Wellbutrin can cause overdose even when used under a doctor’s guidance. Misuse will increase the odds of experiencing this type of medical emergency.
We mostly think of antidepressants as medication that can help a person feel better if they have been diagnosed with depression. But their use can be much more nuanced.
Wellbutrin (bupropion) is an antidepressant used to treat:
- Various forms of depression
- Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
- Tobacco or nicotine misuse
MedlinePlus reports that Wellbutrin is sometimes used to treat people with bipolar disorder and as a second line of defense in patients with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) who may also be battling depression.
It usually poses no problems in people who take it as directed, but like any medication, you should exercise precaution and good judgment.
You can overdose on Wellbutrin. An overdose is considered a medical emergency. Getting help for yourself or someone else right away can save a life.
How an Overdose Occurs
An overdose can happen on purpose or by accident.
A Wellbutrin overdose amount is any amount of the drug that exceeds the standard dosage. According to Drugs.com, the recommended starting dose is 200 mg a day. It can be taken in two 100 mg in a 24-hour period. After three days, the dose can be increased to 300 mg a day, taken in three intervals, the drug site says. Of course, all Wellbutrin users should follow the advice of their doctor. This is a general guideline. Drugs.com also reports that the maximum dose is 450 mg a day. If a person takes this amount, they should do so four times a day in 150-mg doses each time. Taking amounts higher than this could lead to overdose.
A Wellbutrin OD can happen in various ways. Common ways you can overdose on antidepressants such as Wellbutrin include:
- Taking a high dose. You and your doctor might have to try different doses of Wellbutrin until you find what is right for you, and this could result in you taking a high dose.
- Misuse. Some people crush Wellbutrin, so they can snort its contents or inject it into their veins. This is often a sign of addiction and the start of a vicious cycle.
- Mixing it with other substances. It is best not to drink alcohol while you are on antidepressants. Drinking alcohol or taking other common drugs could overload your body as you use Wellbutrin.
- Illicit use. This may involve using someone else’s prescription of Wellbutrin or doctor shopping in order to buy as much Wellbutrin as desired. This is yet another sign of problem use.
Wellbutrin Overdose Factors
According to Healthline, several factors play a role in whether one overdoses on an antidepressant. How much of a medication you took, how sensitive you are to a drug, and whether you used it alone or with other drugs all play a role in if you overdose on a drug and by how much.
People can also take lethal amounts of an antidepressant such as Wellbutrin. Factors that determine if a dose is lethal include:
- The kind of antidepressant used
- How a person’s body processes the drug before it exits
- Age, weight, and preexisting health conditions
- If the antidepressant is taken with other drugs (including additional antidepressants)
How Wellbutrin is Meant to Work
The Medication Comes in Various Strengths:
- Wellbutrin: This is a tablet that is usually taken at least every six hours, about three times daily.
- Wellbutrin SR: This is a sustained-release tablet of a higher concentration, taken every eight hours and twice daily.
- Wellbutrin XL: This is the most powerful dose of this antidepressant. It should only be taken every 24 hours in the morning.
If you are diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), you might take Wellbutrin during the season when SAD affects you. Physicians usually provide you with a smaller dose for about two weeks until you can stop taking it again. SAD, also known as major depression with seasonal pattern, occurs mostly in the fall and winter seasons.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), people taking Wellbutrin for SAD should see symptoms gradually ease over several weeks. Wellbutrin treatment for SAD may also last for a shorter period than people who take antidepressants for major depressive disorder (MDD).
Possibility of Overdose
Taking more Wellbutrin, or taking it more often, can increase the odds of toxicity and overdose. A paper published by the Balkan Medical Journal in June 2013 discussed two instances of overdose.
In both cases, two women were involved, and they had ingested 150 mg pill of Wellbutrin on purpose. A 19-year-old overdosed on 30 Wellbutrin pills but survived. However, she had two small seizures as she received treatment and had to be hospitalized for three days.
The second patient was a 20-year-old who took 15 Wellbutrin pills meant for her mother. She also had a seizure and had to be observed for three days. She had no problems during additional checkups.
Recognizing the Signs of an Overdose
Learning about Wellbutrin overdose side effects enables you to help yourself or someone else and potentially save a life. Some symptoms start out mildly during the first one or two hours, but they can become more intense as time passes.
The following are common signs of what happens when you overdose on Wellbutrin:
- Dry mouth
- Muscle tension and pain, or muscle damage
- Low blood pressure
These symptoms can resemble other less harmful health problems. A faster or unstable heart rate is often a sign that overdose is occurring. It is imperative to seek help as soon as this is detected.
As the Hours Pass, You may Also Notice Other Symptoms.
- Difficulty breathing
- Pounding heartbeat and worsening pulse
- Loss of consciousness or inability to wake after falling asleep
- Erratic eye movements
A person may go into a coma as a result of an overdose. Calling Poison Control or 911 is crucial if you suspect you or someone you know has overdosed on Wellbutrin.
While You Wait for Help
If you have already called 911 because of an overdose, you can prepare yourself in a variety of ways.
Be prepared to explain the overdose in detail and express whether or not you need a paramedic or additional services. During the call, you should:
- Remain calm. The 911 dispatcher will ask you many questions about the overdose. This may include questions about your medical history or that of whomever you are trying to help. Be ready to let the dispatcher know as many details as you have: what the person took, how they are feeling, and their current condition. This will help 911 send the right help and equipment.
- Be ready to describe your location. Most people call 911 via cellphone, and your location is not readily available to the dispatcher. Provide your address or as much information as you can about where you are.
- Do not hang up. Once help arrives, they can use the information you provided to reverse the overdose, if possible.
Once help arrives, they can use the information you provided to reverse the overdose, if possible.
If you know how the person consumed the Wellbutrin, such as smoking it or inhaling it, or taking multiple doses of it by mouth, be sure to let the first responders know that, too. How a person uses a drug can affect their system in multiple ways.
While first responders will assist the person who has overdosed on Wellbutrin, it is likely the individual will be taken to the hospital for further treatment and monitoring.
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Better Health Channel says that help for an overdose depends on what was taken. A typical scenario includes:
- A detailed intake or assessment. Physicians may order blood tests, a psychological checkup, and observation.
- Detox. This enables doctors to eliminate the drug. Activated charcoal is one common solution, as it sticks to drugs so it will stop affecting your body.
- An antidote. This is more common with opioids, but if there is something that can reverse a Wellbutrin overdose quickly, doctors will ensure they provide this. If no antidote is available, doctors may admit you as a patient so you receive treatment.
Treatment for a Wellbutrin Overdose
The Drug Information and Side Effects Database explains that no single medication is prescribed to help someone overcome Wellbutrin overdose. If the overdose is recent, a medical professional may recommend certain medications or insert a tube into the stomach to pump out its contents. A person’s symptoms will determine the specific kind of treatment they need.
A person with imbalanced fluids may receive intravenous (IV) treatment to correct those imbalances. If they are experiencing irregular heart rhythms, they could be given heart medications to correct that. They also could receive treatment for any other problems with the heart or those concerning the lungs if necessary. The increased seizure risk can also put Wellbutrin users who have overdosed in the hospital. They may be given benzodiazepine medications, which are sedatives, to ease those seizures, and other drugs as well.
Many patients recover from a Wellbutrin overdose after receiving the proper treatment for it. After you are discharged from the hospital, it is normal for doctors to schedule a checkup. This lets them see how you are doing and provide you with additional help.
Most often, a Wellbutrin overdose is a sign that additional help, such as therapy, is needed.