Is Wellbutrin a Narcotic?

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Is Wellbutrin a Narcotic?

Wellbutrin is the brand name for bupropion. This medication is available through prescription and is commonly used as an antidepressant and smoking cessation aid. It’s normally prescribed to improve depression symptoms in people with a seasonal affective disorder (SAD), especially during the fall and winter seasons. Despite its benefits, there are suspicions that the drug can be abused. So is Wellbutrin a narcotic? Is it addictive?

How Does Wellbutrin Work?

Wellbutrin is believed to work differently than other antidepressants. Bupropion is part of the drug class of antidepressants called aminoketones, which are different from other commonly prescribed antidepressants like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs (such as Zoloft and Paxil).

Wellbutrin works by altering levels of the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine. When used for depression, bupropion improves mood by altering dopamine levels while alleviating physical symptoms of depression by altering norepinephrine levels. This medication also has an off-label use in treating anxiety disorders.

Because of depression’s effects on the brain and chemicals like dopamine, Wellbutrin can be useful in people who have both depression and anxiety disorders. However, results from research vary between this drug being a pro and con for anxiety, so a clear answer for this particular use has yet to be determined. Nonetheless, as with most drugs, there are potential risks of Wellbutrin use.

Common side effects of Wellbutrin include:

  • Constipation
  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Tremors
  • Insomnia
  • Hostility
  • Changes in heart rate
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations


A major concern among users, particularly children, teens, and young adults, is suicidal thoughts and behavior. This warning isn’t exclusive to bupropion users but rather a common risk of most antidepressants. On the other hand, a side effect that is unique to Wellbutrin is weight loss, so much so that those who take the drug are at a higher risk of developing the eating disorder anorexia nervosa.

It’s important for the people around those who are taking Wellbutrin to watch out for any changes in mood and behavior. Fluctuations in weight are also indicators that the dose or frequency of use might be too severe. Our facility offers both mental health care and eating disorder services for those in need of support.

Is Bupropion a Narcotic?

Narcotics include prescription medications like oxycodone and hydrocodone and illicit drugs like heroin and desomorphine (Krokodil). Narcotics are a specific class of drugs otherwise known as opioids. Prescription narcotics or opioids are prescribed to treat moderate to chronic pain and pain related to cancer.

Narcotics are derived from opium or are synthesized artificially in labs in ways that cause them to produce similar effects as opium-derived drugs. This drug class works by binding to opioid receptors in the body, which blocks pain signaling and elevates dopamine levels in the central nervous system to produce euphoria.

While narcotics are efficient for pain relief, their impact on the brain’s reward systems and dopamine production makes them highly addictive. They’re also notorious for their ability to depress functions like breathing and produce life-threatening overdoses in high doses.

Because of its potential for misuse, people also wonder, is Wellbutrin a narcotic? While there’s some confusion, Wellbutrin is not a narcotic but rather an antidepressant. Although it affects neurotransmitters in the brain, it does not bind to opioid receptors or treat pain.

Bupropion Abuse

Wellbutrin is also not a controlled substance. Controlled substances include opioids, stimulants, depressants, hallucinogens, and anabolic steroids. This means that bupropion’s drug schedule is non-existent. Even so, just because Wellbutrin isn’t recognized as a controlled substance, that’s not to say it doesn’t have a potential for misuse.

Wellbutrin is a relatively safe medication, as long as it’s taken as prescribed. However, because it impacts “feel good” chemicals like dopamine and norepinephrine, some people take it in higher doses to achieve a high. But rather than a sedative and euphoric high, bupropion that’s taken in high doses or used intravenously may produce stimulant-like side effects. People who engage in Wellbutrin abuse usually take doses as high as 1,200 mg at a time, while the maximum daily dose of the drug for prescription use is 450 mg.

In addition to using the drug intravenously (injecting it into a vein), others might abuse Wellbutrin by crushing and snorting the pills. This releases the full dose of the drug more quickly into the brain, resulting in more intense and fast-acting side effects. While a more potent way to take the drug, it’s also more dangerous.

For instance, Wellbutrin can be caustic when it’s injected into the bloodstream. This means that it’s able to burn and corrode tissue, causing damage to the inner lining of the blood vessels, among other problems. This effect is so severe that in places like Canada, Wellbutrin has gained the nickname “poor man’s cocaine.”

Another reason why Wellbutrin is believed to be a narcotic is that it can cause physical dependence in users. However, this is a common effect of most medications and doesn’t necessarily mean the person is addicted. Dependence means that the person’s body has come to depend on the drug to function a certain way.

If the person attempts to quit using the drug without medical detox or a tapering schedule, they may go through withdrawal. The potential for withdrawal makes it crucial for patients who are using Wellbutrin not to stop taking their doses without first speaking to their doctors. As with other antidepressants, a doctor may set a tapering schedule to help the person slowly withdraw from the drug, which may include reducing doses little by little.


Help for Wellbutrin Abuse

For the most part, bupropion is a relatively safe and well-tolerated medication when taken as prescribed and directed by a healthcare professional. While it’s not a narcotic, there has been a rise in Wellbutrin misuse. When taken in higher doses or administered in ways other than its intended use, some people may experience a high similar to those of stimulants.

For those who are struggling with bupropion addiction, our drug and alcohol treatment center in Palm Beach offers prescription drug addiction treatment that includes withdrawal care to aftercare services to make sure you have the support you need every step of the way.


Call Behavioral Health of the Palm Beaches today at 561-220-3981 to learn how our addiction treatment in Lake Worth can help you or a loved one find sobriety.


Related Reading:

Is Nortriptyline Addictive? Side Effects & Treatment

Cyclobenzaprine Addiction

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