Is It Safe To Mix Alcohol And Wellbutrin (Bupropion)?

Alcohol consumption with Wellbutrin should be avoided.

Question

Is it safe to mix alcohol and Wellbutrin?

Asked by Joe On Nov 28, 2018

Answered by
Medical Content Reviewed By PharmacistAnswers Staff

On Nov 30, 2018

Drinking alcohol should be avoided if you are taking Wellbutrin (bupropion) due to an increased risk of seizures. There have been several case studies documenting this interaction.

Wellbutrin alone is associated with a dose-related risk of seizures (meaning higher doses put you more at risk). This is commonly referred to as 'lowering the seizure threshold'.

In fact, according to the prescribing information for Wellbutrin, it is contraindicated in individuals with a pre-existing seizure disorder or conditions that increase the risk of seizures (e.g., severe head trauma, abrupt withdrawal from alcohol etc...).

From the prescribing information:

"WELLBUTRIN can cause seizure. The risk of seizure is dose-related. The dose should not exceed 450 mg per day. Increase the dose gradually. Discontinue WELLBUTRIN and do not restart treatment if the patient experiences a seizure. The risk of seizures is also related to patient factors, clinical situations, and concomitant medications that lower the seizure threshold."

Bupropion at one point was removed from the market during the late 1980's over the concern of drug-induced seizures. However, it was reintroduced in July 1989 after dosing and safety data were more well understood.

Like Wellbutrin, alcohol use is associated with an increased risk of seizures. Both excessive alcohol consumption and/or abrupt discontinuation have been associated with seizures and rarely, death.

Overall, the combination of Wellbutrin and alcohol can have an additive effect, and may increase the risk of seizures.

It is important to note that acute withdrawal can occur in individuals who are physically dependent on alcohol (from excessive consumption) and stop drinking abruptly. One potential withdrawal symptom is seizures.

Therefore, if you have a history of drinking, it is important to discuss with your doctor whether or not Wellbutrin (bupropion) is an appropriate drug choice for you before starting therapy.

Lastly, in addition to the increased risk of seizures, there are two other reported interactions between alcohol and Wellbutrin:

  • During post-marketing use of Wellbutrin, some individuals who were drinking alcohol reported reduced alcohol tolerance.

  • There have been reports of increased neuropsychiatric events, including unusual and aggressive behavior directed to oneself or others, which may be worsened by concomitant use of alcohol.

Section Summary

Alcohol consumption should be minimized or decreased while taking Wellbutrin due to an increased risk of side effects, such as seizures.

About Wellbutrin

Bupropion is an antidepressant medication unrelated to other known antidepressants.

It is indicated for the treatment of depression and is also used as a smoking cessation aid. Additionally, it is used as an alternative treatment for ADHD (off-label).

Unlike the SSRI antidepressants, Wellbutrin does not affect serotonin and is thought to work mainly on dopamine, and to a weaker extent, norepinephrine. 

Antidepressant activity is usually noted within 1-3 weeks after starting bupropion treatment, but full effects may not be seen until 4 weeks of therapy.

Common side effects of Wellbutrin include:

  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Insomnia
  • Nervousness
  • Weight Loss

About the Pharmacist

Dr. Brian Staiger Pharm.D

Dr. Brian Staiger is a licensed pharmacist in New York State and the founder of PharmacistAnswers.com. He graduated from the University At Buffalo with a Doctor Of Pharmacy degree in 2010. He has been featured in several publications including the Huffington Post as well as a variety of health and pharmacy related blogs. Please feel free to reach out to him directly if you have any questions or want to connect! [email protected]; Office: 716-389-3076

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