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Bupropion: A Cure That's Worse Than The Habit?

Updated on October 12, 2009

Bupropion (also known as amfebutamone, Wellbutrin, and Zyban) has been touted as the one of the best weapons in the fight to quit smoking. But questions are being raised about its safety. Bupropion is not right for everyone... is it safe for you.

Bupropion has been approved for use in the United States, Brazil, Switzerland, New Zealand, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia. The drug is now being used by more than 15 million people worldwide. It is primarily in Great Britain and Australia that the debate over the safety of the drug is raging most fiercely. The questions about the safety of Bupropion initially rose out of the United Kingdom. The drug triggers adverse reactions including dizziness, convulsions, skin problems, psychological effects, breathlessness and nausea. Neurological disorders are the most common including psychological disturbances, seizures, dizziness and convulsions. These side effects lie in the properties of the drug itself.

Bupropion has been called the biggest selling drug since the contraceptive pill. It has been confirmed that dozens of people have died after taking the drug. In fairness, there is currently no link to Bupropion as a direct contributing factor. It is also commonly pointed out that smokers are at a higher risk of death. Of the many deaths several were from heart attacks and several from brain malfunctions. Smokers do have an increased risk of both heart disease and brain malfunctions. It is thought that the deaths may have no link to Bupropion and be linked to smoking itself or to other factors.

Chemically, Bupropion is bupropion hydrochloride. It was developed in the United States as an anti-depressant. The drug found itself an unexpected use as a smoking-cessation therapy. The drug is thought to work via the brain receptors and to regulate the chemicals in the brain linked to nicotine addiction. The drugs role may also expand to controlling other addictions. It is also effective in controlling weight gain and mood swings. While it is currently marketed as a quit smoking therapy it remains an anti-depressant and retains its anti-depressant properties. It is this that is causing concern for both doctors and psychiatrists.

The interaction of Bupropion with other anti-depressant medication is one of the major concerns. Some psychiatrists are advising that Bupropion not be prescribed to patients taking other anti-depressant medication. It has also been stated that one in 1,000 people taking Bupropion may experience seizures. People taking anti-psychotic medication have been advised not to take Bupropion because of their lowered threshold for seizures.

Doctors are also warning that Bupropion could trigger psychotic episodes in those with a history of schizophrenia or mental illness. Of the 90 adverse events reported in Australia, over a quarter are reports of psychological disturbances. It has not been confirmed that psychotic episodes are caused by Bupropion. However, doctors are being warned to proceed cautiously with patients that have a history of mental illness or schizophrenia.

If you are considering taking Bupropion be aware of the potential side effects and of the anti-depressant nature of the drug. It is also vital to ensure your prescribing doctor is aware of any medication you are on and of your health history, especially any history of mental illness, schizophrenia, depression or psychotic episodes.

Bupropion is not a miracle cure. It is another tool to add to the arsenal in the fight to quit smoking. It is a new option available, but not the only one. Nicotine replacement therapy, counselling and hypnotherapy are still viable options that allow some people to stop smoking permanently.

The most effective weapons in the fight to quit remain to be determination, planning and willpower. Bupropion is not a substitute for these. Therefore be extremely careful with this potentially dangerous drug!

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