Bupropion (Zyban®) to quit smoking

Sounds like bue-PROE-pee-on

Bupropion is used to help adults stop smoking. Find out how to take it safely and possible side effects. Bupropion is also called Zyban.

What is bupropion?

Bupropion (also known as Zyban®) is used 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 your brain's response to nicotine and makes smoking less pleasurable and also reduces craving.
  • Bupropion is only available from your pharmacy so you’ll usually need to see your doctor or contact a stop smoking service to get it.

Note: Bupropion is also used to treat depression. Read more about bupropion for depression. 

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. It doesn't contain nicotine, which is important to some people. Bupropion can delay weight gain after quitting for some people.

Dose

  • The effects of bupropion are not immediate. It is best to start bupropion 1 to 2 weeks before you plan to stop smoking. This allows bupropion to build up in your body before you stop smoking completely.
  • In Aotearoa New Zealand bupropion is available as tablets (150 mg).
  • Take 1 tablet once a day for 3 days, then take 1 tablet twice a day, for at least 7 weeks.
  • There should be at least 8 hours between doses.
  • If you are older or have certain liver or kidney diseases, the dose may be different — your doctor will advise you about this.

How to take bupropion

  • Swallow the tablets whole with a glass of water. Do not crush or chew the tablets as that releases all the medicine at once and can increase your chance of side effects.
  • Timing: 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 you are taking it twice a day, take your evening dose at least 8 hours after your morning dose. 
  • Avoid or limit drinking alcohol while you are taking bupropion. Drinking alcohol while taking bupropion may increase the risk of having mood changes.
  • Missed dose: If you forget to take your dose, take it as soon as you remember that day. 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. Remember there should be at least 8 hours between doses.

Things to consider when taking bupropion

Taking other medicines and supplements: Bupropion can interact with some medications, herbal supplements and rongoā Māori, so check with your doctor or pharmacist before starting bupropion and before starting any new products.

Possible side effects of bupropion

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.

Increased risk of seizures 

Bupropion can increase the risk of seizures. 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 2 tablets per day
  • have had a head injury
  • drink a lot of alcohol
  • are taking 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)
  • Headache
  • These are quite common when you first start taking bupropion and usually go away with time.
  • Tell your doctor if you are finding they bother you.
  • Read about treatments for dry mouth. 
  • Loss of appetite – not wanting to eat because food tastes different
  • Try eating or drinking small but frequent meals.
  • Avoid eating in an environment with strong smells.
  • 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, but if you are taking 2 doses a day remember to leave at least 8 hours between doses. 
  • 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 older. Tell your doctor if you are concerned.
  • Do not drink alcohol.
  • Changes in behaviours or thinking
  • Mood swings
  • Feeling anxious
  • Depression (new or worsening)
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • These are rare but serious side effects.
  • Tell your doctor immediately or ring Healthline 0800 611 116.
  • 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.
Did you know that you can report a side effect to a medicine to CARM (Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring)? Report a side effect to a product.

Learn More

Zyban Medsafe Consumer Information Sheet

References

  1. Bupropion hydrochloride NZ Formulary, NZ 2022
  2. Zyban Medsafe, NZ
Credits: Health Navigator Pharmacists. Reviewed By: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist Last reviewed: 22 May 2022