15 adults (6.7%) are affected by depression every year, and around one in six people (16.6%) experiences depression at some time in their life. There is a significant degree (approx. 40%) of heritability when first-degree relatives (parents/children/siblings) have depression.

When people first start taking an antidepressant like Wellbutrin, it's common to have many questions about what to expect from taking the medication. Usually, one of these questions is, "Can I drink alcohol while taking Wellbutrin?"

This article discusses how alcohol affects Wellbutrin, whether some people may be at higher risk for problems if they drink while taking it, and if you can safely consume this medication.

What Is Wellbutrin?

Wellbutrin, also known as bupropion, is a prescription antidepressant that impacts the brain. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) initially approved it in 1985 for adults over 18 years. This drug is used to treat Major depressive disorder (MDD), Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and other mood disorders. 

Wellbutrin is often prescribed for people with severe side effects to other antidepressants, including fatigue, sexual dysfunction, and weight gain. Another version of bupropion, called Zyban, is approved to help people for treating smoking habits. Your healthcare provider will examine your physical and mental health history before prescribing this medication. 

Some people should not take or buy Wellbutrin. If you have been diagnosed with an eating disorder, high blood pressure, central nervous system problems including seizures, or a substance Abuse history, you should not take Wellbutrin.

How Does Wellbutrin Work?

Wellbutrin is an atypical antidepressant that works similarly to other antidepressants. It is a norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitor (NDRI), unlike many other antidepressants, which are serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI). 

Wellbutrin increases your brain's activity of natural chemicals (or neurotransmitters). Your nerves use these chemicals to send messages to each other. These chemicals include dopamine and norepinephrine. It blocks the neuronal reuptake of dopamine and norepinephrine and antagonizes acetylcholine at neuronal nicotinic receptors, which improves self-confidence and mood.  

Can You Abuse Wellbutrin Medicine?

Wellbutrin is used widely as an antidepressant and a smoking cessation aid and is available as immediate- and extended-release preparations. Despite the potential therapeutic effects of this drug, there has been some evidence of this drug being abused, including nasal insufflation of crushed tablets, recreational ingestion, and, more recently, intravenous injection. 

Most Wellbutrin abusers take this drug by crushing and snorting (insufflating). This administration route delivers a high drug dose directly into the bloodstream. Other reported methods of this drug abuse include

  • Taking more medicine than prescribed
  • Dissolving these pills in water
  • Injecting the solution

Wellbutrin abusers report receiving a "high" similar to cocaine or amphetamine abuse but less intense.
Some common signs and symptoms of Wellbutrin abuse include:

  • Sense of exhilaration
  • Euphoria
  • Long periods of wakefulness/insomnia
  • Heightened energy and activity
  • Increased sense of self-esteem
  • Loss of appetite

In addition to the physical effects of stimulant abuse while high, Wellbutrin abusers may also involve themselves in unusual behaviors connected to obtaining the drug or hiding use from others.

It would be best to avoid or limit alcohol as much as possible while taking Wellbutrin to prevent serious side effects like seizures.
Wellbutrin can interact with several medications, such as other antidepressants, alcohol, antipsychotics, and drugs that raise dopamine levels.
Wellbutrin and alcohol both increase each other's side effects. The liver may struggle to properly process each drug completely, which means it will end up processing less of each, leading to an increased risk of overdose and intoxication.

Can You Take Alcohol And Wellbutrin Together?

Whether or not you have depression, drinking alcohol can initially cause feelings of pleasure and well-being. This is because drinking alcohol raises dopamine levels in your brain. Once you stop consuming alcohol, dopamine levels return to normal, and the positive feelings disappear.

After that initial good feeling has worn off, drinking alcohol can make depression symptoms worse because alcohol is a CNS depressant, and it can cause feelings of depression even if you don't have a mental health condition. In other words, drinking alcohol to feel better temporarily may worsen your situation in the long run.

The side effects of mixing Wellbutrin and alcohol include:

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Increased effects of alcohol
  • Increased depression
  • Increased Wellbutrin side effects
  • Risk of seizures
  • Increased risk of overdose

These side effects can be dangerous and, in the wrong circumstances, deadly.

When combined with Wellbutrin, alcohol can lead to even more drowsiness and dizziness, which occurs because both substances suppress the functioning of the central nervous system. The amount of alcohol that ends up in the bloodstream from a drink will be higher than it usually would be because the liver processes less of the alcohol.

Using alcohol and Wellbutrin together may increase the risk of developing seizures. The interaction of these two substances affects brain function and increases stroke risk. 

What Are The Withdrawal Symptoms Of Wellbutrin And Alcohol?

If you have an alcohol use disorder or drink a lot of alcohol regularly, stopping alcohol abruptly can lead to alcohol withdrawal syndrome. This is a life-threatening condition if not managed properly.

Suffering from alcohol withdrawal syndrome while taking Wellbutrin can increase the risk of seizure along with other serious side effects, including

  • Vomiting
  • Severe shaking and tremors
  • Hallucinations and paranoia
  • Confusion and disorientation

To reduce the risk of seizure or other side effects while taking Wellbutrin, you must discuss your drinking habits honestly with your doctor.

Be sure to tell them:

  • how much you drink at a time
  • the kinds of alcohol you drink
  • how long you've been drinking this amount
  • how frequently do you drink 

What If You Already Had Alcohol Before Taking Wellbutrin?

If you have consumed alcohol while on Wellbutrin, there is a probability of risk of specific problems. Still, there are a few things that should be monitored over the next 24 hours, including:

  • Worsening of Wellbutrin side effects, especially disorientation, confusion, and lack of coordination
  • Increased tremors or shakiness, which can be a sign of an imminent seizure
  • Worsening depression symptoms

Speak to your medical practitioner immediately if you experience any of these symptoms. Seek immediate help if you think there's a probability of having a seizure or have:

  • Suicidal thoughts
  • severe shaking or tremors
  • significant worsening of depression symptoms

How Long Does Wellbutrin Stay In Your System?

Wellbutrin is a slow-acting atypical antidepressant that doesn't work immediately. Generally, it takes one to two weeks to start observing changes in mood or a decrease in depression or urge to smoke, and a few more weeks to achieve full effects in your system.   

For Wellbutrin, the half-life varies depending on the formulation, but it can be up to 21 hours.

Overall, this drug takes around four days to eliminate from the body. However, most of it clears specific parts of the body much faster. 

  1. More than 60% is excreted in the urine in the first 24 hours.
  2. Wellbutrin can stay in the blood longer than four days, but blood tests don't typically look for the compound it would appear as. 
  3. In hair, it can stay up to 90 days.

Possible Side Effects Of Wellbutrin 

Like all medications, Wellbutrin also comes with the risk of developing mild to severe side effects. They are-

Common side effects

Severe side effects

Anxiety

Hallucinations

Constipation

Joint pain

Drowsiness

Irregular heartbeat

Dry mouth

Seizures

Eye pain

Paranoia

Increased urination

State of mental confusion

Headache

Panic attacks

Racing thoughts

Difficulty breathing

Shaking and sweating

Chest pain

Trouble sleeping

Allergic reactions such as hives

Unusual excitement or mania

Body swelling

Precautions To Be Taken

Inform your doctor if you have experienced depression, abnormal or suicidal thoughts, or other mental problems. Contact your doctor about your other medical conditions, including if you: 

  • Have kidney problems.
  • Have hepatic disorders, especially cirrhosis of the liver.
  • Are breastfeeding. Wellbutrin passes through your milk. It is uncertain if it can harm your baby.
  • Are you pregnant or planning to become pregnant? It is unsure if Wellbutrin can harm your unborn baby.
  • Have an eating disorder, such as bulimia or anorexia nervosa.
  • Have had a seizure (or convulsions)
  • I have had a head injury.
  • Have a tumor in your nervous system (spine or brain).
  • Are diabetic, taking insulin or other medicines to control blood sugar.
  • Have you had a heart problem, heart attack, or high blood pressure?
  • Drink a lot of alcohol.
  • Abuse prescription medicines or street drugs.
  • Tell your doctor about all your medications, including prescription and nonprescription medicines, herbal supplements, and vitamins.

Dosage: How Much Should Be Taken?

The dosage, drug form of Wellbutrin, and how often you take this drug will depend on age, weight, the condition being treated, how you react to the first dose, how severe your first condition is, or any other medical condition.
Adult dosage (ages 18–64 years)

Immediate-release (75mg and 100mg)

  • Initial recommended dose: 200 mg per day, taken as 100 mg twice daily. This dose may be increased to 300 mg daily after three days.
  • Maximum dose: Maximum dose is 450 mg daily, to be taken in divided doses of no more than 150 mg each. 

Extended-release: (100 mg, 150 mg, 200 mg and 300 mg)

  • Initial recommended dose: 150 mg per day in the morning
  • Dosage increases: This dose may be increased to 300 mg daily after four days.

Wellbutrin XL (150 mg and 300 mg)

  • Initial recommended dose: 150 mg per day in the morning
  • Dosage increases: This dose may be increased to 300 mg daily after four days.

Wellbutrin SR (100 mg, 150 mg and 200 mg)

  • Initial recommended dose: 150 mg per day in the morning
  • Dosage increases: This dose may be increased to 300 mg daily, taken in two divided doses, after three days.
  • Maximum dosage: Maximum dose is 400 mg daily, to be taken in divided doses of no more than 200 mg each. 

Any Medicines That Do Not Affect Alcohol?

Alcohol interacts with some medicines. Depending on your health conditions, drinking can make the medication less effective or lead to harmful health consequences.

Some medications do not cause any harm when taken with alcohol, but it is essential to ensure before consuming alcohol that you're not putting yourself at risk. Your body absorbs different medicines differently.

Taking alcohol at the same time when your body is processing medicine can affect the rate of breakdown of drugs in the body.

Which Medicines Should You Not Take?

  • Statins (Cholesterol medicines): You should speak to your doctor before drinking alcohol, who can advise the type of statin and dose. Physicians shall also ask about alcohol consumption before prescribing statins. If you regularly drink for more than 14 units a week, you're at higher risk of severe side effects. 
  • Antidepressants: People taking antidepressants, including amitriptyline, fluoxetine, and other SSRIs, should avoid alcohol altogether.
  • Sedative drugs: People taking anti-histamines with a soothing effect or benzodiazepines, including diazepam, should avoid alcohol altogether. 

Bottom Line From Practical Anxiety Solutions

Wellbutrin is an atypical antidepressant drug used to treat depressive disorder and help people to quit smoking. Drinking alcohol is best avoided while using this drug, whether prescribed for any depressive disorder or as a smoking cessation aid. Doing so may increase the risk of a seizure.

If you are a heavy drinker or have an alcohol use disorder, speak to your healthcare professional before taking Wellbutrin.

If you accidentally drink alcohol while taking this drug, limit your consumption as much as possible and pay attention to any side effects. Together, you will be able to find out a treatment plan that does not put you at risk of alcohol-related side effects.

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  • Phillips, DeAnne. "Wellbutrin®: misuse and abuse by incarcerated individuals." Journal of Addictions Nursing 23.1 (2012): 65-69. Obtained on 06/01/2023 
  • Perrine, Daniel M., et al. "A short, one-pot synthesis of bupropion (Zyban, Wellbutrin)." Journal of Chemical Education 77.11 (2000): 1479. From https://doi.org/10.1021/ed077p1479 Obtained on 06/01/2023 
  • Gitlin, Michael J., et al. "Bupropion-sustained release as a treatment for SSRI-induced sexual side effects." Journal of Sex &Marital Therapy 28.2 (2002): 131-138. From https://doi.org/10.1080/00926230252851870 Obtained on 06/01/2023 
  • Hamilton, M. J., M. S. Bush, and A. W. Peck. "The effect of bupropion, a new antidepressant drug, and alcohol and their interaction in man." European journal of clinical pharmacology 27.1 (1984): 75-80. From https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00553158 
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