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Feb 9, 2023

Using Bupropion to Quit Smoking

What Is Bupropion?

Bupropion is a medication used to treat various conditions. It’s often referred to as an antidepressant, as it can be used to treat major depressive disorder (MDD). However, it is also approved by the FDA as a medication to aid in smoking cessation. The only difference between is the names: Zyban for smoking cessation; Wellbutrin for MDD.

Health Risks of Smoking

Smoking is the number one cause of preventable death in the United States. It is a well-known carcinogen (causes cancer) and is also directly linked to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and many other negative health conditions. Even cutting back can hugely reduce the risk of developing these preventable conditions. The sooner you stop smoking, the larger the long-term positive impact will be on your health. You will even notice an immediate positive effect on your sense of taste, breathing, and energy levels when you stop smoking.

Learn more about smoking cessation

How Does Bupropion Work?

Bupropion belongs to a drug class called Atypical Antidepressants (ATA) because it doesn’t fit into any other class. See different types of antidepressants. It works by decreasing the reuptake of norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine, meaning you have more of these chemicals in your brain. It is unique in that it has more effect on dopamine and norepinephrine than on serotonin.

  • Dopamine
    Dopamine is also known as the “reward” chemical involved in motivation, desire, and cravings. It causes you to feel pleasure and when released, makes you want to repeat activities that gave you this feeling.
  • Norepinephrine (noradrenaline)
    Norepinephrine is an excitation chemical. It is often known as the “fight or flight” chemical as it causes motivation and alertness.
  • Serotonin
    Serotonin is the “happy” chemical, as it releases feelings of contentedness and decreases anxiety.

The actual mechanism of action for bupropion in smoking cessation is not fully known. It is thought to be linked to the reward system and involved in combatting symptoms of withdrawal. The addictiveness of smoking is caused in part by an increase in dopamine from the nicotine. This gives you feelings of pleasure and makes you want to continue smoking to repeat the sensation. The increased dopamine from taking bupropion replaces dopamine from nicotine, decreasing your urge for a smoke.

Bupropion is usually used alongside nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) for the maximum effect to stop cravings for smoking. While the bupropion aids to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms to a tolerable baseline, the NRT provides a rapid relief of acute cravings and can even sometimes alleviate the desire to have something in your mouth with forms such as lozenges or gum.

Bupropion Side Effects

There are only a few most common side effects of bupropion (Zyban).

  • Dry mouth
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • *Increased thoughts of hurting yourself or of suicide

*If you have any thoughts of hurting yourself or suicide, seek medical attention immediately as it is a medical emergency.

While increased thoughts of hurting yourself of suicide are not common, they are very serious. The most common side effects are dry mouth and difficulty falling or staying asleep. Other side effects are less common. Side effects may also sometimes be confused with the withdrawal symptoms of quitting smoking. It is important to stay on the medication for a few weeks before determining if the medication may not be right for you.

Does Bupropion Interact with Any Medications?

There are a number of medications that should not be taken at the same time as bupropion. The reasons for these contradictions can vary from a concern about the effects of the medications to serious safety concerns. The most notable medications that contradict the use of bupropion include:

  • Any other medication containing bupropion
    This can lead to a dangerously high level of bupropion in the body.
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
    Combining MAOIs with bupropion can lead to very serious consequences, including sudden death.
  • Levodopa and amantadine
    Adverse events are more common when either of these medications are used in combination with bupropion. One or more of the medication doses may therefore start small and work its way up to a therapeutic dose.
  • Alcohol
    Alcohol use while taking bupropion can dangerously increase the effects of alcohol. It is important to discuss all medications, natural health products, and other substances you consume with your healthcare provider before starting bupropion use.

Does Bupropion Interfere with Any Medical Conditions?

Due to the possible adverse effects of bupropion, certain medical conditions contradict with the use of the medication. Such conditions include:

  • Seizure disorders or any conditions that increase the risk for seizures.
    Bupropion use includes a small risk of experiencing seizures, so any condition that also increases this risk can raise that possibility to dangerous levels.
  • Liver or kidney impairment
    Dosage adjustment may be required in those with kidney or liver impairment, as the levels of bupropion in the body may increase to dangerous levels.
  • Pregnancy or breastfeeding
    There is a possible risk to the fetus or infant when a pregnant or nursing mother, respectively, is taking bupropion. That is because the medication crosses through the blood in pregnancy and breastmilk in those that are breastfeeding. The actual risk to the fetus or infant is unknown, so it is, in general, best to avoid bupropion use when either pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Those undergoing abrupt discontinuation of alcohol use or benzodiazepines
    The abrupt discontinuation of alcohol or benzodiazepines can increase the risk of seizures, so it is best to avoid bupropion during this period of time to reduce the chance of this occurring.

Bupropion vs Bupropion XR

Both of these medications have the same active ingredient, bupropion, but the difference is in they are released into your body. The XR stands for “eXtended-Release”, and it does just that; the medication is released into your body more slowly. This generally allows you to take fewer doses per day. The non-XR bupropion releases its medication relatively quickly into your body, which means that the drug will disappear from your blood more quickly. To maintain a stable amount of drug in your body for it to have its proper effect, you then have to take another dose later in the same day, taking two tablets per day. With XR medication you typically only have to take one tablet per day. This works the same way in the body but is far more convenient for you, especially when this medication is taken long term.

This also means that it is very important for you to NOT split or crush any medication that is listed as extended release. The way that an XR medication works depends on the way the tablet is structured. Breaking or crushing this medication will cause a rush of medication into your body that only lasts a short period of time. This will increase side effects and likely deem the medication ineffective.

How Much Does Bupropion Cost?

At your typical pharmacy, a 6-month supply of bupropion can cost you anywhere from $90 to $835. This is hugely variable and may not affordable for most people. Bupropion is on Marley Drug’s Wholesale Price List, which is $70/year or $37 for 6 months. Our Wholesale Price List includes more over 100 generics at fixed pricing: $70/year for each medication.

Order Bupropion

How can we price our medications so low? Part of this comes from getting your medication in longer supply and another part from avoiding the involvement of insurance companies. Getting your medication in longer supply allows you to reduce the number of the pharmacy’s dispensing fees you have to pay. Cutting out insurance plans also allows you to avoid the massive cost increases that typically come at the step of insurance companies. This gets your medication costs as low as possible to be the most affordable for you.

To learn more about how you can get your bupropion prescription from Marley Drug, just call us at 1-800-810-7790.

Prices mentioned in this article are based on average retail price at major box chain pharmacy in the U.S. as of August 31, 2022.


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  3. Lexicomp: Evidence-Based Drug Information ( Accessed 2022-08-31.
  4. Zyban: generic bupropion – GoodRx ( Accessed 2022-08-31.v
  5. Wilkes S. The use of bupropion SR in cigarette smoking cessation. Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis. 2008;3(1):45-53. doi: 10.2147/copd.s1121. PMID: 18488428; PMCID: PMC2528204.