Wellbutrin and Alcohol

by on August 1, 2012

Most people are aware that alcohol may react when taken with certain medications. In the case of Wellbutrin (bupropion), healthcare providers often recommend avoiding alcohol because of the potential for adverse side effects.

Wellbutrin and Alcohol are both central nervous system-active (CNS-active) compounds and combining them can possibly lead to unwanted effects. It is thought that Wellbutrin may potentiate the effects of alcohol, possibly affecting motor skills or increasing depression symptoms.

Alcohol Health Risks

According to the manufacturer of Wellbutrin, drinking excessive amounts or abruptly withdrawing from alcohol after chronic use may increase the risk of seizure event in patients taking bupropion. In fact, it is contraindicated for patients who expect to suddenly stop drinking alcohol. Rare post-marketing reports suggest that drinking alcohol while on Wellbutrin can cause acute episodes of neuropsychiatric events. It has also been shown that bupropion may likely reduce a person’s tolerance to alcohol.

Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol together with high doses of bupropion can also lead to loss of life as seen in one forensic report. However, it is not clear whether the death was primarily caused by a fatal drug interaction or other factors. Meanwhile, clinical studies in healthy volunteers who were given alcohol and bupropion failed to show any significant drug interaction between these compounds.

Although there are limited studies that evaluate the effects of alcohol on bupropion, there are a good number of resources that show the negative effects of alcohol on patients taking antidepressant drugs. Here are several things that can happen if you mix alcohol with an antidepressant, including Wellbutrin:

  • It is thought that drinking alcohol together with Wellbutrin may only worsen your depression symptoms. Alcohol can counteract the effects of antidepressant drugs, probably making your condition more difficult to treat.
  • Combining alcohol with an antidepressant can impair your thinking and alertness, which can affect your motor skills, judgment, memory and coordination. It can also make you drowsy or sleepy.
  • Drinking alcohol can increase the risk of alcohol abuse and addiction.

Safe Drinking Guidelines

To avoid possible adverse events, you should avoid or limit your alcohol intake. Talk with your healthcare provider regarding your alcohol consumption. Depending on your condition, your healthcare provider may recommend limiting your alcohol intake to light to moderate amounts. This means that you should not drink more than two drinks a day for men and one for women. Take note that the alcohol content of different alcoholic beverages may vary. For instance one drink of beer is equivalent to 12 ounces, wine is 5 ounces, and 80-proof whiskey is 1 ½ ounces. Talk with your healthcare provider specific instruction about safe alcohol amount for you.

Make sure that you know how Wellbutrin affects your body before you drink alcohol. If you have just started taking this medication, it is best to avoid alcohol initially.

If you decide to drink, do not consume a large amount in an instant. Drink in moderation to see how this combination affects your body.

If you are a chronic alcohol user, you should not abruptly discontinue your alcohol consumption while taking Wellbutrin, as this may increase the chances of seizures. Finally, never stop taking this medication so that you can drink. Abruptly discontinuing Wellbutrin can worsen your depression symptoms and even lead to withdrawal symptoms.