Mixing Wellbutrin (Bupropion) & Alcohol: Effects & Interactions
Wellbutrin is the brand name for bupropion, an antidepressant medication that is sometimes prescribed to help with major depressive disorder or seasonal affective disorder.
It also has some off-label uses for treating sexual dysfunction, weight gain linked to psychiatric medication, symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
While Wellbutrin can be effective for some people when it comes to treating the symptoms of depression, it can lead to some negative side effects when combined with alcohol. These side effects are often worsened after excessive drinking.
If you’re currently taking Wellbutrin, or are thinking about taking Wellbutrin, it’s important to understand the risks associated with drinking alcohol while on the medication.
Alcohol and Wellbutrin’s Side Effects
Alcohol can have an interesting influence on Wellbutrin’s side effects, and Wellbutrin can even influence the effects of alcohol.
Alcohol May Worsen Side Effects of Wellbutrin
Wellbutrin is an atypical antidepressant, meaning it doesn’t fall into the category of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) or tricyclic antidepressant like the majority of depression medications.
Instead, it is an NDRI, which stands for norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor.
While NDRIs may work better for some people, they tend to come with more side effects when compared to SSRIs or tricyclics. Drinking alcohol while on Wellbutrin may increase the risk and severity of its side effects.
These side effects commonly include:
- Shakiness and sweating
- Dry mouth
- Weight fluctuation
- Symptoms of mania
- Difficulty sleeping
- Gastrointestinal problems
There are also some serious side effects of Wellbutrin that alcohol may worsen. These include:
- Heart palpitations
- Joint pain
- Panic attacks
Wellbutrin May Worsen Side Effects of Alcohol
Interestingly, Wellbutrin and alcohol can have an inverse influence on one another. While alcohol can worsen Wellbutrin’s side effects, the medication can also increase the effects of alcohol, leading to potentially dangerous physical reactions including:
- Alcohol poisoning
- Blurred vision
- Vomiting and nausea
- Poor judgement
- Decreased cognition
Combining Wellbutrin with any mind-altering drug can have potentially fatal effects. Before using recreational substances of any kind while taking Wellbutrin, it is important to speak with your doctor.
Risk of Seizures
Although rare, seizures are a serious possible side effect of taking Wellbutrin that is more common in individuals who are taking higher doses, have underlying risk factors for seizures, or have an eating disorder.
Drinking excessively can increase your risk of having a seizure while using Wellbutrin. It’s best to avoid alcohol as a whole when using this medication. However, the exception is if you have a history of heavy drinking.
Alcohol Withdrawal and Wellbutrin
The risk of developing a seizure while taking Wellbutrin is increased if you are a regular drinker who suddenly stops drinking at the start of treatment. Additionally, abruptly stopping at the start of treatment can increase your chances of developing a withdrawal syndrome.
Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:
- Severe tremors and shaking
- Nausea and vomiting
If you begin experiencing these side effects because you stopped drinking while taking Wellbutrin, seek medical assistance immediately. Withdrawal syndrome is potentially fatal if not properly managed.
However, this doesn’t mean that you need to keep drinking while taking Wellbutrin if you have a history of drinking excessively. Your doctor will likely recommend that you first safely quit drinking by gradually managing your withdrawal symptoms. However, it’s possible that your doctor will have you start taking Wellbutrin while you simultaneously lower your alcohol consumption.
The most important thing to do is follow your doctor’s instructions carefully.
Other Drugs and Wellbutrin
Alcohol isn’t the only drug that can have an effect on the way that Wellbutrin interacts with your body. Not all potential interactions are listed here, so it is imperative to speak with your doctor if you are taking other medications, over the counter, or herbal supplements before you begin using Wellbutrin.
Using Wellbutrin with the following medicines is not recommended:
- Methylene Blue
What If I’ve Already Had a Drink?
Remember that mixing alcohol and Wellbutrin doesn’t guarantee that any of the side effects above are going to occur, but it does increase the chance that they will. If you’ve had a drink or two, don’t panic.
Over the next 24 hours, monitor yourself for symptoms such as worsening depression, confusion, poor motor skills, or loss of cognition. Additionally, watch out for shaking or tremors, as this may be a sign of an oncoming seizure. If you experience these symptoms, give your doctor a call.
If you experience any of the following severe symptoms, head to a nearby emergency room as soon as possible:
- Severe shaking / seizure
- Thoughts of suicide
- Significantly worse symptoms of depression
- Irregular heartbeat
- Extreme changes in mood or behavior
Wellbutrin is an atypical antidepressant that may be prescribed to help you with symptoms of depression, anxiety, and more. Mixing alcohol with Wellbutrin can lead to unfavorable side effects.
For one, both alcohol and Wellbutrin can increase the severity of their side effects. Alcohol may increase the chance of developing one of Wellbutrin’s side effects such as fatigue, shakiness, or headaches, and Wellbutrin can make the effects of alcohol more potent.
Additionally, a serious side effect of Wellbutrin is the risk of seizures, and drinking alcohol can increase the risk of having one. If you’re an excessive drinker, stopping suddenly while taking or before taking Wellbutrin can also increase your chances of having a seizure.
Wellbutrin has some other drug interactions as well that may lead to similar negative effects. The bottom line is that it’s important to speak with your doctor before taking Wellbutrin to make sure it will be right for you.
If you’re worried about taking Wellbutrin, or are thinking about taking Wellbutrin, you are not alone.
YANA Mental Health lets you speak with a licensed medical doctor right from the comfort of your own home. We can help answer any questions you have about trying antidepressants, and even send some right to your front door if needed.
It’s mental healthcare on your terms. Get started today!