Wellbutrin and Alcohol Interaction: Can You Drink Alcohol with Wellbutrin?
Author: Greg Basham
Last Updated: 8/01/2022
Wellbutrin is an antidepressant medication that helps with the symptoms of depression. When prescribed, it can treat mental health disorders like bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, and even serious cases of depression. While Wellbutrin is a well-rounded medication, it’s not a good idea to mix it with alcohol or other substances.
Alcohol, like Wellbutrin, slows down the central nervous system (CNS). When two substances that slow down the CNS are combined, dangerous interactions can occur.
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What are the Effects of Mixing Alcohol and Wellbutrin?
Mixing alcohol and Wellbutrin can have varying effects based on the condition of the individual mixing the two substances as well as their alcohol drinking habits. Generally, combining alcohol and Wellbutrin is not recommended, as Wellbutrin is an antidepressant, used to treat disorders such as major depressive disorder and reduce the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder. Wellbutrin is also sometimes used to help people stop smoking cigarettes.
However, Wellbutrin does differ from other antidepressants in that it is atypical, meaning it does not perform the same way as some of the more usual antidepressants. Drinking alcohol while taking Wellbutrin for a person who does not usually drink alcohol can result in dangerous short-term side effects, very different from the dangers of drinking alcohol regularly while taking Wellbutrin, as the effects of alcohol withdrawal may be exacerbated by Wellbutrin, sometimes even leading to seizures.
Listed below are some of the most prominently occurring side effects that result from mixing alcohol and Wellbutrin.
1. Liver Disease
Liver disease can occur after a long history of drinking alcohol and taking Wellbutrin. Both substances do tend to damage the liver over a long period of use, the symptoms of which can be increased in severity exponentially when used together. On its own, chronic hepatitis C and acute liver failure have been recorded as being caused by bupropion therapy; bupropion is the generic drug name for Wellbutrin. The same damage is potentially caused by continued alcohol use as well. Together, Wellbutrin and alcohol use may have disastrous long-term effects on the liver, the same as may be caused by using the drugs individually, but the potential for damage to occur quicker, and be far more severe, is extremely possible. The treatment for hepatitis C differs from acute liver failure in severity, as hepatitis requires complete abstinence from liver-damaging substances, including Wellbutrin and alcohol, whereas acute liver failure is even harder to treat, as sometimes the only option for treatment is a liver replacement, which requires surgery.
2. Seizure Disorders
Seizures are caused by electrical disturbances in the brain which are uncontrollable, resulting in abnormal movement which can damage the body. When it comes to seizures caused by Wellbutrin, the brain is affected by a sudden lack of interaction with the antidepressant’s mind-altering chemicals. Similarly, when a brain that has become accustomed to heavy alcohol consumption daily stops receiving the chemical reactions caused by drinking alcohol, seizures can occur as the brain responds to such a dramatic change. Seizure disorders mostly occur in people who mix alcohol and Wellbutrin and then suddenly stop taking either. Some of the specifications of a reaction such as seizure disorders include if the individual is taking a high dose of Wellbutrin or has a long history of abusive alcohol drinking.
Wellbutrin is an antidepressant. The drug works not by affecting serotonin levels like some other antidepressants, but rather by working to increase levels of dopamine and norepinephrine. Alcohol on the other hand is a depressant, meaning that alcohol will boost dopamine momentarily which can then decrease the natural amount of dopamine available.
For this reason, using Wellbutrin and alcohol simultaneously cannot only reduce but may even reverse the positive impact Wellbutrin has on dopamine levels. If alcohol is mixed together, this can increase a person’s risk for depression even if they are taking Wellbutrin consistently. Depression worsens when the alcohol wears off, and overall the combination of Wellbutrin and alcohol use over time can lead to possibly even more severe depression.
Does Wellbutrin Affect the Taste of Alcohol?
Wellbutrin has been documented as affecting the taste of alcohol. In some studies, individuals taking Wellbutrin as a suppressant for nicotine addiction cited a bad taste in their mouth when they drank alcohol. Similarly, taking Wellbutrin is known to cause a strange taste in the mouth after being taken. It is not known what causes this reaction in some and not others, but the fact it does happen means that Wellbutrin can affect the taste of alcohol in certain cases.
Does Wellbutrin Affect the Effects of Alcohol?
Yes, Wellbutrin does affect the effects of alcohol. Because Wellbutrin is an antidepressant that does affect a person’s brain chemistry, and because alcohol is depressant doing likely the opposite as Wellbutrin, the two together do not balance each other out, but rather cause worsening side effects and, especially if alcohol drinking is more than moderate, disastrous side effects. These include nausea, seizures, hallucinations, feelings of paranoia, tremors, vomiting, mood changes, and worsening depression.
Additionally, drinking alcohol while on Wellbutrin can accelerate the effects of alcohol, making it seem more potent than the same amount of alcohol consumed when Wellbutrin is not in the system. This can be incredibly dangerous as well, because a person might think they are drinking moderately, but not accounting for the interaction of the drug Wellbutrin with the alcohol.
Does Wellbutrin Affect Alcohol Withdrawal?
Wellbutrin does affect alcohol withdrawal. More often than not, if a person is consuming large amounts of alcohol and exhibiting all the key signs of alcoholism then it is very likely that ceasing to drink alcohol may lead to even more exaggerated side effects of alcohol withdrawal than it would for an individual who is not prescribed Wellbutrin and taking it daily over a long period. Not only are the usual symptoms of alcohol use disorder withdrawal, severe shaking and tremors, nausea and vomiting, confusion and disorientation, and hallucinations and paranoia, all still possible while taking Wellbutrin, there is the increased risk of seizures, and seizure disorder, which can prove life-threatening as seizures are impossible to predict and can occur in dangerous settings.
In general, Wellbutrin worsens the physical and mental effects of alcohol withdrawal.
Can A Mixture of Wellbutrin and Alcohol Lead to Death?
Yes, mixing alcohol and Wellbutrin can lead to death in some instances. Firstly, Wellbutrin does lower the body’s natural tolerance to alcohol. This means that drinking alcohol in Wellbutrin can bring about drunkenness quicker, and this lower processing time also means that alcohol accumulates to higher levels in the bloodstream. Not only is this a risk for greater dependence, and addiction, excessive binge drinking of alcohol on Wellbutrin can lead to life-threatening levels of blood alcohol content, resulting in unconsciousness, brain damage, and even death. Alcohol overdose is very possible on its own, without the incorporation of Wellbutrin, which is why mixing with Wellbutrin only increases the likelihood of an alcohol overdose especially if an individual is binge drinking. Therefore, alcohol-related death causes by Wellbutrin and alcohol is possible.
Who Should Not Take Alcohol and Wellbutrin?
Alcohol and Wellbutrin are not a recommended combination of drugs for any individual. However, some people are at a greater risk for negative side effects than others. Individuals with alcohol use disorder should be transparent with their doctors before starting to take Wellbutrin as stopping drinking to take Wellbutrin has the potential to lead to severe withdrawal. Conversely, those people who choose to take Wellbutrin but do not have a long history of alcohol abuse should abstain from starting to drink as the drug can interact with alcohol to disastrous effect. While taking Wellbutrin and having a single drink of alcohol does not guarantee any of the dangerous side effects listed above, and even though the intensity of any of the side effects depends on many of the characteristics of each individual, it is not safe to mix Wellbutrin and alcohol, and should be avoided at all times.
Can I Take Alcohol and Wellbutrin When Pregnant?
No, it is not recommended to take alcohol and Wellbutrin when pregnant. As Wellbutrin reduces the body’s natural tolerance to alcohol, increasing the blood alcohol content percentages, drinking alcohol while taking Wellbutrin can multiply the usual effects of alcohol. This can lead to bodily harm, injuring both mother and child, as well as other more serious internal complications. It is not recommended to drink alcohol while pregnant, so mixing the two substances can be extremely dangerous for both a mother and an unborn child.
Are All Types of Alcohol Harmful With Wellbutrin?
Yes, all types of alcohol are harmful with Wellbutrin as it is not the type of alcohol that is dangerous but rather the volume of alcohol consumed. As each serving of liquor is equivalent in the percentage of alcohol as it is in wine, beer, and seltzer, the type of alcohol is not what causes harmful interactions with Wellbutrin, rather it is the volume of alcohol consumed.
How Much Wellbutrin Can Be Dangerous to Take With Alcohol?
While Wellbutrin in any amount can be dangerous to take with alcohol, taking more Wellbutrin than the doctor’s daily prescription can prove disastrous. As it is possible to overdose on Wellbutrin alone, if a person takes far more than the prescribed dosage at once, taking more than the daily use while consuming alcohol can be catastrophic. Serious side effects are possible, with death as the most severe outcome, if professional medical help is not received in time after overdose.
Does Alcohol Affect How Well Wellbutrin Will Work?
Yes, alcohol does affect how effective Wellbutrin works. Alcohol is a depressant, meaning that drinking alcohol causes a temporary dopamine spike in the brain followed by a drop in dopamine levels once the effects of alcohol wear off. This is why alcohol can become addictive, as the dopamine levels deplete in individuals who constantly abuse alcohol until they are not capable of achieving normal levels of dopamine without the inclusion of alcohol. Conversely, Wellbutrin helps to battle depression by working to balance out the depleted levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. This balancing is much less drastic and far more sustainable than the spikes caused by drinking alcohol.
However, when alcohol and Wellbutrin are mixed, the antidepressive effects of Wellbutrin are nullified by the consumption of alcohol. Post-alcohol mental hangovers are far worse, dopamine levels are depleted exponentially, and the overall chances of Wellbutrin achieving some level of dopamine balance in the mind is nullified by the inclusion of alcohol. In this way, alcohol use can lower, or even nullify the effectiveness of Wellbutrin’s ability to treat depression.
How Long After Taking Wellbutrin Can You Drink Alcohol?
Once the body and mind have grown used to not using Wellbutrin, then it is less dangerous to drink alcohol. After taking Wellbutrin for an extended period it is important to wean oneself off of Wellbutrin to avoid such dangerous withdrawal side effects as seizures. The best way to do so is to slowly taper down the amount of Wellbutrin consumed until completely stopping the use of the drug. After the final dose, Wellbutrin typically leaves the system in its entirety after another 5 or 6 days. Only after this period, is it truly safe to drink alcohol, as Wellbutrin is no longer active in the bloodstream to interact with alcohol in any capacity.
What Are Other Drugs That Are Dangerous to Use with Alcohol?
Many other drugs are dangerous to use with alcohol. This is because taking alcohol with other drugs can increase the side effects or worsen them to the point of extreme physical danger. Prescription drugs that should never be mixed with alcohol include antidepressants, painkillers, allergy and cold, and flu remedies, antibiotics, anti-seizure medicines, blood thinners, and muscle relaxants.
Additionally, street drugs can prove very harmful to mix with alcohol, and while street drugs are dangerous to take on their own, they can become even more dangerous and life-threatening when mixed with alcohol. It is rarely ever recommended to mix alcohol with any drug, but it is always safest to contact a healthcare professional to understand exactly which prescription drugs interact more or less with alcohol to fully understand the potential risks.