Bupropion Abuse and Addiction

When it comes to substance abuse, it’s definitely not unheard of to transfer addiction from one substance to another: from food to alcohol (or alcohol to food), for instance. It can also happen when dealing with prescription drugs, and bupropion is a good example of this. If you or a loved one are concerned about an addiction to bupropion, the good news is that you can recover from it with the proper addiction treatment.

What Is Bupropion?

While you might not think you’re familiar with this drug, you probably do know it better under the brand names Wellbutrin, Zyban, or Aplenzin. It’s used as an antidepressant to treat ADHD and bipolar disorder, as well as to help with nicotine withdrawal and cravings so smokers can kick the habit. Most anti-depressants are thought to work by regulating certain brain chemicals such as serotonin, and bupropion appears to regulate dopamine and norepinephrine neurotransmitters. While the FDA doesn’t consider it a habit-forming drug, it’s known as the “poor man’s cocaine” for a reason. 

Bupropion Effects

The side effects of bupropion are well-documented, including dry mouth, drowsiness, weight loss, excessive sweating, and nausea. Sleep might not come easily or you find it hard to stay asleep all night. You might have headaches or feel more anxious than usual, or have to go to the bathroom more often than usual. More serious effects of bupropion include seizures, irregular heartbeat, pain in joints or muscles, and hallucinations. The time-lapse Wellbutrin XL is actually very effective for treating seizures caused by epilepsy, but the dosage is highly controlled for epileptic patients.

If you take too much “bupropion”, or if you take it in a different way than the pill form that’s prescribed, you can become addicted to it. The extended-release form only needs to be taken once a day. But if the pill is snorted or injected instead, you get the entire amount of the drug all at once. When that happens, your brain’s awash in neurotransmitters, the same as if you took other stimulants (like cocaine). Having high levels of norepinephrine in your brain for extended periods of time makes your body more likely to build up a tolerance so you need higher dosages to achieve the same effects.

Signs of Bupropion Abuse and Addiction

In addition to insomnia and the other side effects noted above, bupropion abuse is known to decrease sex drive. Side effects of bupropion addiction include hallucinations. A huge flood of dopamine all at once is a known trigger for both auditory (hearing things that aren’t there) and visual hallucinations. Similar to cocaine, if you abuse bupropion for a long enough time, you may become paranoid and stop thinking rationally.

Bupropion Withdrawal Symptoms

Wellbutrin withdrawal symptoms include excessive sweating, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and diarrhea. You may have difficulty walking or have tremors or numbness in your legs. Bupropion withdrawal could also include mood swings, mania and/or depression, and “brain shakes” where you feel like you just got zapped in the head.

Long Term Side Effects of Bupropion Abuse

Bupropion addiction can lead to psychosis. You lose all contact with reality and you don’t understand what’s going on in the world around you. In addition to hallucinations, you might have delusions, such as believing that outside forces are controlling you and your thoughts, or that you have special powers or might even be a god.

There are some warning signs of psychosis if you’re concerned about yourself or a loved one who suffers from a bupropion addiction. You may let go of self-care or hygiene, start pulling away from friends and family and spend more time alone. You could be suspicious or uneasy around people, and either be flooded by feelings or not feel any emotions at all. 

Bupropion Addiction Treatment

The levels of care you need to depend on the severity of your bupropion abuse disorder. You may require a medically assisted detox as well as an inpatient rehab. Or you might be able to take advantage of a partial hospitalization treatment plan, and an intensive outpatient program. Relapse prevention is key for long-term recovery, and this could include group therapy and 12-step programs too.

At Trupath, in addition to the full continuum of care, you’ll have access to individual therapy and dual diagnosis treatments if necessary. We have family programs available too. Once you’ve reached the outpatient rehab level, you may benefit from sober living. Don’t wait to get help for your substance abuse disorder – start living the prescription drug-free life that you deserve.