Did you know that more than 300 million people on the face of the earth right now are battling depression, and that number is on the rise? That’s about 1 out of every 20 persons you know. Think about it for a minute.
Depression is far more common than most of us think, and incidentally, it can be easily masked. Depression is being managed by both psychological and therapeutic interventions.
One of such therapeutic interventions is the use of a drug called Wellbutrin. Given the prevalence of depression, it is no news that many people are using Wellbutrin or similar drugs. While Wellbutrin is great at managing depression, it can cause serious problems when discontinued abruptly.
This article describes Wellbutrin, how it works, the symptoms of Wellbutrin withdrawal, and offers helpful tips for people who want to discontinue its use.
What Is Wellbutrin And What Is It Used For?
Wellbutrin is an antidepressant drug belonging to the Aminoketonic class of drugs, chemically different from common brands like Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft. It has established safety and tolerability advantages over other antidepressants and is very potent in the management of Major Depressive Disorder.
The active pharmaceutical ingredient in Wellbutrin is Bupropion Hydrochloride. Bupropion has also been studied for its effect on weight loss.
Unlike other antidepressants, Bupropion does not cause people to gain weight, and it has even been effective in achieving weight loss in overweight and obese adult women. Incidentally, Wellbutrin is not approved for use in weight loss, so you shouldn’t use it to drop some weight.
How Does Wellbutrin Work?
Wellbutrin is in a class of its own as it is the only antidepressant available with a dual effect on important pathways in the brain.
These pathways have messengers called neurotransmitters, which are chemicals that nerve cells release in order to communicate with other nearby nerve cells.
Norepinephrine and Dopamine are the neurotransmitters that Wellbutrin acts on. Dopamine is associated with motivation while Norepinephrine is associated with alertness and vigilance.
Wellbutrin acts by inhibiting the removal of Dopamine and Norepinephrine by nerve cells, thereby ensuring their availability and their attendant antidepressant effects.
Wellbutrin Withdrawal Symptoms
After taking Wellbutrin for a while, you may become dependent or ‘used to’ the drug. In other words, if you stop taking Wellbutrin suddenly or ‘cold turkey’, you may develop some inconvenient symptoms such as irritability, mood swings, anxiety, headaches, aches, and pains.
Such symptoms resulting from the discontinued use of a drug are known as withdrawal symptoms. Wellbutrin withdrawal symptoms could manifest as;
- Abdominal pains and cramps
- Sensory or movement inconsistencies such as numbness, tingling, tremors, or lack of coordination.
In cases where the medication had initially been prescribed for depression, withdrawal may lead to a relapse.
If you experience side effects often, especially seizure-related, please consult your doctor for advice on how to stop taking Wellbutrin.
How To Deal With Wellbutrin Withdrawal
If you need to stop using Wellbutrin, it is important to go about it the right way. Here are a few tips that can make it easier to manage the withdrawal process.
1. Talk to Your Doctor
The importance of talking to your physician or therapist cannot be over-emphasized. Inform your doctor of the reasons you want to discontinue Wellbutrin use.
If the suggestion to stop using the drug is your doctor’s idea, let them explain the reasons and what to expect to you in detail. You would be better prepared this way. Never stop the medication without seeking medical counsel.
2. Get Weaned Off
When you want to wean a child off breast milk, you don’t just stop breastfeeding one day and start feeding the child solid food. You allow the child some time to adjust to the changing meals and give his body a heads-up about the eventual change that is about to occur.
Similarly, discontinuation of Wellbutrin has to be done carefully and gradually. Because of its ability to cause withdrawal symptoms in most people using it, it is best to gradually reduce the dose.
This gives the body time to adjust to ‘missing’ the drug. This dose reduction is to be done alongside close monitoring and check-ups at intermittent intervals.
3. Document Your Journey
Journal your experience as your doctor reduces your medication. Keeping track of your symptoms and experiences would assist your doctor or psychotherapist in assessing how you are faring and in determining the appropriate course of action.
4. Stay On The Course of Therapy
Stay at it. Don’t stop. If you are on a reduced dose, stick with it till your doctor decides it’s time to change the dose again. If your doctor replaced Wellbutrin with another medication or you were taken off medications entirely and placed on psychotherapy, ensure you stay on the course of your new therapy.
It is in following through with the course that you would reap the benefits.
5. Modify Your Lifestyle
Lifestyle modifications such as exercise, diet, good hygiene, support systems, and meditation are also very helpful in withdrawing from Wellbutrin.
6. Start Working Out
Exercise has been shown to produce chemical substances that help to alleviate symptoms of depression. A great recommendation for exercise is at least 45 minutes a day for at least 3 days a week.
If you have a heart condition or you are unsure, please discuss your proposed exercise routine with your doctor before commencing it.
7. Eat Right
As much of a cliché as it sounds, you are what you eat. It is one of the best advice medical science would ever give.
Omega 3 fatty acids are highly beneficial as adjunctive therapy for depression and they are available over the counter. You may discuss with your doctor about including Omega 3 in your medication regimen.
8. Practice Good Sleeping Habits
A well-rested mind is important to quick recovery. Consider the following to improve your sleep habit;
- Go to bed and get up at the same time every day.
- Avoid watching TV or staring into computer or phone screens at least 2 hours before going to bed.
- Avoid alcohol or coffee, and eat at least two hours before bedtime.
- Associate your bed only with sleep, avoid doing other things on the bed.
- Sleep in a cool, dark, quiet room.
If you have difficulty sleeping, here are 10 likely reasons and what you to do about them.
9. Get Support
Clinicians, family members, and friends can provide the much-needed support you need to go through a Wellbutrin withdrawal. Occasionally check in with them.
If you have an appointment, ensure you keep with it. People around are often quick to recognize relapse symptoms before you do. Stay accountable!
Daily meditation of about 30 minutes can help improve symptoms of anxiety. Make it a habit to find a relaxed, quiet setting with little or no distractions, and practice relaxed breathing and focusing. Allow your mind to stay on things that free you from worry or stress.
These recommendations may not take away the symptoms you may feel when withdrawing from Wellbutrin, but they will surely help to mitigate them as your body bounces back to vitality.
How Is Wellbutrin Taken?
Wellbutrin is available as tablets of 75 mg and 100 mg. The dosage regimen of Wellbutrin is dependent on your doctor’s diagnosis and current therapeutic intervention phase. Typically, the starting dose is 200 mg daily, but your doctor may increase the dose up to a maximum dose of 450 mg a day.
The extended-release tablet, available as 150 mg and 300 mg is taken once daily in the morning within a 24-hour time frame.
Wellbutrin can be taken with or without a meal. You should swallow your Wellbutrin tablet whole, never chewed or crushed. It is best to take Wellbutrin at the same time every day and avoid taking it too close to bedtime.
Side Effects of Wellbutrin
Before getting carried away by Wellbutrin’s efficacy, please note that you should inform your doctor about all the drugs you are taking, both prescription and over-the-counter drugs.
Your doctor should also be notified if you have any disease such as liver or kidney disease. This is because other medications and some disease conditions can aggravate the side effects of Wellbutrin.
One of Wellbutrin’s adverse effects is seizures, and this effect is dose-dependent – the higher the dose you take, the greater the intensity of the seizures. To avoid this, doctors typically start patients on a lower dose and observe them before gradually increasing the dose.
People who are epileptic or have had a seizure or an eating disorder should not use Wellbutrin. Alcohol should be avoided, as it increases the risk of seizures and reduces the efficacy of Wellbutrin.
Wellbutrin can increase the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior in children, teenagers, and young adults between the ages of 18 and 24.
Hence, people taking Wellbutrin should be monitored for signs of any worsening of their depression, and for the emergence of suicidal thoughts, especially in the first few months of treatment or when the dose is either increased or decreased.
Wellbutrin may also cause insomnia, especially difficulty falling asleep.