at this point I'll keep the smokers cough over the alternative!
February 19, 2008 9:51 AM   Subscribe

Zyban/ Wellbutrin side effects... how long did they last for you?

So, I'm trying to quit smoking. Did the patch, turns out I'm allergic (fun), the lozenges made me feel ill, did cold turkey and made it, um... six hours?.
So, my doc prescribed wellbutrin (instead of chantix partly because of the cheaper copay and partly because she has noticed a lot more in terms of serious negative side effects with chantix, and likes to go with wellbutrin first.)

I've been taking 300 mg a day, in two 150 mg doses, since Friday. I've now had a headache for three days. Not so bad I can't function, but bad enough that I didn't sleep last night (which is, in and of itself, keeping me from functioning). Oh, and I can't sleep, too, even when I manage to drug the headache into submission!

Bundle that in with, well, vomiting a couple times since Saturday... which could be tied into the headache/not sleeping (it isn't an unusual reaction when I get severe headaches or go more than 30 or so hours without any sleep), and I'm ready to say screw it.

Did anyone else have similar reactions? If so, did they go away (like, soon), or stick around? I have called my doctor, she said they're "not unusual side effects" and we should wait and see how I feel after a full week on the meds. Some people feel better... others, the same. So I was hoping for some antidotal data to make me feel like sticking it out.

At this point I feel like I'll be out of work after a week of this, since I don't think I can go another night on no sleep without someone at work noticing that I'm useless and lapsing in and out of consciousness at my desk!
posted by Kellydamnit to Health & Fitness (28 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I was still having headaches about 2 months into my generic bupropion SR. I switched to branded Wellbutrin XL and they went away within a week.
posted by ferociouskitty at 9:55 AM on February 19, 2008

I don't recall having headaches on welbutrin. I did get jittery for a week or two.

My rule of thumb always was try to give a new med a couple of weeks.
posted by konolia at 9:58 AM on February 19, 2008

I tried Wellbutrin once - the vomiting and headache began pretty quickly after taking a single pill, and I didn't feel right. Couldn't sleep and next day, ended up in the ER with an irregular heartbeat, which resolved after the meds cleared my system.

Needless to say, I didn't wait it out to see if my body would adjust to it!
posted by chez shoes at 10:13 AM on February 19, 2008

Best answer: Perhaps your doctor could cut you down to 150 mg a day? 300 mg seems like a high starting dose to me, but IANAD. I definitely started on 150 mg or less though.

Some of my early side effects resolved, others did not -- I continued to shake like a wet puppy for weeks after I stopped. I would call back the doc, ask to go to down to 150, give it a few more days and then re-assess.

Wellbutrin is an amazing anti-smoking drug, so I'd try to stick it out a bit longer if you can.
posted by bluenausea at 10:17 AM on February 19, 2008

I didn't really have any bad side effects that I remember, but it does take a couple weeks for your body to adjust. Try to stick with it. And, like someone else mentioned, ask about a lower dose.
posted by hulahulagirl at 10:22 AM on February 19, 2008

Best answer: Side effects went away for me after 8 days -- when I started taking it, and again every time the dose was increased. For those 8 days, I felt miserable at all times; the misery didn't fade, but rather just disappeared suddenly
posted by wryly at 10:31 AM on February 19, 2008

I was told when I started on welbutrin that you need to ramp up to 300mg a day. Start at 150 for a week, acclimate, then go up to 300. I remember accidentally taking 2 a day in the first week and feeling like ass.

My doctor also offered me some sleeping pills if I had trouble sleeping. I didn't end up needing them and after a few weeks only had occasional weird muscle spasms while i was drifting off to sleep.

I took zyban to quit smoking after trying everything else. The end of March will be my 6 year anniversary smoke free. Good luck to you - I hope you can manage the zyban. I'm a wholehearted endorser.
posted by Wolfie at 10:39 AM on February 19, 2008

For me, smoking cigarettes during the first week of being on Zyban didn't give me any nicotine response so it could partially be nicotine withdrawl.

As for the rest of the side effects (jitters, shakes, temperature fluctuations, sleeplessness, &c&c&c) lasted as long as I was taking it.
posted by porpoise at 10:45 AM on February 19, 2008

A week or so. I felt incredibly jittery, my heart was pounding, I sweat nonstop and had a steady but tolerable headache. About a week to two weeks in, the crappy side effects all but disappeared. Five months in, my heart rate rarely drops below 90 and I have a headache here and there, but the positive effects of taking XL outweigh the negatives.
posted by sian at 10:54 AM on February 19, 2008

i hated wellbutrin. i was jittery, anxious, sweaty, restless, had terrible insomnia and nausea, and it never went away. i quit taking it after a month.
posted by thinkingwoman at 11:04 AM on February 19, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone.
I've smoked for... hm... more than a decade now. I want to be DONE with the things before I hit 30, so I'm giving myself a little over a year to keep working at it.

I'm currently taking excedrin, which seems to be doing wonders for the headache, and have decided to cut myself down to 150 until Friday after talking to my doc. (I started at that much, and was told to ramp up after three days. that would coincide with when the asstastic feelings kicked in). If I can sleep tonight I can stick with it.
posted by Kellydamnit at 11:05 AM on February 19, 2008

Response by poster: Oh, and I feel like adding, once I get past the "my head hurts so bad and I'm so damn tired I want to puke" physical feeling, well... mentally, I feel fantastic. Just a "WOWEE, THE WORLD IS A-OK!" sort of feeling.
Which is even stranger when compared to how I feel physically.
posted by Kellydamnit at 11:06 AM on February 19, 2008

Best answer: I got such a monstrous headache when I first started wellbutrin that it morphed into one of the worst migraines I've ever had, which then led to a panic attack, which led to an ER visit.

I too was taking 300mg, but just one pill (this was the generic, not the name brand). My doc had me go back down to 150, stay on that for awhile (a week or so), then alternate a day of taking a 150 with a day where I'd take 300 for a week, then finally went back up to 300. No problems after that.

The only side effect I continue to experience is a curbed appetite.
posted by medeine at 11:12 AM on February 19, 2008

Response by poster: I seriously want to mark everything as best answer, these are all so helpful.
posted by Kellydamnit at 11:16 AM on February 19, 2008

I third the going to 150 for now. I loved Wellbutrin's side effects. Surpressed appetite and increased libido.

I never did quit smoking though.
posted by rainbaby at 11:19 AM on February 19, 2008

One other thing to note about Wellbutrin...

I didn't experience any terrible side effects when I started using it (300 mg, once a day) about two years ago. But when I went on vacation and forgot my meds for a week, the effects of NOT taking it were awful. Headachey and downright suicidal. I know it works differently for everyone... but I would not recommend going off it all the sudden.
posted by Ruby Doomsday at 11:25 AM on February 19, 2008

I am on Wellbutrin for depression, but I have been at 150mg for nearly two years, I was started at 75mg, and worked up to where it suiuted me. Everyone's brain juices are different, that's why many docs do the ramp up thing. If I had been put directly to the 300mg, I would have likely been very agitated, with a headache from constantly grinding my teeth.
posted by kellyblah at 11:28 AM on February 19, 2008

When I started taking Wellbutrin, I started at 75mg/daily and didn't start taking 300mg until I'd been on it for three weeks, and I still felt awful (feverish, headache-y, sore) and couldn't sleep more than three or four hours per night. Once I was acclimated, it was fine, but I never reached a point where I wasn't having trouble sleeping through the night.
posted by pullayup at 11:32 AM on February 19, 2008

Seconding Ruby Doomsday - when I was on Wellbutrin, I would literally start experiencing withdrawal symptoms by the evening if I forgot to take it in the morning. Keep on top of your refills, and do NOT stop taking it without figuring out a wean-off plan with your doctor.

Also, now that you're down to taking 150 mg, I'm assuming it's just one dose a day? Try experimenting with when you take it; I had to take it in the morning or else I would toss and turn all night, but I know of some people who get very drowsy after taking it and save it for the evening. It all depends on which side effects decide to manifest.
posted by sarahsynonymous at 12:12 PM on February 19, 2008

I think that it takes about a week for most side effects to subside, as stated above.

On the other hand, I took Wellbutrin to quit smoking and started itching all over and having hives (this was after about 2 weeks). The nurse told me to keep taking it, so I did. I also did some research on my own and found out that those with my side effects had heart attacks on the medication. After pointing this out to the nurse, she finally talked to the doctor who told me to stop immediately. So, just keep an eye on what's going on with your body and be sure to talk to your doctor about it.
posted by sleepy pete at 1:48 PM on February 19, 2008

Are you taking brand Wellbutrin or generic? If generic, does it happen to be the TEVA labs generic? Many people have reported serious problems with the TEVA generic.

As some others have noted, starting out at 300mg is pretty severe, too. Definitely should ramp up to 300. A good regimine for Wellbutrin is to take your last dosage around mid-afternoon. If you wait til late in the day, Wellbutrin can definitely delay the onset of sleep.

Also...aren't headaches and sick stomachs and sleeplessness symptoms of nicotine withdrawal?
posted by Thorzdad at 1:57 PM on February 19, 2008

Response by poster: Thorzdad- I have the brand name. Also, I'm still smoking now, I'm apparently not supposed to try to quit for another week.
posted by Kellydamnit at 2:34 PM on February 19, 2008

I think that it takes about a week for most side effects to subside, as stated above.

On the other hand, I took Wellbutrin to quit smoking and started itching all over and having hives (this was after about 2 weeks). The nurse told me to keep taking it, so I did. I also did some research on my own and found out that those with my side effects had heart attacks on the medication. After pointing this out to the nurse, she finally talked to the doctor who told me to stop immediately. So, just keep an eye on what's going on with your body and be sure to talk to your doctor about it.
posted by sleepy pete at 1:48 PM on February 19

When I took Wellbutrin, I broke out in skin rashes too. I know you didn't mention this in your question, but if this happens to you, you need to see a doctor immediately -- you might be becoming allergic to the medication (or a dye in the pill coating, depending on what web page you read and believe). In my case, I started wheezing and my lungs felt constricted.
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 4:47 PM on February 19, 2008

If it's not any of the other horrible sounding side effects, it might just an overtaxed body filter system. If it was me (and this has happened to me on other drugs), I'd take a couple of aspirin and drink a ton of water. I seem to remember reading somewhere too that it has a fairly long half life and might be building up in you.
posted by gjc at 8:38 PM on February 19, 2008

Purely anecdotal, but you may want to be careful with combining Wellbutrin with Excedrin. One morning I took one 150 mg dose of Wellbutrin, popped 2 excedrin and topped it off with a cup of coffee and thought I was going to jump out of my skin.

Haven't made that mistake again.
posted by Space Kitty at 9:47 PM on February 19, 2008

Nthing the slower rampup.

If you're having a hard time sleeping, make sure you take it early enough in the day. It doesn't keep me up (400mg in 2 doses), but I have the most bizarro dreams if I take my 2nd dose after about 2-3 pm.

And I know what you mean about the "OMG life is okay!" feeling; when it "kicked in" on my depression (after a few weeks, after I'd ramped up to about 300 mg or so), I felt like I'd gotten my brain back.
posted by epersonae at 9:45 AM on February 20, 2008

Oh, congrats & good luck on quitting smoking, too! You are doing the best thing for your long-term health right now, even if it is teh suck at the moment.
posted by epersonae at 9:46 AM on February 20, 2008

Response by poster: Late follow up. I stuck it out and for a while did great. The ramp-up worked like a charm, colors were brighter, food was better although I was never really hungry, and cigarettes always tasted like old chicken so I never wanted them.
However, after about five months I noticed I was getting super-forgetful. Like forgetting the name of the person I was on the phone with right after they said it. Friends even commented on it, as did coworkers. I looked around and short term memory loss was a side effect, although it was rare. So I weaned myself off over a week and a half in reverse of the ramp-up.

However, in retrospect a couple months after going off, I'm wondering how much was that and how much was work-stress, life-stress (my folks had just split when the forgetting started, and worry for them was the primary thing on my mind), and the fact that I'm a forgetful scatterbrained goober on a good day. And, although I never did quit smoking, I was down to a third of a pack a day with no sacrifice or effort on my part and physically felt better than I had in years. I don't think my memory is all that much better, either.

Since going off I smoke a pack or more, it seems, and I feel like crap all the time. If anything my addiction is worse now than it had been before the pills. My morning cough is back with a vengeance. As is the afternoon cough, the ran too fast cough, and the walked up the stairs cough.
I'm too young for that shit. So I'm going to try the pills again, and just start carrying a notebook for my memory.
posted by Kellydamnit at 11:56 PM on September 13, 2008

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