Can Bupropion help you quit smoking?

Bupropion works well in combination with nicotine replacement therapy


What is Bupropion?

Bupropion is a prescription medication that is used as an antidepressant but also helps people quit smoking. It’s available under various trade names, of which Wellbutrin and Zyban are the best known. The drug was first approved in the U.S. in 1985 and ranks within the top 50 most prescribed medications in the U.S. market. Bupropion typically is taken orally as a tablet.

Bupropion frequently is prescribed by doctors to help with stopping smoking, since it’s a powerful nicotinic receptor antagonist. It can reduce the frequency and intensity of nicotine cravings and ease withdrawal symptoms. Most doctors prescribe a 7-12 week treatment plan with 150mg taken daily for the first three days and then twice a day for the subsequent treatment duration.

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Some common side effects of Bupropion are dry mouth, agitation, sleep problems and headaches. Rare but serious side effects (which often result from overdosing when Bupropion is used as an antidepressant) are increased risk of epileptic seizures and suicidal thoughts. To learn more about possible side effects, talk to your physician. Bupropion should also not be taken during pregnancy or nursing as there’s still a lack of research on the drug’s safety in this context.


How to use Bupropion to successfully quit smoking?

You may have already tried several times to quit smoking but always ended up giving in to your cravings. That’s natural. Once you’ve been smoking for a few years, the gratification nicotine gives you will always remain hard-wired in your brain’s chemistry, even long after you quit. The urge for nicotine is especially strong in the initial stages of the quitting process, though. That’s why nicotine replacement therapy — which means using nicotine gum, patches, nasal spray, etc. — can help control your cravings by providing the nicotine to the brain it used to get from you smoking cigarettes. 

Studies have shown that using Bupropion can effectively support this nicotine replacement therapy, as it reduces the craving for nicotine in the first place. Studies have found that even on its own Bupropion makes a person 1.6 times more likely to successfully quit smoking for at least one year. This means 1.6 times of what your initial success rate is, which can range from 5%-60%, depending on how long and much you’ve been smoking, how mentally committed you are, and whether you are doing it alone, in a group or even with clinical support. 

1.6 times is about the same effectiveness as nicotine replacement therapy on its own. Therefore, combining the two treatments can be a helpful approach. With time you can reduce the amount of nicotine replacement, i.e., sending less and less nicotine to your brain, until eventually, you can completely stop nicotine replacement. During this process, Bupropion can help you keep cravings somewhat under control.

Talk to a doctor to learn more about Bupropion and what dosage and treatment approaches are right for you.  


  1. Hughes, John R, et al. “Antidepressants for Smoking Cessation.” Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 8 Jan. 2014,, 10.1002/14651858.cd000031.pub4. Accessed 26 Jan. 2020.
  2. Wilkes, Scott. “The Use of Bupropion SR in Cigarette Smoking Cessation.” International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, vol. Volume 3, Mar. 2008, pp. 45–53, 10.2147/copd.s1121. Accessed 26 Jan. 2020.
  3. Joly, Bertrand, et al. “Success Rates in Smoking Cessation: Psychological Preparation Plays a Critical Role and Interacts with Other Factors Such as Psychoactive Substances.” PLOS ONE, vol. 12, no. 10, 11 Oct. 2017, p. e0184800,, 10.1371/journal.pone.0184800. Accessed 26 Jan. 2020.

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