Wellbutrin Use to Quit Smoking (Cessation)

by on August 7, 2012

Originally designed for treatment of depression, Wellbutrin (bupropion) has been found effective in smoking cessation programs. It is currently marketed under different trade names as well as a generic drug. The brand name of bupropion specifically intended to help people quit smoking is Zyban. However, Wellbutrin is sometimes prescribed “off-label” for this purpose. The FDA has not approved Wellbutrin products for use in smoking cessation programs.

Among the different Wellbutrin products, the Wellbutrin SR formulation is the most chemically identical to Zyban and comes in the same strength. Both of these drugs come as sustained-release tablers and are manufactured by the same pharmaceuticals company. Because of their similar nature, these drugs are expected to work in the same way. The primary difference between these drugs is that they are approved for specific medical purposes.

When used as a treatment for smoking cessation, bupropion (Zyban or Wellbutrin SR) is used for three days at a starting dosage of 150mg once per day.  The dosage may then be increased if the patient is tolerant of the medication.  Smoking is stopped two weeks after starting bupropion treatment.

If you are using Wellbutrin for smoking cessation, be sure that the information and advice you receive specifically focus on smoking cessation. Take note that most of the available information is intended for use of Wellbutrin in depression.

How Bupropion Works for Smoking Cessation?

It is not entirely clear how bupropion helps reduce craving for tobacco. But unlike most nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs) that contain small amounts of nicotine, Wellbutrin is free of nicotine. It is suggested that it acts on the brain to decrease cravings and minimize withdrawal symptoms that include: difficulty concentrating, anxiety, irritability, restlessness, loss of energy, and depression.

Although Wellbutrin is classified as an antidepressant, its ability to help people stop smoking is not related to its antidepressant effects. In fact, it can help people who have smoking problems even if they do not suffer from depression.

Wellbutrin or bupropion may be prescribed to chronic smokers, at least 18 years old, who consume more than 10 cigarettes a day.  Wellbutrin should not be taken for smoking cessation:

  • If you are also taking other medications that contain bupropion, even for different purpose.
  • If you have history of seizures or are prone to seiures.
  • If you are taking antidepressant drugs belonging to the MAOI class of drugs.
  • If have alcohol problems.
  • If you have eating disorder.

Normally, this medication is taken on a daily basis for at least 1 to 2 weeks before cigarette or tobacco is stopped. This helps the medication to achieve the desired level in the body. After the tobacco is stopped, Wellbutrin should be taken for the next 7 to 12 weeks, although treatment can last for as long as 6 months to one year.

It is thought that bupropion is equally effective as nicotine replacement therapies. When used along with NRTs and other smoking cessation programs, there is a higher chance of success.

However, as with other medications, bupropion may cause certain side effects although these side effects often resolve with time. In case side effects last for more than a week, be sure to consult your healthcare provider.

If you experience serious or unusual changes in behavior or mood, or increased suicidal thinking or hurting someone else, stop taking this medication and contact your healthcare provider right away. Significant others of people taking bupropion should watch out for and report these side effects to a healthcare provider.