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Using Naltrexone And Bupropion in Alcoholism Treatment

Author: Thomas Roth

Last Updated: 6/04/2023

Alcoholism is a serious condition that develops when someone is addicted to alcohol. There are various forms of treatment and steps that someone suffering from alcohol use disorder can take to recover. Some actions one might take would be therapy, exercise, rehabilitation, and or medication. Medications such as naltrexone and bupropion also help with recovery. 

Naltrexone is a medication that isn’t habit-forming. It helps recovering alcoholics and reduces the feeling of withdrawal. Alcohol withdrawal can be very dangerous if the proper precautions are not taken. Bupropion is a medicine that helps with the emotional side of recovery. It’s an antidepressant that makes rehabilitation from alcohol addiction less challenging because it sends serotonin to the brain. Naltrexone and Bupropion are similar in that they both help to reduce the want for alcohol.

What is Bupropion?

Bupropion is a medication that helps to lessen feelings of depression. Medical professionals prescribe the medication to individuals who are recovering from alcoholism addiction.

It’s taken to help quit smoking or for weight loss. Bupropion has been prescribed for people who have quit drinking alcohol and passed the beginning stages of recovery. The reason for this is that if alcohol and bupropion are mixed it leads to bad side effects in some cases.

What is Naltrexone?

Naltrexone is a medicine that severely reduces feelings of withdrawal, plus it makes alcohol’s effects less desirable. Naltrexone is beneficial because it makes recovery much more productive. Individuals with alcohol use disorder (AUD) often have every intention of a successful recovery, but withdrawal feelings are intense. Naltrexone allows for rehabilitation with less room for error and a smooth adjustment.

What is the Difference Between Naltrexone and Bupropion?

Naltrexone aids in the physical/emotional withdrawal symptoms that come with the stopping of alcohol. Bupropion helps with the mental and emotional feelings that occur from the body fighting the urge of wanting alcohol. Alcohol abusers often use alcohol as a coping mechanism and once consumption stops, a new method of anxiety relief needs to come into place. This is where bupropion comes into play. 

How do Naltrexone and Bupropion Work?

Naltrexone enters the system and prevents the body from desiring the drug. It stops the brain’s withdrawal transmitters, which stops the craving for alcohol. Bupropion works by sending serotonin to the brain. Serotonin is the happy hormone that the body produces. When someone suffers from depression, they lack this hormone, making any form of recovery difficult. 

Both Naltrexone and Bupropion have harmful side effects if taken while drinking regularly. These medications should only be taken once alcohol consumption is stopped. If alcohol abuse continues while taking these medications symptoms such as trouble breathing or seizures will occur. 

The recommended dosage for naltrexone is different for every individual. Typically naltrexone is prescribed at twenty-five milligrams starting, to see how the individual reacts symptomatically and beneficially. The recommended dosage for bupropion is usually one-hundred-fifty milligrams initially depending on the needs of the individual.

What are the Benefits of Naltrexone and Bupropion for Alcoholism?

Naltrexone enters the system and stops the need for alcohol. It prevents the brain from withdrawing from alcohol, which takes away the desire to drink. Bupropion regulates the intense emotions that come along with recovery. Transitioning out of daily alcohol abuse comes along with strong symptoms in all areas of the body. Naltrexone and Bupropion are beneficial for those recovering from alcohol use disorder because those physical effects and emotions are stabilized.

Dosages for these medications are specific to each individual for their needs. In most cases, the patient begins with the smallest dosage and alterations begin from there if needed. The best procedure to follow is to listen to your doctor and be honest. If alcohol consumption occurs while taking this medication, poor side effects are likely to occur. Some side effects can happen even if taking the medication properly. Naltrexone has been known to cause stomach irritability, fatigue, and/or eye discomfort. Bupropion may cause heart palpitations, vertigo, and headaches.

What are the Side Effects of Naltrexone and Bupropion?

Naltrexone has numerous side effects with the most common ones being upset stomach, exhaustion, and eye trouble. Some people taking naltrexone state that it causes them epiphora. Epiphora is when the eyes tear constantly which can cause vision troubles. 

Bupropion’s common side effects are heart flutters, vertigo, and migraines. Some individuals who take these medications suffer from these side effects, and others have nothing but benefits. The benefits of smoother recovery often outweigh the cons because they help to recover alcoholics thrive. Prescriptions given are accommodated to the necessary needs of the individual.

What is the Recommended Naltrexone and Bupropion Dosage?

Typically, naltrexone starts at 25 milligrams to see how the medication is working for that person and to see if they have any side effects. The recommended dosage for bupropion is usually 150 milligrams but 200 milligrams is a common dosage after a few weeks of taking the medication.

It’s important to listen to your doctor so that the medication works best for you. The process of withdrawing can be limited and shortened by taking naltrexone. It removes the desire to consume alcohol. Bupropion allows you to feel less affected emotionally. The brain is altered in a positive way to make the recovery process less life-changing.

How to Take Naltrexone and Bupropion?

Naltrexone is a great medication to take because you cannot become addicted to it. It also has a lot of benefits for reducing alcohol consumption. However, if the individual goes back to daily alcohol consumption and tries the recovery process again, the medication becomes less effective. Bupropion helps with depression throughout the process but it also benefits symptoms of anxiety that may occur from stopping drinking alcohol. 

The best time of day to take Naltrexone is in the morning with food. A good time of day to take bupropion is also in the morning but it is not necessary to take it with food. Studies show that taking both naltrexone and bupropion have the best greatest results when taken at that time. When naltrexone is taken in the morning studies prove that it places less stress on the stomach. 

People who take bupropion in the morning tend to have fewer heart palpitations, which tend to come at night due to anxiety before bed.

What happens if I take Naltrexone and Bupropion at Once?

There have been some cases where individuals have liver issues from taking these medications together. People who are taking these medications for weight loss have taken them together with success. Though it would be convenient to take both medications at once for relief in all areas, you should not do so unless prescribed to you by your doctor. In some cases, it’s necessary to take both naltrexone and bupropion. 

How long do Naltrexone and Bupropion Stay in the Body?

The dosage you’re prescribed will determine how long naltrexone stays in your system. The lowest dosage of naltrexone will typically be in your system for one to two days. Bupropion stays in the body for up to about four days. The medication lasts in your body for different amounts of time because the liver and other organs need to process the medication. 

The process of processing medication often happens in the liver, so mixing more than one medication causes the effects to last longer. Another factor to consider is the half-life of a medication. Naltrexone’s half-life is 4 hours, while bupropion’s half-life is 3 to 4 hours.

What is the Other Use for Bupropion?

Bupropion is also useful for treating obesity. Obesity is a condition that develops when someone has a body fat percentage higher than 30%. For more perspective, someone who’s 6 feet tall becomes obese once they reach a body weight of 250 pounds. Keep in mind that this doesn’t account for muscle mass or athletes.

Bupropion also helps with anxiety and other emotions that come with weight loss. The brain is altered to reduce the want for unhealthy habits, which in this case is unhealthy eating. Bupropion also reduces someone’s appetite and controls hunger hormones like ghrelin, which is responsible for making people feel hungry. 

Is it Safe to Take a High Dosage of Bupropion?

Yes. It’s safe to take a high dosage of bupropion as long as the dosage is prescribed to you by your doctor or professional healthcare provider. With higher doses of bupropion, the risk of side effects increases. Therefore, it’s important to only take the dosage that your doctor prescribes. Taking more results in discomfort, overdose, and other medical problems.

Are Naltrexone and Bupropion the Same Thing?

No. Naltrexone and Bupropion are not the same medications. They do have similar purposes but different makeups and side effects. For example, naltrexone helps more with the physical effects of alcohol withdrawal and cravings. On the other hand, bupropion helps with the mental health disorders that develop during the withdrawal process. These include anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.