How Zyban Can Help With Quitting Smoking

Man taking Zyban to help him quit smoking
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Zyban is the brand name for the generic drug bupropion hydrochloride. It's a nicotine-free quit aid.

Zyban was originally marketed as an antidepressant drug under the brand name Wellbutrin. It became apparent that bupropion was an effective quit aid because people who smoked who used it to treat depression also lost interest in smoking. People not planning to quit smoking found themselves stopping with relative ease while on the antidepressant.

Later, bupropion hydrochloride was given the brand name of Zyban, and in 1997, the FDA approved it as a quit smoking aid. When used in combination with nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), the chance for long-term success with smoking cessation increases.

Note:  it is important to be monitored by your doctor if you're using both Zyban and an NRT as high blood pressure can be a concern.

How It Works

It isn't completely understood how Zyban works as a quit aid, but we do know that it alters brain chemistry in such a way that nicotine is rendered less effective. The result is a reduced interest in smoking, and nicotine cravings and withdrawal are minimal.

While this medication was developed as an antidepressant, you do not need to be diagnosed with depression for it to work as a quit smoking aid. That said, if you develop quit-related depression, Zyban may help to offset the symptoms.

Usage

Zyban is not sold over the counter, so you must see your doctor for a prescription. You will begin taking Zyban while you're still smoking following a schedule:

  • Days 1–3: One 150 milligram (mg) tablet once a day.
  • Days 4–7: One 150mg tablet twice a day, at least 8 hours apart. (It's a good idea to space your pills out so that the second pill of the day is taken several hours before bedtime, as bupropion can make it hard to get to sleep.)
  • Week 2: Continue to take one pill twice a day, at least 8 hours apart. (Stop smoking during week two, on the day you picked to quit.)
  • Week 3 and beyond: Continue as with week 2. The recommended course of treatment is 7 weeks, but it can be taken for a longer period of time. Your doctor will help you decide when you should stop treatment.

If you're unable to stop smoking by the end of week 3, your doctor may discontinue this medication as it might not be a good fit for you as a quit aid. If that happens, don't worry. There are several other options on the market today that could work better for you.

If you miss a dose and it's close to the time when you'd take the next one, skip taking the pill you missed. Never take a double dose to catch up as this could increase the risk for seizures.

If you take too much Zyban accidentally, call your doctor, contact poison control, or go to an emergency room at your local hospital immediately, even if you're not experiencing anything out of the ordinary.

You should not stop taking Zyban abruptly unless you experience one of the side effects listed below that indicate stopping usage. Consult with your doctor immediately if you experience any side effects.

Who Should Not Use Zyban

Zyban isn't suitable for everyone. You shouldn't take Zyban if you use any other drug containing bupropion hydrochloride or if you are allergic to bupropion hydrochloride. If you are taking or have recently taken a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI), you should avoid taking Zyban as well.

People with certain conditions shouldn't take Zyban, such as if you have or have had a seizure disorder or an eating disorder.

People who are pregnant or breastfeeding shouldn't take Zyban. It's also recommended you don't take Zyban if you are abruptly discontinuing alcohol or sedatives (including benzodiazepines).

Common Side Effects

There are many common side effects linked with using Zyban. If any of these side effects become severe or don't go away, see your doctor:

  • Anxiety
  • Change in appetite
  • Change in sense of taste
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Excessive sweating
  • Excitement
  • Frequent urination
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Sore throat
  • Stomach pain
  • Stuffy nose
  • Uncontrollable shaking in a part of the body
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss

Less Common But Serious Side Effects

Though less common, Zyban is also associated with more serious side effects. Serious side effects warrant medical attention. If you experience side effects associated with an allergic reaction, you should stop taking Zyban immediately.

Seek immediate medical attention if you experience any of the following while taking Zyban:

  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Irrational fears
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Rapid, pounding, or irregular heart rate
  • Seizures

You should immediately stop taking Zyban and seek immediate medical attention if you experience any of the following:

  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Fever
  • Hoarseness
  • Itching
  • Rash or blisters
  • Swelling of the face, throat, tongue, lips, eyes, hands, lower legs

If you experience any of these serious side effects, discontinue Zyban and see your doctor or go to an emergency room right away.

In 2009, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) required the makers of Zyban and Chantix, another prescription quit aid, to post a warning on product packaging about potentially severe side effects.

If you have any problems not listed here that are troublesome and you're concerned about whether they might be related to Zyban, check in with your prescribing doctor as soon as possible.

Effectiveness

Of the small number of studies done on Zyban efficacy over the years, success rates seem to be in the 30% range for people who are smoke-free at the one-year mark. When used with NRTs, however, the rate climbs slightly to approximately 35.5% for those who didn't smoke at all during the first year.

More importantly, perhaps, is how effective Zyban can be when you couple it with a good smoking cessation support group. Whether online or in-person, support may be the single most important quit tool you can employ.

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database

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5 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. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Zyban (buproprion hydrochloride) sustained-release tablets. Updated August 2011.  

  3. Wilkes S. The use of bupropion SR in cigarette smoking cessationInt J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis. 2008;3(1):45–53. doi:10.2147/copd.s1121

  4. Jorenby DE, Leischow SJ, Nides MA, et al. A controlled trial of sustained-release bupropion, a nicotine patch, or both for smoking cessationN Engl J Med. 1999;340(9):685–691. doi:10.1056/NEJM199903043400903

  5. Hartmann-Boyce J, Hong B, Livingstone-Banks J, Wheat H, Fanshawe TR. Additional behavioural support as an adjunct to pharmacotherapy for smoking cessationCochrane Database Syst Rev. 2019;6(6):CD009670. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD009670.pub4

Additional Reading
  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration. GlaxoSmithKline Zyban Medication Guide.

  • Action on Smoking and Health. Efficacy of Zyban and NRT.
  • Medscape.govt.nz. Zyban Consumer Medicine Information.