There are a number of treatment options you can consider on your road to quitting smoking. It’s important to discuss these options with a trained GP who can work with you on a treatment plan and support you along the way. Therapies include Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT), counselling and behavioural therapy, and pharmacotherapy. Bupropion is one of the first-line pharmacotherapies used to aid smoking cessation. Here, we explain how you can use Bupropion to stop smoking.
What Is Bupropion?
Bupropion, also known as Bupropion Sustained Release, is a prescription medication that decreases tobacco cravings and withdrawal symptoms. It works differently to NRTs (such as patches, lozenges, and gum) as it doesn’t contain nicotine. It is actually an antidepressant, but the way in which it works to treat depression is unrelated to the way it helps with smoking cessation. You can still take Bupropion to help you quit smoking if you don’t suffer from depression. Bupropion comes in the form of a 150mg-strength tablet.
Effectiveness of Bupropion For Smoking Cessation
Bupropion has been shown to work just as effectively as NRT. In fact, the most effective treatment for smoking cessation is behavioural support combined with pharmacotherapy and regular GP follow-ups. Quitting smoking can give rise to psychological stress, particularly in people with a history of mental illness, so it’s important that smoking cessation therapies are combined with behavioural support and counselling.
Bupropion has been proven to increase continuous abstinence rates by 7% over a six to 12 month period. One study showed that Bupropion doubled the odds of quitting when compared with a placebo group.
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Pharmacotherapies can also be combined with NRT, such as nicotine patches, if an individual is struggling to or unwilling to quit cold turkey.
This pharmacotherapy works to reduce the following symptoms associated with smoking withdrawal:
- Mood swings and irritability
- Difficulty focusing
- Unhappiness or depression
Your GP will give you specific instructions on how to take Bupropion. Most people begin with a lower dose to start with to reduce any side effects. On days 1-3, you will probably start with one 150mg tablet. From day 4 until the end of your treatment plan, you will take two 150mg tablets — one in the morning and one in the evening.
Read Smoke Free Clinics Article on Alternative Methods to Quit Smoking.
How To Take Bupropion
Most GP’s recommend starting Bupropion 1-2 weeks before your scheduled quit date. This helps to build up the levels of Bupropion in your body to alleviate any uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms when you do quit.
When you work your way up to two tablets per day, they must be taken at least 8 hours apart. You also need to ensure you’re not taking any more than 2 doses in a 24 hour period.
If you miss a dose of Bupropion, you should take it as soon as you remember and schedule your next dose at least 8 hours later. However, if you realise you missed a dose when it’s time for your next one, skip the missed tablet and simply take your next dose. This will ensure you’re not taking more than 2 doses within any given 24 hour period.
Ideally, Bupropion should be taken at the same time everyday. It can be taken with or without food, but must be taken whole — it should not be crushed into food or drink.
When used as a form of smoking cessation therapy, most people take Bupropion for 12 weeks. However, it can be used for up to a year if deemed necessary by your health care professional.
Bupropion is generally a well-tolerated medication. Only around 10% of people discontinue use due to side effects. Common side effects of Bupropion include:
- Dry mouth
- Difficulty sleeping
If you find you’re having difficulty sleeping when taking this medication, it may help to take your first dose early in the morning and your second dose 8 hours later in the late afternoon. This way, you’ll be giving the medication a chance to work through your body before you go to bed.
Uncommon side effects impacting less than 10% of Bupropion users include:
- Difficulty focusing
Who Can Take Bupropion?
Bupropion is approved for use in people who are at least 18 years of age, and smoke at least 10 cigarettes a day. You should not take Bupropion if you:
- Take other medications that contain Bupropion
- Experience seizures or have a history of seizures. Bupropion carries a small risk of seizures, and this risk increases if you have a medical condition that makes you prone to seizures.
- Take a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI)
- Suffer with an eating disorder
- Suffer from an alcohol addiction. Alcohol may increase risk of certain Bupropion side effects.
When your GP is discussing your treatment options with you, they will also take into consideration your previous experience with pharmacology medications, the cost and convenience of different therapies, possible drug interactions, potential side effects, and any adherence issues you may be concerned about.
It’s also important to let your doctor know if you’re pregnant, planning to fall pregnant, or breastfeeding, and to mention any other medications or natural supplements you may be taking.
Things To Remember
Bupropion is an effective smoking cessation medication that can help to reduce the symptoms of nicotine craving and withdrawal. You can also combine Bupropion with nicotine patches if you are struggling to quit abruptly.
Quitting smoking can cause an increase in mental health distress, particularly for individuals who have struggled with mental illness previously. If you do experience an increase in anxiety, depression, and suicide ideation while on the road to quitting, be sure to raise this with your doctor.
Having an open conversation with a GP is the first step on your journey to quitting smoking. In addition to any pharmacotherapy or replacement therapies you may be taking, it’s important to set up a network of trusted people who can support you during this process. You can set up a bulk-billed telehealth consultation with a specialist-trained doctor here.
For more information on prescribed smoking cessation therapies, visit our page here.