Wellbutrin (bupropion) is a medication used to treat several mental health disorders, and interactions with alcohol can result in harmful side effects. Some symptoms may be severe enough to require immediate medical attention, including vomiting, hallucinating, and seizures may occur due to this interaction.1 To minimize these risks, alcohol use should be limited or avoided while taking Wellbutrin.
What is Wellbutrin & How Does it Work?
Wellbutrin is an FDA-approved medication for treating depression, seasonal affective disorder, smoking cessation, and other medical conditions.2 The medication is also available through its generic version, bupropion. Wellbutrin can also be prescribed to treat other conditions such as anxiety disorder and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with off-label use.3 However, you should consult your doctor before using any medication off-label since its effectiveness on the condition has been well understood.
Wellbutrin belongs to the norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitors (NDRI) class of drugs that work by regulating the amount of norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain. By blocking the reabsorption of the neurotransmitters, bupropion promotes increased levels of norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain, which helps positively influence mood, emotion, and anxiety.1
Side Effects of Alcohol & Wellbutrin
Taking alcohol can lead to short-term and long-term effects. This includes trouble focusing and persistent changes in mood, including anxiety and irritability. On the other hand, Wellbutrin can also lead to side effects such as trouble sleeping and dizziness. Therefore combining these two substances can lead to far-reaching side effects, as alcohol can worsen the symptoms of depression and reduce the effectiveness of Wellbutrin.
Drinking while taking Wellbutrin can be harmful as both substances can have severe side effects, and using them together can lead to harmful interactions. This can make the medication ineffective for anxiety or depression as the side effects can become more severe. The FDA warns of the increased dangers of mixing the two substances4
Side effects of Wellbutrin include:2, 3
- Appetite issues
- Weight loss
- Changes in perception of wellbeing
- Manic episodes
- Irregular heartbeats
- Ringing in ears
- Sleeping problems
Side effects of alcohol include:
- Loss of consciousness
- Impaired coordination
- Alcohol poisoning
- Risk-taking behaviors
Mixing Wellbutrin and alcohol is dangerous because they can enhance their individual effects, which can be dangerous in themselves. Your doctor will address safety concerns and provide directions for safe use. This can also help prevent possible Wellbutrin interaction with not only alcohol but also other medications or dietary supplements.
Wellbutrin & Alcohol Interactions
The interaction between Wellbutrin and alcohol can lead to life-threatening complications that may require immediate medical attention. Both substances have side effects and can negatively interact with each other.
Severe side effects of Wellbutrin and alcohol include:
- Confusion: Mixing alcohol and Wellbutrin can lead to confusion since both substances affect the central nervous system (CNS). While Wellbutrin increases the levels of norepinephrine and dopamine, alcohol is a depressant that can affect the levels of the neurotransmitters.
- Worsening depression: The interaction between Wellbutrin and alcohol may worsen depression, and may also lead to anxiety symptoms.
- Lack of coordination: The interaction between bupropion and alcohol affects the CNS and motor skills. When taken together, alcohol can affect how Wellbutrin works.
- Shaking and tremor: Using Wellbutrin and alcohol can affect the CNS and motor function.
- Suicidal thoughts: Mixing Wellbutrin and alcohol can lead to suicidal thoughts since both substances affect the brain and mental health.
Can You Ever Drink While Taking Wellbutrin?
It is not safe to drink while taking Wellbutrin. The FDA warns of increased health risks from using Wellbutrin and alcohol altogether. Also, it is not safe to skip your dose to drink since Wellbutrin can take some time before leaving the body completely. Wellbutrin has a half-life of about 21 hours, and skipping the medication to take alcohol can lead to possible Wellbutrin-alcohol interaction as well as withdrawal effects since the medication ingredient is still in your system.
Even if you take smaller doses of about 20mg of Wellbutrin, you are also at risk if you combine the two substances. Additionally, long-term use of Wellbutrin can lead to dependence on the medication. This also puts you at risk of possible Wellbutrin interaction with alcohol. And when the side effects become severe, you may consider stopping your medication and other alternatives. This can lead to potential antidepressant withdrawal symptoms.
Can Wellbutrin & Alcohol Kill You?
The interaction between alcohol and Wellbutrin can increase the risk of seizures and other adverse side effects. Wellbutrin and alcohol can lead to a lethal overdose depending on several factors, including sex, height and weight, age, and tolerance. Combining two substances can worsen their side effects, such as drowsiness and cognitive impairment. Also, binge drinking puts you at risk of overdose and drowsiness from the substances. This can result in sudden death.5
Alcoholism & Depression
People sometimes drink while on Wellbutrin medication, unintentionally creating risk due to not understanding the dangers. Those with alcoholism may be at an even higher risk due to excessive and problematic drinking. Others may mix the two substances in order to feel high or as a way to relieve themselves from life stressors. Drinking over time can also make major depressive disorder symptoms worse. As depression becomes more severe, Wellbutrin may be ineffective for depression symptoms.
Symptoms of an Overdose of Wellbutrin & Alcohol
Suppose you or someone else is under the influence and experiencing severe side effects or overdose from Wellbutrin and alcohol. In that case, you should call the 9-1-1 emergency hotline for immediate medical assistance. You can also visit the nearest emergency room immediately. Additionally, if you suspect you have overdosed on Wellbutrin with symptoms such as hallucinations, drowsiness, and lack of motor skills, call 9-1-1 or go to the emergency room.
Symptoms of an overdose on Wellbutrin and alcohol include:
- Drowsiness and sedation
- Loss of consciousnesses
- Rapid heartbeat
When to Get Help
You can get help if you or someone you know is in danger because of drinking while also using Wellbutrin by noting the side effects they are experiencing. These are indicators of a possible overdose of Wellbutrin and alcohol. If you are experiencing such side effects, seek immediate medical attention.
If you have overdosed on Wellbutrin, seek immediate medical assistance. Wellbutrin overdose is a medical emergency that requires emergency treatment and in-patient medical stabilization. If the situation is not addressed sooner enough, the overdose can lead to side effects such as drowsiness and, in extreme cases, sudden death. Also, if you need to stop the medication due to its side effects or it’s not working or no longer needed, your doctor will provide a tapering schedule to avoid withdrawal effects.
Some of the risk factors for substance abuse and substance use disorder can include:
- Family history of substance abuse
- Adverse childhood experiences
- Social influence
- Cravings to use the substance
Questions to Ask Your Health Team
Before starting your medication, it’s important to seek advice from your physician. Your doctor will let you know the benefits and potential risks of taking Wellbutrin or its interaction with alcohol.
People who don’t know how Wellbutrin may affect their bodies are at risk of adverse effects, and asking questions of your medical provider is the best way to educate yourself. You can ask your doctor if it’s possible to drink while on Wellbutrin or what to do if the medication does not work for you.
Questions to ask your care team:
- Is there a safe amount of alcohol that I can consume with Wellbutrin?
- Is there anxiety medication or depression medication that isn’t negatively affected by alcohol?
- What should I do if I drink anyway and have an adverse reaction?
- How long do Wellbutrin side effects last?
- Can I take smaller doses of Wellbutrin and also drink?
- How often should I come for checkups?
- It’s my first time taking the medication. What should I watch out for?
- Are there alternatives to Wellbutrin for depression or anxiety?
- How long will Wellbutrin work on my depression?
Wellbutrin is a medication for depression with potential side effects and may negatively react with other substances like alcohol. It’s therefore important to avoid drinking while on Wellbutrin since the two substances can cause harmful effects and symptoms when combined. If you want treatment, talk to your doctor to understand the medication’s benefits and risks and ensure you are safe on the medication.