Bupropion

Sounds like bue-PROE-pee-on

Easy-to-read medicine information about bupropion– what it is, how to take it safely and possible side effects.

Type of medicine Also called
  • Medicine to stop smoking
  • Zyban®

What is bupropion?

  • Bupropion is a medicine to help adults stop smoking. It is usually used when nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) has not been effective. 
  • Bupropion can help balance chemicals in your brain to reduce the withdrawal symptoms that happen while you give up smoking. It works by changing the brain's response to nicotine, and makes smoking less pleasurable and also reduces craving.
  • Bupropion is available from your pharmacy only on a prescription.

What are the benefits of bupropion?

Taking bupropion increases your chances of quitting smoking. It approximately doubles the chances of giving up smoking long-term.1 It doesn't contain nicotine, which is important to some people. Bupropion can delay weight gain after quitting for some people.

Dose

  • Start taking bupropion 1 to 2 weeks before you plan to stop smoking.  
  • Take one tablet (150 mg) once a day for three days, then take one tablet twice a day, for at least seven weeks.
  • There should bee at least eight hours between doses.
  • Do not take more than one tablet at any one time, and not more than two tablets in a day.
  • If you are elderly or have certain liver or kidney diseases, the dose may be different — your doctor will advise you about this.
  • Set a target quit date to stop smoking one to two weeks after starting treatment. This allows bupropion to build up in your body before you stop completely.²

How to take bupropion

  • Swallow the tablets whole with a full glass of water. Do not crush or chew the tablets because if you do that it releases all the medicine at once and can increase your chance of side effects.
  • You can take bupropion with or without food. 
  • Bupropion can cause sleep problems, so don't take it just before bedtime. Try taking it early in the evening, if it is eight hours or more since your morning dose.1  
  • Limit drinking alcohol while you are taking bupropion. Drinking alcohol while taking bupropion may increase the risk for mood changes.
  • If you forget to take your dose, take it as soon as you remember that day. Allow at least eight hours between doses. But, if it is nearly time for your next dose, just take the next dose at the right time. Do not take double the dose.

Precautions before taking bupropion

It’s important that you tell your doctor or pharmacist before you start using bupropion if you:

  • have epilepsy or have ever had epilepsy, a seizure (fit or convulsion) or an unexplained blackout
  • have had anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa
  • have bipolar affective disorder (manic depression)
  • have diabetes that is being treated with insulin or medicines
  • drink a lot of alcohol
  • are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Sometimes a medicine isn’t suitable for a person with certain conditions, or it can only be used with extra care.

Possible side effects

Like all medicines, bupropion can cause side effects, although not everyone gets them. Often side effects improve as your body gets used to the new medicine.

Epileptic seizures or fits

Bupropion can increase the risk of epileptic seizures or fits.¹ This happens in about one in 1,000 people who take bupropion. Although this is rare, it can be serious, especially if it occurs when you are driving or operating machinery. The risk of a seizure is increased if you:

  • take more than two tablets per day
  • have had a head injury
  • drink a lot of alcohol
  • are taking some medicines that can cause fits, such as antipsychotics, antidepressants, antimalarials, tramadol, theophylline, corticosteroids and some antihistamines 
  • have diabetes and are being treated with insulin or medicines.

Other side effects

Side effects What should I do?
  • Dry mouth
  • Sore throat
  • Feeling sick (nausea)
  • Loss of appetite — not wanting to eat because food tastes different
  • Headache
  • These are quite common when you first start taking bupropion and usually go away with time.
  • Tell your doctor if you are finding them troublesome. 
  • Sleep problems, difficulty falling asleep 
  • This is common when you first start taking bupropion but goes away with time. 
  • Avoid taking your dose at bedtime. Take it early in the evening, eight hours or more after your morning dose.1
  • Feeling sleepy, drowsy or tired during the day
  • Poor concentration
  • Be careful when driving or using tools until you know how this medicine affects you.
  • You will have a greater risk of falls and injuries, especially if you are elderly. Tell your doctor if you are concerned.
  • Do not drink alcohol.
  • Signs of a severe allergic reaction such skin rash, itching, swelling of the lips, face and mouth or difficulty breathing
  • Stop using bupropion.
  • Tell your doctor immediately or ring HealthLine 0800 611 116.

Learn More

Zyban Medsafe Consumer Information Sheet

References

  1. Update on smoking cessation BPAC, Dec 2010
  2. Bupropion hydrochloride NZ Formulary
  3. Smoking cessation — pharmcological therapy BPAC, April 2009
Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist. Reviewed By: Angela Lambie, Pharmacist, Auckland Last reviewed: 08 May 2017