Can Zyban or Wellbutrin Cause High Blood Pressure?

Hypertension Among Side Effects of Popular Drugs

person testing blood pressure
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Bupropion is a drug primarily used as an antidepressant or smoking cessation tool. It is marketed under the brand name Wellbutrin when used in the treatment of major depressive disorder and seasonal affective disorder. When used as for smoking cessation, it is marketed under the brand name Zyban. Both drugs are made by the pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline.

In either form, bupropion is associated with a number of common side effects (occurring in over 10% of users):

  • Dizziness
  • Constipation
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headache
  • Dry mouth
  • Excessive sweating
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Agitation
  • Blurred vision

One of the less common side heart-related side effects is hypertension (high blood pressure). According to the FDA-registered prescribing information, hypertension was shown to occur in 4.6% of users or roughly one of every 22 people. This more than doubles the risk seen in the general population.

Understanding Hypertension

Hypertension is a condition in which the force of the blood against the artery walls is too high. The elevated pressure with these vessels places a strain on the cardiovascular system as a whole and, over time, increases a person's risk of heart attack, aneurysm, kidney disease, and stroke.

Normal blood pressure is defined as a systolic pressure below 120 mmHg and a diastolic value under 80 mmHg. Hypertension is blood pressure that is greater than 140/90 mmHg. For people over 60, high blood pressure is defined as 150/90 mmHg or greater.

Depending on the systolic pressure (during a heartbeat) and diastolic pressure (between heartbeats), the severity of hypertension could be classified as:

  • Prehypertension: between 120 and 139 systolic and 80 and 89 diastolic
  • Stage 1: between 140 and 159 systolic and 90 and 99 diastolic
  • Stage 2: 160 or higher systolic and 100 or higher diastolic
  • Hypertensive crisis: 180 or higher systolic or 110 or higher diastolic

Bupropion and Hypertension

Bupropion has the potential to increase blood pressure because it affects the levels of certain neurotransmitters produced by the brain, known as catecholamines, which regulate not only mood but blood pressure.

The risk of hypertension is known to increase to 6.1% (or roughly one of every 16 people) if bupropion is taken in conjunction with a transdermal nicotine patch. This appears true whether a person has had a prior history of hypertension or not.

If you must remain on Wellbutrin to control your depression, high blood pressure medication can be prescribed to counteract this side effect. Otherwise, you may need to speak with your doctor about switching to a different antidepressant.

A Word From Verywell

Bupropion can be an effective tool for treating depression or smoking addiction. Persons prescribed with Zyban or Wellbutrin should have their blood pressure tested before starting treatment and routinely monitored thereafter. If you experience any symptoms of hypertension, speak with your doctor. You can also get your blood pressure tested at most larger retail pharmacies.

Call 911 or rush to your nearest emergency room if you or a loved one experience symptoms of a hypertensive crisis, including:

  • Severe chest pain
  • A severe headache accompanied by confusion and blurred vision
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Severe anxiety
  • Shortness of breath
  • Seizures
  • Unresponsiveness
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Article Sources
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  1. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Highlights of prescribing information. Updated May 2017.

  2. American Heart Association. Understanding blood pressure readings. Updated November 30, 2017.

  3. Mathar I, Vennekens R, Meissner M, et al. Increased catecholamine secretion contributes to hypertension in TRPM4-deficient miceJ Clin Invest. 2010;120(9):3267–3279. doi:10.1172/JCI41348

  4. Patel K, Allen S, Haque MN, Angelescu I, Baumeister D, Tracy DK. Bupropion: a systematic review and meta-analysis of effectiveness as an antidepressantTher Adv Psychopharmacol. 2016;6(2):99–144. doi:10.1177/2045125316629071

  5. American Heart Association. Hypertensive crisis: when you should call 911 for high blood pressure. Updated November 31, 2017.

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