Wellbutrin Abuse, Addiction, And Treatment Options

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D on February 12, 2021

Wellbutrin (Bupropion) is an FDA-approved prescription medication that treats depression, seasonal affective disorder, nicotine addiction, ADHD, and other disorders. The medication is not known to be addictive or habit-forming. However, abuse of the drug can lead to a substance use disorder.

Wellbutrin Abuse, Addiction, And Treatment Options

Wellbutrin is a norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitor that treats chemical imbalances in the brain. When used for approved medical purposes, the drug improves dopamine concentration which leads to improved mood, assists in weight loss, and reduces nicotine cravings.

This prescription medication is not considered to be addictive and is easily obtained via prescription. Individuals who take the medication under the supervision of a qualified medical professional are unlikely to become addicted to the drug.

Other brand names of Wellbutrin include:

  • Aplenzin
  • Zyban
  • Voxra
  • Bupropion
  • Prexaton
  • Elontril

A common street name for Wellbutrin is “poor man’s cocaine.”

The recommended starting dose of Wellbutrin is 200 mg/day, given as a 100 mg dose twice daily, in pill form. When the drug is taken in high doses, it can cause stimulating effects comparable to the highs caused by cocaine. When an individual abuses the drug, the pills are crushed and snorted (insufflated).

What Is Wellbutrin Abuse?

Wellbutrin is a commonly prescribed medication that is not reported as being addictive or habit-forming. When Wellbutrin is used under the supervision of a qualified medical professional and as prescribed, the drug effectively treats mental health problems and other disorders.

Many individuals use Wellbutrin without developing adverse effects or developing a chemical dependency. However, individuals who abuse Wellbutrin for recreational purposes often become physically and psychologically dependent on the effects of the drug.

Individuals who abuse Wellbutrin will chew the pills, crush the pills to snort the medication, or inject crushed pills intravenously or intramuscularly. The injection method of abuse puts an individual at risk for infection, skin lesions, damage to blood vessels, and death.

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Abusing Wellbutrin by chewing, snorting, or injecting the drug works to bypass its sustained or extended-release properties, causing a dopamine high. When the drug is misused in these ways, it can lead to dangerous side effects and increase the risk of chemical dependency and addiction.

Side Effects Of Wellbutrin Abuse

Taking Wellbutrin without the oversight of a physician and outside of the recommended dose can lead to dangerous side effects. Abuse of the drug may increase the risk of seizure, suicide attempts, accidental poisoning, and overdose.

Side effects of Wellbutrin abuse include:

  • seizures
  • suicidal thoughts
  • reckless and aggressive behavior
  • hallucinations
  • vertigo
  • constipation
  • irregular heartbeat
  • muscle and joint pain
  • dependency
  • addiction
  • overdose

Wellbutrin Addiction

Wellbutrin is considered to be non-addictive and habit-forming. However, abuse of the drug may lead to dependency and addiction. While Wellbutrin addiction is not common, it is possible.

Wellbutrin improves mood by regulating and raising dopamine concentration in the emotional centers of the brain. Individuals abusing Wellbutrin are often trying to improve their mood, escape negative emotions, and attain a high. Individuals with a history of prescription drug abuse, alcohol addiction, and other underlying disorders may have a higher risk of developing Wellbutrin addiction.

Individuals who abuse Wellbutrin may develop chemical dependency and addiction after stressful life events or trauma. In other cases, individuals addicted to cocaine turn to Wellbutrin when they are unable to buy cocaine and require a low-cost alternative.

Signs Of Wellbutrin Addiction

When someone is addicted to Wellbutrin, it may not be easy for friends and family members to tell the difference between normal prescription drug use and addiction. However, several signs of addiction may be easily identified.

As with other addictive drugs, an individual who abuses Wellbutrin may place drug use over other personal responsibilities and priorities, instead spending increased amounts of time acquiring and using the drug. Personal and professional relationships may suffer as a result, when the individual neglects other important aspects of life.

Signs of Wellbutrin addiction may include:

  • neglect of personal responsibilities
  • loss of appetite
  • trouble sleeping
  • insomnia
  • euphoria
  • excessive excitement or elation
  • change in self-esteem
  • multiple prescriptions for Wellbutrin from several doctors

Withdrawal From Wellbutrin

Antidepressant (SSRI) drugs that affect serotonin levels in the brain are known to cause more noticeable withdrawal symptoms. Wellbutrin does not directly affect serotonin levels, and instead acts on the dopamine neurotransmitters in the brain. When using Wellbutrin as prescribed, withdrawal symptoms are usually minimal.

When an individual abuses Wellbutrin, withdrawal may be more complex and require medical assistance. If a person becomes addicted to Wellbutrin and stops the drug suddenly, they may develop suicidal thoughts and other adverse side effects.

Wellbutrin withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • suicidal thoughts
  • irritability
  • depression
  • extreme agitation
  • aggressive behavior

While Wellbutrin is not reported to produce withdrawal symptoms, an individual who has developed dependency or addiction to Wellbutrin should consult with a medical professional before stopping its use.

Suicidal thoughts and behaviors do not occur with all withdrawal experiences, however, due to these risks, addiction treatment and access to healthcare that provides professional medical assistance may be necessary.

Treatment Options For Wellbutrin Addiction

When an individual is suffering from Wellbutrin dependency or addiction, completing a detox program under medical supervision may be required to prevent medical emergencies. Addiction treatment programs that specialize in treating Wellbutrin addiction and withdrawal enable an addicted individual to achieve sobriety safely and responsibly.

Learn more about detoxing from Wellbutrin

Inpatient and outpatient addiction treatment centers provide necessary and supportive medical treatment as an addicted individual gradually reduces their dose of the drug. This method both increases an individual’s chances of successfully completing treatment and avoiding relapse.

If you or a loved one are struggling with bupropion abuse, substance abuse treatment options that provide medical and mental health services on an inpatient and outpatient basis are crucial.

Contact one of our treatment specialists today to find treatment for you or a loved one.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more

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Medically Reviewed by
Johnelle Smith, M.D on February 12, 2021
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