Wellbutrin Withdrawal: Overview, Symptoms & Coping

Wellbutrin withdrawal

Verywell / Bailey Mariner

Wellbutrin (bupropion) is a common antidepressant that's also prescribed for many other conditions such as anxiety, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, and more. It's also used as a smoking cessation aid.

Like all antidepressants, it offers many potential benefits but doesn’t work for everyone. Unlike the others, however, it carries a much lower risk of withdrawal symptoms.

If you're not seeing signs that Wellbutrin is working, or it has worked and is no longer needed, here's what to expect if you stop taking it.

Overview of Wellbutrin Withdrawal

Antidepressants are among the top three most commonly prescribed medications in the United States. Not every antidepressant works for every person, however, and many people try several before hitting the right drug or combination thereof.

In the process, many experience antidepressant discontinuation syndrome, also known as withdrawal. This is a particular risk with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which affect a brain neurotransmitter called serotonin.

Wellbutrin is different in that it doesn't have a major effect on serotonin. Rather, it affects the levels of the neurotransmitters dopamine and noradrenaline. Consequently, the withdrawal symptoms are typically mild, or, more often, nonexistent.

Never change or discontinue medications without consulting your healthcare provider. They can advise you on the right way to make the transition (such as tapering off your dose gradually) and help you cope with symptoms you might experience.

Signs and Symptoms of Wellbutrin Withdrawal

Most people don't experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking Wellbutrin. Among those who do, symptoms vary greatly and range in severity from mild to moderate:

  • Sweating: Redness and excessive perspiration, especially in heat.
  • Digestive problems: Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and/or loss of appetite. This is because serotonin plays a major role in the digestive system.
  • Insomnia: Difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep. You may also experience unusual dreams or nightmares.
  • Neurological effects: Tremors, restless legs, numbness, and/or difficulty walking.
  • Psychological symptoms: Mood swings, agitation, anxiety, mania, and/or depression.
  • Brain zaps: Sensations that feel like shocks to the head, also described as brain shakes or shivers.

Wellbutrin withdrawal symptoms aren't common, but those who experience them may become agitated and irritable. If you recently quit smoking, your nicotine cravings may return, although they're likely to be milder than if you hadn't taken Wellbutrin.

According to Joseph Glenmullen, M.D., author of The Antidepressant Solution, irritability is a common symptom. In Glenmullen’s experience, patients quitting Wellbutrin often feel symptoms like those quitting nicotine do, such as extreme agitation and uncharacteristically hostile, rude, or aggressive behavior.

If you were using Wellbutrin to quit smoking, your nicotine cravings might return when you stop taking the drug, but they're likely to be milder than what you'd experience without having taken the drug.

Coping With Wellbutrin Withdrawal

If you're experiencing symptoms of withdrawal, contact your doctor or therapist for help dealing with them or finding another medication. On your own, you can:

  • Get more exercise. Go for walks, try yoga—anything to get moving and stimulate the release of your body's feel-good chemicals.
  • Meditate. Learn how to practice mindfulness and focused breathing, which can help with anxiety.
  • Spend time with friends and family. Studies show that spending time with friends and family can help you manage your depression symptoms.
  • Keep a nicotine patch or some nicotine gum handy to help reduce nicotine cravings and agitation if you're using Wellbutrin to stop smoking.

How does Wellbutrin (buproprion) work?

Antidepressants such as Wellbutrin affect certain neurotransmitters in your brain, the chemical messengers that help with complex functions such as eating, sleeping, and emotional regulation. Unlike most antidepressants (which affect sertraline levels), bupoprion affects the levels of dopamine and noradrenaline.

Warnings

Like some other antidepressants, Wellbutrin carries an FDA warning about the risk of suicidal ideation in children, teens, and young adults. Although the risk is slight, it does happen in some people.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911. 

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

Suicidal feelings are more common among children and young adults age 24 and under, but they can happen to anyone. Seek emergency medical care if you are experiencing:

  • Thoughts of harming or killing yourself
  • Thoughts about how you would kill yourself
  • Severe restlessness or abnormal excitement
  • Frenzied behavior
  • Acting without thinking
  • Extreme worry or agitation
  • Panic attacks

Long-Term Treatment for Wellbutrin Withdrawal

The safest way to stop taking antidepressants is to slowly taper down your dose. Wellbutrin tapering schedules are usually fairly short. Working with your doctor, you can reduce your dose over the course of one or two weeks.

After your Wellbutrin taper, any long-term treatment will be directed toward treating the condition that led you to take Wellbutrin in the first place. If you are struggling with depression, your doctor may want to switch you to an SSRI that you haven’t tried before or suggest other options. Finding the right medication or combination of medications can take several tries.

Keep in mind: There is no single pill that is going to “fix” you. Depression is a complex disease that requires a multi-pronged treatment approach. Medication can only do so much on its own. Psychotherapy may be an important part of your recovery from depression.

As studies consistently show, a combination of psychotherapy and medication works better for depression and anxiety than medication alone.

Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is a long-term process in which you explore the reasons for your feelings and actions. Together with a qualified therapist, you will learn how to work toward the life you want by reforming the unhealthy patterns standing in your way.  

Resources

Therapy is an essential part of depression treatment. If you don’t have a therapist or are looking for a new therapist, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has an online directory of qualified providers, or you can call 1-800-662-4357.

If you have health insurance, another way to find a therapist is to search your insurance plan’s website. Typically, insurance companies have a list of local providers who accept your insurance.

A Word From Verywell

Depression is a stubborn disease. It can feel like you are stuck in a long dark tunnel with no end in sight, but you can’t let that feeling overwhelm you. This particular tunnel is curvy—you just can’t see the way out yet. Just keep moving forward and try not to lose hope when you bump into walls and trip over your own feet.

If Wellbutrin didn’t help, work with your doctor to find a different medication or combination of medications that might be more effective. And if you are not in psychotherapy, find a therapist in the directory and schedule some appointments. After some time, things will likely feel more hopeful.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are some signs that Wellbutrin is working?

    You may see improvement in your appetite, sleep patterns, and energy levels within the first week or two. Your mood will take longer to lift, typically six to eight weeks.

  • How can you tell if Wellbutrin isn't working?

    Buproprion might not be the best medication to treat your depression if you've seen no improvement in mood, appetite, or energy level after six to eight weeks. Consult your doctor if you're considering not taking your antidepressant medication anymore; it simply may need more time.

  • How should Wellbutrin make me feel?

    If Wellbutrin is treating your depression successfully, you're likely to notice improvement in your mood, sleep patterns, appetite, and energy levels within eight weeks or so. However, some people experience irritability, anxiety, and/or agitation. If so, consult your doctor to find a different antidepressant.

  • What should I expect when I start taking Wellbutrin?

    Within the first week or two, you might feel more energetic, be able to sleep more easily, and notice improvement in your appetite. Within the following eight weeks, your mood should begin to lift. If not, consult your doctor.

4 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Kuczynski AM, Halvorson MA, Slater LR, Kanter JW. The effect of social interaction quantity and quality on depressed mood and loneliness: A daily diary studyJournal of Social and Personal Relationships. 2022;39(3):734-756. doi:10.1177/02654075211045717

  3. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Wellbutrin (bupropion hydrochloride) Prescribing Information. 2009.

  4. de Jonghe F, Kool S, van Aalst G, Dekker J, Peen J. Combining psychotherapy and antidepressants in the treatment of depressionJ Affect Disord. 2001;64(2-3):217-229. doi:10.1016/s0165-0327(00)00259-7

Additional Reading

By Corinne O’Keefe Osborn
Corinne Osborn is an award-winning health and wellness journalist with a background in substance abuse, sexual health, and psychology.