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Smoking Cessation Drugs: Bupropion
Type of Medication
Bupropion is an antidepressant.
What Bupropion Is Prescribed For
Bupropion is an antidepressant, but it is also prescribed to help people quit smoking. It can be used alone or in combination with a nicotine replacement product.
How Bupropion Works
Bupropion appears to affect 2 brain chemicals that may be related to nicotine addiction: dopamine and norepinephrine. Bupropion reduces the cravings that smokers get when they try to quit. It also seems to reduce many of the nicotine withdrawal symptoms, such as irritability, frustration, and anger.
Considerations While Taking This Medication
See Your Doctor
Your doctor will determine the appropriate level of bupropion for you and will adjust the dosage as you progress.
Manage Your Medications
Tell your doctor about all the medications you take. Some should not be taken with bupropion. For example, you should not take bupropion for smoking cessation if you:
- Are already taking another drug that also contains bupropion
- Have used a monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), another type of antidepressant, in the past 14 days
Be Cautious With Certain Conditions
Certain conditions can affect whether it is safe for you to take bupropion. Tell your doctor about your medical history and if you have any health problems, especially if you have:
- Seizure disorder
- Eating disorder, such as anorexia or bulimia
- Alcohol or drug addiction, or are undergoing treatment
- Allergic reaction to medication
Other conditions that are important to let your doctor know about include current or history of:
- Brain tumor, brain disorders, or surgery
- Head injury
- Mental health disorders, such as bipolar disorder or psychosis
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease
- Liver disease
If you are woman who is pregnant or breastfeeding, be sure to talk to your doctor about whether it is safe for you to take bupropion.
Start taking bupropion 1-2 weeks before you plan to stop smoking. This will give the medication enough time to reach adequate levels in your body.
Note: Do not double the dose. Taking too much bupropion at one time can cause serious reactions, including seizures.
If all goes well and you are successful in quitting, you should plan to keep taking bupropion for 7-12 weeks. Your doctor may advise staying on treatment for 6 months after quitting, depending on your circumstances.
Possible Side Effects
Most people do not have side effects from taking bupropion for smoking cessation. If side effects do occur, they can usually be minimized. In addition, side effects are most often temporary, lasting only as long as you are taking the medication.
There are rare, but serious side effects that you should be aware of. Medications like bupropion may cause severe mood and behavior changes in some people, including suicidal thoughts. Young adults may be more at risk for these side effects. Make sure you call emergency medical services right away if this happens to you.
Other Side Effects
Common side effects may include:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Rash, itchy skin, hives
- Muscle pain
- Trembling or shaking
- Menstrual changes in women
- Sore throat
More serious, but less common side effects may include:
- Irregular heartbeat
- Serious allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis
Symptoms of an Overdose
Symptoms of an overdose may be more severe than side effects seen at regular doses, or 2 or more side effects may occur together. Call for emergency medical services right away if you notice any of the following:
- Fast heartbeat
- Loss of consciousness
- Nausea and/or vomiting
Combining bupropion with other medications can increase your risk of seizures, as well as other potentially dangerous interactions. Examples of medications that can cause problems include:
- Antipsychotic medications
- Anti-arrhythmic agents
There are many other medications that may interact with bupropion. Be sure to discuss any other medications that you are taking with your doctor.
Smoking Cessation Success
It is clear from all of the studies on smoking cessation that your chance of long-term success depends a great deal on your motivation and commitment to quitting, regardless of which therapy you choose.
American Lung Association
Smokefree—National Institutes of Health
Canadian Cancer Society
The Lung Association
Treatment for tobacco use. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T905141/Treatment-for-tobacco-use. Updated December 25, 2017. Accessed January 9, 2018.
Bupropion hydrochloride. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T233485/Bupropion-hydrochloride. Updated January 8, 2018. Accessed January 9, 2018.
Prescription medicine: bupropion (Wellbutrin SR, Zyban). Respiratory Health Association website. Available at: http://www.tcyh.org/smoking/downloads/rha/Bupropion.pdf. Accessed January 9, 2018.
Roddy E. Bupropion and other non-nicotine pharmocotherapies. BMJ. 2004; 328(7438): 509-511.
- Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review BoardMichael Woods, MD, FAAP
- Review Date: 01/2018
- Update Date: 01/06/2016