Wellbutrin can induce a feeling of well-being in those suffering from mental health conditions like depression. However, mixing it with a history of alcohol abuse can contribute to various negative and potentially dangerous side effects. Due to their combined effects on the central nervous system, when you mix alcohol and Wellbutrin, you don’t even have to drink much alcohol to be at risk of overdose. (1)
If you or a loved one suffers from a mental health condition like depression, they may be prescribed a medication like Wellbutrin. While FDA-approved to treat various disorders, Wellbutrin can become dangerous when mixed with alcohol. (2)
Here’s what you need to know about Wellbutrin and the side effects of taking bupropion and alcohol together.
What is Wellbutrin?
Wellbutrin, the brand name of the generic drug bupropion, is a valuable treatment for various conditions, including major depressive disorder, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and other forms of depression. (3)
Additionally, Wellbutrin plays a significant role in aiding smoking cessation by diminishing nicotine cravings and mitigating common withdrawal symptoms. (4) Its effectiveness in helping individuals quit smoking sets it apart from other antidepressants and highlights its multifaceted applications in promoting mental health and well-being.
Bupropion is known as an atypical antidepressant, which means it works differently from most antidepressants. While typical antidepressants act as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), bupropion increases the amount of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. (5) (6)
Chemicals like dopamine are responsible for regulating mood and behavior. (7) By increasing dopamine levels, Wellbutrin can alleviate various symptoms of depression and create an overall mood-lifting effect, eliminating thoughts of suicide.
Common Side Effects of Wellbutrin
Although it is FDA-approved, medications like Wellbutrin shouldn’t be taken without medical advice and regular checkups. Your healthcare provider should monitor your mental health and take note of changes in your condition so that they can adjust your Wellbutrin dose accordingly.
Below are the side effects: (8)
- Stomach upset, including nausea and vomiting
- Moderate to severe headaches
- Weight changes, which can include weight loss or, in some cases, weight gain, and uncontrollable shaking
Please note that continued medication use may diminish side effects, and any worsening of depression while taking Wellbutrin should be discussed with a healthcare provider.
Can You Drink When You Take Wellbutrin?
Wellbutrin and alcohol both affect your central nervous system. (9) Taken together, they can lead to dangerous outcomes, including an increased risk of seizures, confusion, and poor judgment. Mixing them can also reduce the effectiveness of Wellbutrin in managing depression, potentially causing harmful side effects like suicidal thoughts. (1)
If you have a mental health condition, it’s best to limit or avoid mixing alcohol since it worsens anxiety and depression symptoms.
Alcohol With Wellbutrin: Risk of Seizures
Combining alcohol and Wellbutrin elevates the risk of seizures. Seizures are abnormal electrical brain activity that can lead to physical convulsions and loss of consciousness. Here’s a brief overview of how this heightened risk:
- Alcohol as a Trigger: Alcohol itself can trigger seizures, particularly in individuals sensitive to its effects. Even in those without a history of seizures, excessive alcohol consumption can disrupt the brain’s normal electrical patterns and increase the risk of seizure activity. (10)
- Wellbutrin and Seizure Risk: Wellbutrin is known to have a dose-dependent effect on seizure risk. This means that as the dose of Wellbutrin increases, so does the likelihood of experiencing a seizure. While the risk of seizures associated with Wellbutrin is relatively low at standard therapeutic doses, it can significantly rise when the medication is taken in excessive amounts or misused. (11)
- Heightened Risk with Alcohol: Combining alcohol with Wellbutrin can further heighten the risk of seizures. Alcohol’s impact on the central nervous system, combined with Wellbutrin’s effects, can disrupt the delicate balance of brain activity, making it more susceptible to seizures. This heightened risk is particularly concerning for individuals with a history of seizures, who have experienced head injuries, high blood pressure, hyperactivity disorders, or are predisposed to seizure disorders.
To reduce the risk, stick to prescribed Wellbutrin doses and avoid excessive alcohol while taking the medication.
Alcohol Withdrawal When Drinking on Bupropion
Combining alcohol with Wellbutrin, also known as bupropion, can lead to complex symptoms associated with alcohol withdrawal. (12) Knowing these symptoms and their management is important for those in this challenging situation.
Here’s a detailed look at alcohol withdrawal symptoms when drinking on Wellbutrin:
- Anxiety: A surge in anxiety levels is a common symptom. Individuals may experience heightened nervousness, restlessness, and a sense of impending doom.
- Tremors: Shaking or trembling of the hands and body can occur. These tremors may vary in intensity.
- Sweating: Profuse sweating, even in mild conditions, is another typical symptom of alcohol withdrawal.
- Nausea and Vomiting: Gastrointestinal distress, including nausea and vomiting, is common during alcohol withdrawal.
- Hallucinations: Some individuals may experience auditory or visual hallucinations, which can be frightening and disorienting.
- Seizures: In severe cases, alcohol withdrawal can lead to seizures. Combining alcohol and Wellbutrin further elevates the risk of seizures.
Other Risks of Mixing Wellbutrin and Alcohol
Combining Wellbutrin with alcohol poses additional drug interactions beyond those already mentioned. Some of these risks include:
- Worsened Depression: Alcohol is known to worsen the symptoms of depression, and mixing it with Wellbutrin and antidepressant medications can negate the medication’s therapeutic effects. This may result in a deeper and prolonged depressive state. (13) (14)
- Impaired Judgment: Alcohol impairs judgment and decision-making. When drinking a lot of alcohol, individuals may be more likely to make risky choices, including those that can jeopardize their well-being.
- Cognitive Impairment: Combining alcohol and Wellbutrin may lead to cognitive impairment, like attention deficit, affecting memory, concentration, and mental clarity.
- Interaction with Other Medications: Alcohol can interact with medications other than Wellbutrin, potentially causing unexpected side effects or reduced efficacy.
- Increased Sedation: Both Wellbutrin and alcohol can cause drowsiness. When taken together, this sedative effect may become more pronounced and affect one’s daily functioning.
- Accident Risk: Impaired motor skills and cognitive function increase the risk of life-threatening accidents and injuries when alcohol and Wellbutrin are combined.
What to Do if You’ve Been Drinking Alcohol
If you or someone you know experiences severe symptoms, such as seizures or hallucinations, seek immediate medical help. Inform your healthcare provider about your alcohol consumption, substance abuse, and any associated withdrawal symptoms. They can adjust your medication plan accordingly.
Once this is done, you can do the following:
- Stay Hydrated: Ensure proper hydration, as alcohol withdrawal can lead to fluid loss due to sweating and vomiting.
- Rest: Adequate rest and a calming environment can help manage anxiety and tremors.
- Supportive Care: Support from family, friends, or support groups can provide emotional assistance during this challenging period.
- Consider Professional Help: In some cases, professional or addiction treatment at a medical facility may be necessary, especially for severe withdrawal symptoms.
It’s essential to be aware of the potential for alcohol withdrawal when taking Wellbutrin and to approach alcohol consumption cautiously, understanding the serious side effects. Don’t hesitate to seek medical assistance if you or someone you know experiences significant withdrawal symptoms. (15) There are countless treatment options available.
Warning Signs to Look Out For
Combining Wellbutrin and any amount of alcohol can have a higher risk, and it’s important to know potential warning signs if you’ve been mixing the two. Keep an eye out for the following indicators:
- Increased Anxiety: A surge in anxiety levels, restlessness, or persistent nervousness can be an early warning sign.
- Worsened Depression: If you notice a deepening of depressive symptoms, including sadness, hopelessness, and despair, it’s cause for concern.
- Changes in Behavior: Pay attention to any significant shifts in your behavior, especially impulsive or risky actions or thoughts of suicide. (16)
- Cognitive Impairment: Difficulty with memory, concentration, or decision-making could indicate a negative interaction between alcohol and Wellbutrin.
- Excessive Sedation: An increased tendency to feel excessively drowsy or fatigued is a potential sign of an adverse reaction.
- Hallucinations or Seizures: These are severe warning signs that require immediate medical attention.
- WorseningSide Effects: Any unusual or severe side effects from either Wellbutrin or alcohol should not be ignored.
- Increased Alcohol Consumption: If you find yourself drinking more alcohol than intended while taking Wellbutrin, it’s a clear indication of a potential problem.
If you experience any of these warning signs or have concerns about the effects of mixing Wellbutrin and alcohol, consult your healthcare provider promptly.
Treatment for Alcohol Dependence
If you or someone you love suffers from alcohol addiction or bad drinking habits, some programs can help them recover safely. Quitting cold turkey can lead to alcohol withdrawal, which is why getting a trusted team on your side is so beneficial.
At Zinnia Health, we’re committed to offering every individual personalized, confidential treatment in a supportive environment. Some of the things you can expect to find in our facility include:
- A team of recovery specialists who are skilled at guiding individuals through the detox and recovery process
- Inpatient and outpatient programs that are designed to conform to your unique needs and preferences
- A focus on your overall health and well-being, including treatment for co-occurring disorders like depression
- Extensive aftercare to support you even once you have completed your treatment program