Bupropion (Wellbutrin) Addiction: Side Effects, Detox, Withdrawal, and Treatment
Bupropion, sold under the brand name Wellbutrin, is an antidepressant and an FDA-approved treatment for depression, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and nicotine addiction. It is sometimes also used to treat obesity, ADHD, sexual problems, and bipolar disorder.
Wellbutrin works by re-balancing chemicals in the brain to fix issues caused by the imbalance. It comes in tablet form (extended-release, sustained-release, and immediate-release) and is intended to be swallowed whole. Under the brand name Zyban, bupropion has successfully been used to help people quit smoking. When it is used for this purpose, it reduces nicotine cravings and eases the symptoms of withdrawal.
People who take Wellbutrin for medical purposes are unlikely to become addicted, although it can happen. When bupropion is taken in very large doses, it can cause stimulating effects that have been compared to the high caused by cocaine, and there are reports of people abusing it to get high.
Brand names for bupropion include:
The following term is a street name or slang term for bupropion:
- Poor Man’s Cocaine
Antidepressants like Wellbutrin are one of the top three medications prescribed in the U.S. While some people may only take them for a few weeks, others continue to take them for years, often times becoming dependent on the effects they provide.
Although Wellbutrin is safe to use under the direct supervision of a doctor, people have found ways to abuse it recreationally. The tablets are designed to be swallowed whole, but people who abuse Wellbutrin typically do so by chewing the pills or crushing them and snorting the powder. They may also dissolve the powder with water and inject it, which comes with a whole host of risks like infection, damage to the blood vessels, and more.
By abusing Wellbutrin in these ways, people bypass the sustained or extended-release quality of the drug, and as a result, the brain experiences a sudden rush of neurotransmitters which causes stimulant effects.
Many people also abuse Wellbutrin by taking very large doses of it with the intention of getting high. Misusing Wellbutrin in any way can have harmful and dangerous side effects and will increase a person’s risk of tolerance, dependence, and addiction.
Harmful side effects of Wellbutrin abuse may include:
- Muscle pain
- Joint pain
- Aggressive behavior
- Irregular heartbeat
- Decreased sex drive
- Suicidal thoughts and behaviors
Bupropion (Wellbutrin) addiction is not common, but it is certainly possible. People with a history of prescription drug abuse or drug and alcohol addiction may have a higher risk of developing Wellbutrin addiction. Many cocaine users start abusing bupropion (Wellbutrin) when they are unable to get cocaine and need a cheap alternative that is easy to obtain.
If someone is addicted to Wellbutrin, there may be some telltale behaviors to watch for. Signs and symptoms of Wellbutrin addiction often include:
- Staying awake for very long periods of time/trouble sleeping
- Extreme energy and activity
- Loss of appetite
- Excessive excitement, happiness, or elation
- A sudden increase in self-esteem
- Getting multiple prescriptions for bupropion (Wellbutrin) from several doctors
Antidepressant drugs that affect the levels of serotonin in the brain typically produce more severe withdrawal symptoms. However, unlike other antidepressant drugs, bupropion (Wellbutrin) does not affect serotonin levels, so withdrawal symptoms are usually mild.
If a person develops Wellbutrin addiction, he or she will experience withdrawal symptoms if they suddenly stop using it. Wellbutrin withdrawal symptoms typically include:
- Extreme agitation
- Hostile and aggressive behavior
- Suicidal thoughts
Although Wellbutrin isn’t typically associated with severe withdrawal symptoms like other antidepressants, completing detox and withdrawal under medical supervision is a wise choice. Suicidal thoughts and behaviors do not occur with all withdrawal experiences but in the event that they do, having a medical and clinical team on-site to provide professional assistance and care is crucial.
In addition to preventing medical emergencies, a medical detox program for Wellbutrin detox and withdrawal reduces the risk of relapse by slowly tapering a person’s bupropion dose to ease them off the antidepressant gradually. With this method, a person is less likely to experience withdrawal symptoms and can achieve sobriety at a safe and comfortable pace.
After detox is complete, treatment staff can even recommend ongoing care for clients who wish to continue their addiction treatment with rehab or a sober living program.
Since it is not common to experience bupropion (Wellbutrin) withdrawal symptoms, many people complete detox without ever suffering through uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Most often, people who are detoxing from Wellbutrin will feel extremely agitated and irritable for a short time.
Once a person has completed a detox program for bupropion (Wellbutrin) addiction, he or she may also continue addiction treatment with a rehab program. The primary purpose of a drug rehab program is to investigate the root causes of addictive behavior and change unhealthy attitudes and behaviors to align with a lifestyle of sobriety.
In rehab, clients work with a team of professional addiction treatment specialists, counselors, and therapists to:
- Uncover the root causes of the addiction
- Work through trauma and feelings of shame
- Learn more about the disease of addiction
- Learn and apply relapse prevention method
- Gain valuable life skills
- Connect with other sober people
Each of these objectives is achieved by attending individual and group counseling sessions, participating in in-depth 12-step work, attending educational lectures, and participating in specialized therapies like pet therapy, music therapy, or art therapy.
Two of the most common types of drug rehab programs are residential inpatient programs and outpatient programs.
- Residential inpatient rehab – Inpatient drug rehab requires that clients live on-site at the rehab center while they complete their program. During this time, they adhere to a structured daily schedule that consists of individual and group sessions, personal time, meal time, and a daily exercise regimen. This type of gender-specific program is well-rounded and is often ideal for people who need a great deal of structure to succeed or who are working to overcome a severe addiction.
- Outpatient rehab – An outpatient rehab program provides more flexibility for people who cannot commit to a 90-day inpatient program. Outpatient rehab consists of a series of group meetings held at a safe, clinical location. Meetings are co-ed and consist of relapse prevention work, chemical dependency education, group therapy, and peer support.
When deciding between the two types of rehab programs, it’s not a comparison of which is better, rather, which best suits the person’s treatment needs.
The cost of a drug rehab program will vary depending on the location, the services offered, the amenities, and the type of program. Clients typically have several different payment options including:
- Medical insurance
- Employee Assistance Program (EAP) benefits
- Private loans
- Out-of-pocket payments
Overcoming any type of addiction will require several different episodes of treatment. After rehab, there are several continued care options that can help people transition from a life of addiction to a life of sobriety and provide personalized support along the way.
Sober Living Programs
A sober living program is a transitional housing program that is designed to help rehab alumni transition into an independent lifestyle of sobriety. Sober living homes are gender-specific group homes with structured schedules and program requirements that help people maintain their sobriety as they establish a new life in recovery.
Many sober living homes also offer recovery support services, including:
- Tiered recovery programming
- Regular drug and alcohol testing
- Education and employment assistance
- Volunteer assistance
- Personal monitoring
The cost of a sober living program will vary depending on its location, the type of room options available, the amenities, and the recovery support services offered.
Aftercare is specifically designed to help people in both early and later stages of sobriety by providing peer support and accountability. Aftercare meetings are held weekly in a secure treatment location. Each meeting is designed to be a safe, welcoming environment where people in recovery can be open and honest about their successes and failures and receive feedback from sober peers.
Many people use Aftercare as a weekly check-in and a way to establish a peer support group outside of their sober living home.
If you or a loved one is struggling with bupropion (Wellbutrin) addiction, it’s not too late to get help. Call Nova Recovery Center today for more information about our addiction treatment programs and recovery services.
- Gender-specific treatment
- Evidenced-based treatment
- 12-Step immersion
- 90-day residential treatment
- Family program
- Full continuum of care
- Insurance and private pay
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