What is Wellbutrin?

Wellbutrin is a brand of bupropion, a prescription antidepressant. It works in the brain to treat major depressive disorder (MDD) and seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and to assist people in quitting cigarettes. It’s approved for adults over 18.

Like other antidepressants, Wellbutrin shouldn’t be mixed with alcohol.  . Mixing the two may increase your risk of side effects, including rare but serious side effects like seizures.

If you already drink regularly and are starting to take Wellbutrin, be careful to slowly decrease your alcohol use over time, rather than stop all at once. You may be at higher risk for a seizure if your drinking patterns change too quickly.

Risk factors of Wellbutrin | Risk factors

Wellbutrin is an atypical antidepressant. Atypical antidepressants are different from other antidepressants because they work uniquely with your neurotransmitters (serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine). They also may interact differently with alcohol and other drugs.

Wellbutrin is safe for most people, but may cause problems in some instances. Don’t take Wellbutrin if you:

  •       have or have had a seizure disorder
  •       already take Zyban or other bupropion medicines
  •       drink a lot of alcohol or recently stopped all of a sudden
  •       have taken monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) in the last 14 days
  •       have an eating disorder

Alcohol-related seizures

If you regularly drink alcohol and want to start taking Wellbutrin, talk to your doctor before changing your drinking habits. You may be at a higher risk for seizures if you regularly drink alcohol and stop suddenly so that you can take Wellbutrin. You may also be at risk for alcohol withdrawal syndrome, which can increase your risk of seizures. Alcohol withdrawal syndrome may be fatal if not addressed.

Side effects associated with alcohol withdrawal syndrome include:

  •       serious and uncontrollable shaking
  •       hallucinations
  •       vomiting
  •       confusion

If you don’t regularly drink alcohol and want to start taking Wellbutrin, it’s best to avoid alcohol while taking the drug.

If you have a seizure while taking Wellbutrin, stop taking it right away and talk to your doctor about alternatives.

Other side effects

Drinking alcohol while taking Wellbutrin may also increase other side effects. These include:

  •       dry mouth
  •       confusion
  •       impaired vision or hearing
  •       incorrect bowel movement 
  •       anxiety
  •       irritation or rash
  •       sore joints
  •       headache

U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Black Box Warning

The FDA warns that taking Wellbutrin may increase the risk of suicidal tendencies. Patients with MDD may experience unusual behavior or worsening depression while taking antidepressants. Contact your doctor if you have feelings of emotional distress. If you have thoughts of suicide, call 911.

Talk to your doctor

Notify your doctor of any health concerns before starting Wellbutrin. It’s important to be honest with your doctor about existing alcohol and drug use.

An overdose on Wellbutrin may be fatal. Call 911 if you’ve taken more than recommended or if you’re experience any signs of overdose such as disrupted breathing, hallucinations, or muscle stiffness. You can also call the Poison Helpline at 1-800-222-1222. 

Treatment

If you’ve already consumed alcohol while on Wellbutrin, stay calm. Having a drink while taking Wellbutrin doesn’t automatically mean you’re going to experience serious side effects. It just means you’re at a higher risk. 

Pay attention to your body and how you feel. Contact your doctor or 911 right away if you:

  • feel more depressed than before
  • experience worsening side effects
  • feel shaky or experience tremors, which may be signs of an oncoming seizure

Call 911 if you experience suicidal thoughts.

The takeaway

Wellbutrin is an atypical antidepressant drug that’s used to treat MDD and SAD, and to help people quit smoking. It should never be mixed with alcohol. Doing so may increase Wellbutrin’s side effects and may cause risk of a seizure.

 

You may also be at risk of a seizure if you regularly drink alcohol and suddenly stop before taking Wellbutrin. Before taking Wellbutrin, let your doctor know how much alcohol you typically consume.