Doctors prescribe Wellbutrin to treat depression and to help quit smoking. However, mixing Wellbutrin with alcohol can increase a person’s risk of side effects, including seizures. Drinking alcohol may also reduce the effectiveness of Wellbutrin.

Wellbutrin contains an active ingredient called bupropion and belongs to a drug class known as aminoketone. While experts do not fully understand why Wellbutrin treats depression, they believe it inhibits the reuptake of the chemical messengers dopamine and norepinephrine.

Wellbutrin is available under other brand names, such as Zyban, Aplenzin, and Forfivo XL. Doctors recommend Wellbutrin as people generally tolerate it well, and it has fewer side effects.

This article explores the risks of mixing Wellbutrin and alcohol, including other side effects. It also includes managing substance misuse and other treatments for depression.

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It is not safe to mix Wellbutrin and alcohol.

The National Institute of Health (NIH) notes that alcohol, on its own, acts as a depressant. It interferes with the brain’s communication pathways, increasing a person’s risk of injuries and other adverse outcomes.

Taking an antidepressant such as Wellbutrin with alcohol, a brain depressant, can reduce the effectiveness of Wellbutrin. It can also intensify drug interactions, leading to more potent side effects.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) recommends people avoid using alcohol or illegal drugs when taking Wellbutrin.

Can a person have one or two drinks?

A person should avoid drinking any amount of alcohol if they take Wellbutrin, as even one or two drinks may pose a risk.

Researchers have linked Wellbutrin with a dose-dependent risk of seizure. This means a person can have a seizure episode if they take high doses of Wellbutrin, even without alcohol. This is usually above 450 milligrams (mg) per day.

According to NAMI, using alcohol or illegal drugs when taking Wellbutrin can further increase a person’s risk of having seizures.

To reduce a person’s risk of seizures and other side effects, it is a good idea to avoid any amount of alcohol while taking Wellbutrin.

However, if a person has stopped taking Wellbutrin, they can speak with a doctor about when it is safe to consume alcohol.

If a person taking Wellbutrin feels they cannot stop drinking alcohol, they should speak with a medical professional. They will be able to offer support and advice.

This section looks at some of the risks of mixing alcohol and Wellbutrin.

Alcohol-related seizures

Seizures happen due to sudden, abnormal electrical discharges in the brain. Drinking alcohol while taking Wellbutrin can increase a person’s risk of seizures.

People taking high doses of Wellbutrin and those at risk of seizure may also be at risk of alcohol-related seizures.

NAMI recommends that people avoid taking alcohol while taking Wellbutrin. It can increase the risk of seizures and reduce the effects of the medication.

Increased side effects

Wellbutrin can cause some common side effects. These include:

Alcohol may worsen some of these side effects, such as nausea, dizziness, blurred vision, and headaches.

Reduced effectiveness

Drinking alcohol when taking antidepressants such as Wellbutrin can prevent the medication from working properly.

According to NAMI, alcohol reduces the beneficial effects of Welbutrin. This means that the medication will not be as effective at treating depression, and people may begin to experience depressive episodes again.

Depression can cause symptoms such as:

  • a persistent sad, low, or “empty” mood
  • losing interest in activities and hobbies
  • feeling hopeless or pessimistic
  • easily getting irritable or frustrated
  • feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • decreased energy and fatigue
  • difficulty sleeping and concentrating
  • thoughts of death or suicide

Suicide prevention

If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:

  • Ask the tough question: “Are you considering suicide?”
  • Listen to the person without judgment.
  • Call 911 or the local emergency number, or text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
  • Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
  • Try to remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 988. During a crisis, people who are hard of hearing can use their preferred relay service or dial 711 then 988.

Click here for more links and local resources.

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), Wellbutrin can cause other side effects, including:

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is when a person cannot stop consuming alcohol despite its adverse impacts on their health and well-being.

The NIH estimates that about 15 million people in the United States have AUD.

People may develop AUD because the “high” feeling from alcohol may temporarily relieve anxiety. However, it can also make people dependent on alcohol as a form of self-medication to feel better.

A 2020 review of 42 studies suggests that people with AUD are at a higher risk of depressive symptoms than those without it. The authors also note that the risk may differ from one person to another, depending on the alcohol intake level.

If a doctor recommends Wellbutrin to treat depression, but the person feels unable to stop drinking alcohol, they should discuss this with a healthcare professional. They will be able to provide treatments, advice, and support for any potential AUD cases.

Learn more

Learn more about AUD, alcohol, and mental health.

If a person regularly drinks a lot of alcohol and stops using it suddenly, they can experience symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. This may be especially true for those with AUD.

Taking too much alcohol for an extended period can affect a person’s brain chemistry, such that the brain will need to readjust if a person stops taking it. This can lead to withdrawal symptoms.

If a person stops consuming alcohol while using Wellbutrin, they are more likely to have seizures and other adverse side effects. This includes:

To reduce the risk of seizures and other side effects, a person should discuss and disclose their alcohol intake and drinking habits with the doctor. This includes:

  • the type of alcohol they drink
  • the amount of alcohol they consume per time
  • any symptoms they feel

This is best before starting a Wellbutrin treatment. The doctor will evaluate a person’s symptoms and drinking lifestyle to determine the best treatment to reduce their risk of side effects.

If a person consumes alcohol while taking Wellbutrin, they should not panic.

They may not experience any severe symptoms. However, they should observe their symptoms for 24 hours and disclose any worsening symptoms to a doctor.

A person should immediately call a doctor or go to the hospital if they experience the following symptoms:

  • tremors
  • suicidal thoughts and ideation
  • seizures

Mixing small amounts of alcohol with Wellbutrin may not have harmful effects, but it can increase the risk of seizures. Therefore, people should avoid any amount of alcohol.

According to a 2020 study, seizures occur in up to one-third of Wellbutrin overdose exposures. This is about 10–15% of people who intentionally overdose on Wellbutrin.

Most seizures occur within the first 6 hours after exposure.

However, with urgent medical attention, a person can have a good outlook after having alcohol-related seizures.

A person should avoid mixing Wellbutrin and alcohol. They should also avoid self-medication or taking high doses of Wellbutrin.

Substance misuse is when a person uses illegal, prescription, or over-the-counter (OTC) drugs in a different way than the doctors or manufacturers intended in order to get “high.”

Substance misuse is dangerous, and anyone who misuses substances should get help.

Many substances, even prescription medications, can cause unwanted side effects. People can also become addicted to or physically dependent on them. This can cause further health issues.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the following are treatment options for substance misuse:

  • Medications: Drugs such as Naltrexone (ReVia) and Acamprosate (Campral) may help reduce people’s cravings.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): This can teach people how to improve their thoughts and actions to facilitate recovery.
  • Abstinence: After completing a detoxification program, the doctor will recommend counseling, treatments, and support groups to help a person stay away from substance misuse.

Learn more about the link between substance misuse and depression.

Seeking help for addiction may seem daunting or even scary, but several organizations can provide support. If you believe that you or someone close to you is struggling with addiction, you can contact the following organizations for immediate help and advice:

If a person does not wish to take Wellbutrin for depression, the doctor may recommend other treatments. These may include alternative medications, therapy, and more.

Medication

Antidepressant medications can help relieve a person’s symptoms.

The doctor will usually recommend an antidepressant with other therapies.

Some examples of antidepressants include:

Therapy

Psychotherapy or talk therapy describes treatment techniques to improve mental health conditions. Psychotherapy approaches include CBT, interpersonal therapy, group therapy, and online therapy.

Alternative therapies

The doctor may also recommend other complementary therapies, such as meditation, acupuncture, physical exercise, and following a balanced diet.

Depression can make people feel isolated. However, there are support groups available to help people’s recovery process.

The following organizations can offer support to people with depression:

Wellbutrin is an FDA-approved brand-name prescription medication for depression and smoking cessation.

The active ingredient in Wellbutrin, bupropion, acts as an aminoketone antidepressant.

Health experts advise against mixing Wellbutrin with alcohol to avoid the risk of seizures and other side effects.

People who do consume Wellbutrin and small amounts of alcohol should be fine. However, mixing the two can increase the risk of seizures, so a person should not make a habit of it.

A person should seek medical assistance immediately if they experience tremors, suicidal thoughts, or seizures after mixing alcohol and Wellbutrin.