Meds and you

Updated 11 February 2013


Bupropion (also known as amfebutamone) is an antidepressant drug that is chemically unrelated to other antidepressants.


Bupropion is the active ingredient of Zyban and Wellbutrin.

General information

Bupropion (also known as amfebutamone) is an antidepressant drug that is chemically unrelated to other antidepressants. Unlike several other antidepressants bupropion treatment is not associated with sexual dysfunction or weight gain. Depressed patients treated with this drug experience improved ratings of "energy" compared to the majority of antidepressants on the market. To prevent insomnia the drug should be taken several hours before bedtime.

Bupropion is often prescribed as a nicotine-free aid to help people to stop smoking. Bupropion approximately doubles the chance of quitting smoking successfully after three months.

However, bupropion is not a miracle cure, and the person being treated must be committed to stop smoking.

For the first seven days after starting the drug you are still required to smoke before stopping - this gives the drug enough time to reach an effective level in your body. Bupropion will be withdrawn after a course of 7-12 weeks.

It is estimated that more than 34% of those taking bupropion, while participating in a comprehensive smoking cessation programme, stopped smoking for a period of at least 30 days.

How does bupropion work?

Bupropion helps to balance the levels of several chemical messengers in the brain that are thought to be linked to emotion, mood and mental state. This chemical assists in treating depression. It also assists in reducing nicotine withdrawal symptoms and the urge to smoke.

Fast facts

Drug schedule: s chedule 5

Available as: bupropion is available as tablets

What does it do? bupropion is an anti-depressant and also a nicotine-free aid to stop smoking.

Overdose risk: high

Dependence risk: low

Is bupropion available as a generic ? no

Is bupropion available on prescription only ? yes

User information

Onset of effect: it may take between 2-4 weeks for the drug to reach its full effect

Duration of action: up to 12 hours

Dietary advice: the medication can be taken with a meal to reduce gastric irritation

Stopping this medicine:: Do not stop using this medication without consulting your doctor; the dose may need to be tapered.

Prolonged use: If taking the recommended dose, prolonged usage should be no cause for concern. Your doctor may need to re-evaluate the need for you to keep taking this medication.

Special precautions

Consult your doctor before using this drug if:

  • you are epileptic
  • you have been diagnosed with manic depression
  • you have kidney or liver disease
  • you have a known eating disorder
  • if you are undergoing withdrawal from alcohol or benzodiazepine drugs
  • If you have tumours of the central nervous system

Pregnancy: Avoid. It is unknown how this medication may affect your baby. Consult your doctor before using this drug, or if you are planning to fall pregnant.

Breastfeeding: Avoid. This medication is passed through breast milk and may affect your baby adversely. Consult your doctor before use.

Infants and children: This medication is not intended for use in children under the age of 18.

The elderly: Caution is advised in the elderly as side effects may occur frequently. A reduced dose may be advised.

Driving and hazardous work: This medication should be avoided as it may cause extreme drowsiness.

Alcohol: Avoid concomitant use of alcohol with this medication as it may cause drowsiness.

Possible side effects

Side effect


Consult your doctor



Only if severe

In all cases

dry mouth






headache/ dizziness



loss of appetite






rash/ fever















chest pain




drugs for epilepsy

may affect to blood levels and effect of bupropion


increased risk of bupropion side effects


increased risk of bupropion side effects


increased risk of bupropion side effects

Mono-amine oxidase inhibitor drugs (MAOI's)

wait at least 14 days before taking bupropion

other medication

consult your doctor before combining any drug with bupropion

Overdose action

An overdose of this medication can be fatal. Seek immediate emergency medical attention. Symptoms may include loss of consciousness, hallucinations, seizures, rapid heartbeat and breathing difficulty.

Recommended dosage

Adults: 150 mg once daily for the first 3 days, thereafter 150 mg twice a day taken at least 8 hours apart.

Interesting fact

Bupropion reduces the weight gain that so many smokers experience in the first weeks after quitting smoking. Studies found that after seven weeks, those smokers not taking bupropion may gain an average of 2.7 kg. Those taking the drug did not gain more than 1.5 kg.

This material is not intended to substitute medical advice, but is for informational purposes only. Please consult a physician for specific treatment and recommendations.


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