How to Treat Addiction & Abuse with Bupropion

Bupropion is an antidepressant medication typically taken in tablet form. However, it has also been marketed as a smoking cessation medication. It works by reducing the symptoms associated with nicotine withdrawal while it can also reduce the cravings for nicotine that tend to come with cessation.

For those prescribed bupropion to help them quit smoking, a typical course lasts up to twelve weeks. Most people will be ready to quit cigarettes completely between one and two weeks after taking regular bupropion.

What Addictions is Bupropion Used to Treat?

  • Nicotine addiction

Medications for Abuse and Addiction

Substance addiction is a crippling illness that typically occurs gradually. It, therefore, requires patience and motivation to overcome such an illness. For most, regaining control of their life will require a programme of detoxification followed by rehabilitation. The idea is that this will allow them to achieve permanent sobriety and therefore long-term abstinence.

Nevertheless, medication may also be used during detox and rehabilitation where appropriate. With certain substance addictions, medications exist that can help to ease the symptoms of withdrawal. These medications are typically used to replace the substance that is being withdrawn; they help by reducing the severity of withdrawal symptoms or preventing them from occurring in the first place.

Medication may also help to reduce cravings, therefore helping with relapse prevention after rehab.

How to Choose the Right Medication

When it comes to the administration of medication during detox and withdrawal, a medical professional will decide whether it is right for you or not. Much will depend on the substance that you are trying to withdraw from and what your overall mental and physical health is currently like.

A full assessment will be required before any medication is prescribed though; this is to ensure that a specific medication is suitable for your needs. This will take into account factors such as your medical history, age, and overall health.

What is Bupropion?

Bupropion is a unicyclic aminoketone antidepressant. It can be prescribed on its own to help in the treatment of depression, but it is also sometimes prescribed as an add-on medication for patients not responding as expected to other antidepressants such as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors).

It is favourable to other antidepressants in terms of reduced side effects such as sleepiness, weight gain, and sexual dysfunction. Moreover, as it is a nicotinic antagonist (blocks nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in the brain), it is suitable for use in the treatment of nicotine addiction.

Brand Names for Bupropion







History of Bupropion

Bupropion was first manufactured in 1969 by the pharmaceutical company that is now known as GlaxoSmithKline. The company was granted the patent in 1974 and eleven years later the drug was approved for use as an antidepressant. It was marked under the brand name Wellbutrin.

However, one of the side effects of bupropion was an increased risk for seizures, which led to the drug being withdrawn in 1986. It was found that the increased risk for seizures was dependent on the dose and so bupropion was re-introduced in 1989, this time with a lower maximum advised dose.

In 1997, bupropion was approved for use as a smoking cessation medication, marketed under the brand name Zyban for this purpose.

Is Bupropion Addictive?

Although bupropion is not considered an addictive drug, there is a small potential for abuse, with a few reports of people taking the drug for recreational purposes. It is known that some of these individuals crush bupropion pills to snort the powder, as large doses are known to have a stimulant effect. Nevertheless, as mentioned above, the higher the dose, the higher the risk for seizures, which is then obviously a concern among abusers of the drug.

What is the Mechanism of Action?

The mechanism of action of bupropion is not fully understood at the time of this writing but it is thought that it blocks the reuptake of the body’s natural feel-good chemical dopamine. It is known that an imbalance of chemicals in the brain causes conditions such as anxiety and depression and that medications such as bupropion can help to readdress the balance and reduce the symptoms of these conditions.

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How Long Does It Take for Bupropion to Work?

When used as a smoking cessation aid, bupropion is designed to be started before cessation begins. The medication builds up in the system and most people are ready to quit smoking after around seven to ten days. A typical course of bupropion for quitting smoking is between seven and twelve weeks.

What are the Side Effects of Bupropion

  • Sweating
  • Weight loss
  • Abdominal pain
  • Skin rash
  • Dizziness
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Muscle pain
  • Agitation
  • Sore throat

Facts/Statistics on Bupropion

Fact #1

Bupropion is considered a much more attractive option in terms of antidepressant drugs than many alternative medications due to the fact that it does not cause side effects such as weight gain and loss of libido.

Fact #2

In fact, it can actually increase libido and suppress appetite.

Fact #3

It has been given the nickname the ‘happy, sexy, skinny pill’.

Fact #4

Bupropion is only approved as a smoking cessation aid in the UK; it is not approved for the treatment of depression.

Studies on Bupropion
Research carried out by GlaxoSmithKline looked to determine how effective bupropion is as a smoking cessation aid. The objectives of the study were ‘to evaluate change in motivation, subsequence quit rates, and safety of bupropion hydrochloride compared with matching placebo in adult chronic cigarette smokers who were not motivated to quit smoking’.

The results found that in those who was not motivated to quit smoking, there was no statistical difference between bupropion hydrochloride and the placebo in terms of any of the efficacy variables that were measured.