Wellbutrin Half Life, How Long Does Bupropion Stay in Your System?

Treating an addiction to Wellbutrin usually involves therapy, medication, support groups, and lifestyle changes. Read more about the different treatment options for you or your loved ones struggling with Wellbutrin addiction.

Wellbutrin Half Life, How Long Does Bupropion Stay in Your System?

What is the half-life of a drug? The half-life of a drug is the time it takes for the amount of a drug’s active substance in your body to reduce by half. This depends on how the body processes and gets rid of the drug. It can vary from a few hours to a few days, or sometimes weeks. Wellbutrin, also known as bupropion, is an antidepressant medication that is commonly prescribed for major depressive disorder. For Wellbutrin, the estimated half-life is about 21 hours. Additionally, it can take around 4.4 days for Wellbutrin to completely leave your system.

Everyone’s body processes medications differently, so there is no set-in-stone half-life for any drug. If you take Wellbutrin, you may wonder “how long does Wellbutrin stay in your system”. It could be for various Wellbutrin showing up on a pre-employment drug test. Moreover, as with many antidepressants, Wellbutrin can have some adverse side effects. Altering or stopping your dosage can lead to uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.

What Is Wellbutrin? 

Wellbutrin (bupropion) is an antidepressant medication used for Major Depressive Disorder treatment (known as clinical depression or MDD) and seasonal affective disorder. Seasonal depressive disorder is episodes of depression that occur at the same time each year, usually in the fall and winter, but rarely may occur in the spring or summer months. Understanding the Wellbutrin side effects can help a patient better understand what to expect and ensure the person knows when they should contact their doctor or seek medical assistance.

The prescription drug is available in tablet form, including a sustained-release tablet (Wellbutrin SR) and an extended-release tablet (Wellbutrin XL). Wellbutrin is distinct from other common antidepressants. Its unique mechanism of action among antidepressants is thought to be due to the reuptake of dopamine and norepinephrine. 

Bupropion Abuse, A Growing Public Health Problem

Bupropion abuse is a growing public health problem. Bupropion is used widely as a smoking cessation aid and antidepressant and is available in immediate- and extended-release preparations. Although bupropion shares some structural and pharmacologic properties with amphetamine, early research suggested the drug did not produce any psychostimulant effects. However, clinical experience and an increasing number of case reports describe bupropion abuse, including recreational ingestion, nasal insufflation of crushed tablets, and, more recently, intravenous injection. Bupropion abusers report receiving a “high” similar to cocaine abuse, but of lesser intensity.

Bupropion abusers report that they easily obtained the drug from physicians under the pretense of seeking an antidepressant or smoking cessation aid. Emerging reports also highlight bupropion misuse in correctional facilities. Bupropion toxicity should be considered in patients presenting with new-onset seizures of unknown cause, particularly in the context of suspected substance abuse. Nonhealing skin ulcers may reflect surreptitious injection of crushed tablets.

Effects of Bupropion Abuse

There are several significant adverse effects reported for bupropion. Many of these side effects occur in more than 10% of people abusing the drug. These include:

  • Cardiovascular (tachycardia)
  • Respiratory (rhinitis, pharyngitis)
  • Central nervous system (insomnia, headache, agitation, dizziness)
  • Dermatologic (diaphoresis)
  • Endocrine (weight loss)
  • Gastrointestinal (constipation, dry mouth, nausea)
  • Musculoskeletal (tremor)
  • Ophthalmologic (blurred vision)

The most severe adverse effects are lowered seizure threshold and the potential of worsening suicidal ideation. Clinicians and researchers first noted the epileptic seizure occurrence in the 1980s, and bupropion was removed from the market from 1986 through 1989. The immediate-release preparation, especially in higher doses, appears to have the highest likelihood of causing seizures.

Why Is It Important to Know the “Half Life of Wellbutrin” and “How Long Does Wellbutrin Stay in your system?”

Does Wellbutrin show up on a drug test? The reason it’s important to understand how long Wellbutrin remains in your system is that there is a low possibility that it can result in a false-positive for amphetamines during a drug test. Researchers don’t exactly know how long Wellbutrin can stay in your urine, hair, or blood. For that reason, it’s important to notify your doctor and whoever is administering the drug test that you’re taking Wellbutrin before a drug screening to be safe.

Common Substances Causing False Positives for Amphetamines in Drug Tests

Many organizations require drug screening, whether you’re applying for a job, seeking child custody or in other situations. Some substances are highly cross-reactive for amphetamine or methamphetamine and provide a false positive. If a urine drug test is positive, more advanced tests should be used to confirm that amphetamine or methamphetamine is present.


Does Wellbutrin show up on a drug test? Bupropion and desipramine, two antidepressants that many people take for depression, may cause a false positive for amphetamines in routine urine drug screening. Bupropion is an atypical antidepressant that’s sold as Wellbutrin and Wellbutrin XL. Desipramine (Norpramin) is an older antidepressant in the tricyclic group of antidepressants. Another tricyclic antidepressant, trazodone (Desyrel) may also yield a false positive for amphetamines if you take this medication.

Vicks Inhaler and Cold Remedies

More sophisticated drug testing, as with one of the spectrometry methods, should reveal that the person is not an abuser. The numerous cold medications that contain ephedrine and pseudoephedrine can also cause a false positive for amphetamine or methamphetamine on a urine drug screen. Some states have limited the sale of such medications or had pharmacists move the drug to the pharmacy control to limit sales because they can be used as precursors to make methamphetamine illegally.

Amphetamine Medications

People taking drugs such as Adderall or Dextrostat for the treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have a positive result on a drug test for amphetamine because these drugs are amphetamines and are often used lawfully. However, if you have been diagnosed with ADHD, you should be able to show the tester a prescription from a physician for the drug and if necessary, the doctor can also be contacted directly to verify that the drug was prescribed to you. It’s illegal for anyone to give prescribed amphetamines–or any other prescribed drugs–to other people.

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Prescription Abuse Statistics

45.8% of American adults used a prescription drug – legally or not – within the past 30 days. Healthcare specialists generally agree that a high rate of use and availability drives reported rates of prescription drug abuse, addiction, and ultimately, overdose.

16.3 million

People misuse prescriptions in a year.

Source: NIDA [1]

2.0 million

People or 11.9% of people who misuse prescriptions are definitively addicted to the prescription drugs they misuse.

Source: NIDA [2]


Prescription drug abusers constitute 5.76% of Americans over the age of 12.

Source: NIDA [3]

Bupropion Drug Facts Sheet

Why is this medication prescribed?

Bupropion (Aplenzin, Wellbutrin, Wellbutrin SR, Wellbutrin XL) is used to treat depression. Bupropion (Aplenzin, Wellbutrin XL) is also used to treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD; episodes of depression that occur at the same time each year [usually in the fall and winter but rarely may occur in the spring or summer months]). Bupropion (Zyban) is used to help people stop smoking. Bupropion is in a class of medications called antidepressants. It works by increasing certain types of activity in the brain.

How should this medicine be used?

Bupropion comes as a tablet and a sustained-release or extended-release (long-acting) tablet to take by mouth. The regular tablet (Wellbutrin) is usually taken three times a day, with doses at least 6 hours apart, or four times a day, with doses at least 4 hours apart. The sustained-release tablet (Wellbutrin SR, Zyban) is usually taken twice a day, with doses at least 8 hours apart.

The extended-release tablet (Aplenzin, Wellbutrin XL) is usually taken once daily in the morning; doses of the extended-release tablet should be taken at least 24 hours apart. 

Other uses for this medicine

Bupropion is also sometimes used to treat episodes of depression in patients with bipolar disorder (manic depressive disorder; a disease that causes episodes of depression, episodes of mania, and other abnormal moods) and to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD; more difficulty focusing, controlling actions, and remaining still or quiet than other people who are the same age). Talk to your doctor about the possible risks of using this medication for your condition.

Pharmacokinetic Data

Metabolism: Liver, intestines


  • Hydroxybupropion,
  • Threohydrobupropion
  • Erythrohydrobupropion

Bupropion half life::

  • Bupropion: 11–21 h
  • Hydroxybupropion: 20 h
  • Threohydrobupropion: 37 h
  • Erythrohydrobupropion: 33 h


  • Urine: 87% (0.5% unchanged)
  • Feces: 10%


You should not take bupropion if you have seizures or an eating disorder, or if you have suddenly stopped using alcohol, seizure medication, or sedatives. If you take Wellbutrin for depression, do not also take Zyban to quit smoking.

Do not use bupropion within 14 days before or 14 days after you have used a MAO inhibitor, such as isocarboxazid, linezolid, methylene blue injection, phenelzine, rasagiline, selegiline, or tranylcypromine.

Some young people have thoughts about suicide when first taking an antidepressant. Stay alert to changes in your mood or symptoms. Report any new or worsening symptoms to your doctor.

How Bupropion Affects the Brain and Body?

Bupropion changes your brain chemistry by affecting the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine. Exactly how bupropion works in the brain to have the desired effect is still unknown by doctors, but because the medication affects chemicals in the brain, there is a possibility of side effects. In addition to the side effects listed above, there is a possibility of increased suicidal thoughts in patients taking Wellbutrin, so speak to your doctor if you have any of these thoughts or undesired changes in mood.

How Long Does Bupropion Stay in Your System?

Wellbutrin’s brain effects only last for a few hours, but the drug may actually stay in your system for far longer. It could continue to show up on tests and cause withdrawal symptoms long after its effects have worn off.

Wellbutrin’s detection time on lab tests depends on:

  • What type of test is used.
  • Personal factors can affect how fast your body detoxes.

Here are the various types of drug tests that are commonly encountered:

At between 33 to 37 hours, the half-life of Wellbutrin is exceptionally long for an antidepressant.
At between 33 to 37 hours, the Wellbutrin half life is exceptionally long for an antidepressant.
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How Long Does Bupropion Stay in Your System? Urine Test

Most antidepressant drugs like Wellbutrin stay in the urine for a few days after use. Remember, however, that the majority of drug screening, including at-work tests, will not check for Wellbutrin because it is not a common drug of abuse. Still, Wellbutrin can cause false positives for amphetamine drugs on urine tests. If you have a prescription for Wellbutrin, you may want to notify your tester, so they are not surprised if a false positive occurs.

How Long Does Bupropion Stay in Your System? Blood Test

Wellbutrin has a half-life of around 21 hours, which is extremely long for an antidepressant. Based on this number, Wellbutrin may be detectable in the blood for 4 days or longer. Blood tests give the most accurate results and are the best indicator of whether a drug is still active in your system. Since Wellbutrin has such a long half-life, it stays in your blood for longer than most drugs.

How Long Does Bupropion Stay in Your System? Saliva Test

It is pretty unlikely that you would be tested for Wellbutrin via saliva, but the drug could cause a false positive for amphetamines on a saliva test. Usually, saliva tests can detect drugs for a slightly shorter amount of time than urine tests.

The only time you are likely to encounter a saliva test would be if you are arrested, and a police officer performs an ‘in-the-field’ drug test. If you find yourself in this unlikely scenario, it’s a good idea to let the officer know that you have a Wellbutrin prescription just in case it registers as an amphetamine.

How Long Does Bupropion Stay in Your System? Hair Test

Hair tests are usually able to detect drugs for longer than any other type of test. Although Wellbutrin isn’t usually searched for by these tests, many other drugs can be found in the hair for 90 days or longer after the last time is taken. Hair tests aren’t very common because they are less accurate and more expensive to administer than urine tests. There is usually a two-week window after someone takes a drug before it will appear on a hair test.

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Factors That Affect the Half life of Bupropion (Wellbutrin)

When it comes to Wellbutrin, there are a lot of factors that influence how long it lasts in your body. The drug testing times above are not the same for everyone, because each person eliminates Wellbutrin from their body at a different rate. The speed of the detox process depends on:


In general, older people will take longer to detox from Wellbutrin. This is mostly due to metabolism speed, but also has to do with overall body and organ functioning. Many systems must work well together to eliminate drugs from the body, and age can make the process slower.

Liver and Kidney Function

The liver and kidneys act like a filtration device for toxins in the body. In order for drugs to be removed, they must pass through the liver and kidneys. These organs must be healthy and functioning well in order for Wellbutrin to move through the body efficiently.

How Long Does Bupropion Stay in Your System?? Wellbutrin works by affecting the levels and activity of norepinephrine and dopamine (neurotransmitters) in the brain.
How Long Does Bupropion Stay in Your System? Wellbutrin works by affecting the levels and activity of norepinephrine and dopamine (neurotransmitters) in the brain.


Scientists know that gender can influence drug elimination times, although the science on this matter is not entirely clear yet. Hormones are suspected to play a key role. If you are a woman, you should always check with your doctor about taking a drug like Wellbutrin while you are pregnant.

Metabolism and Weight

Metabolism and overall body weight can influence how long a drug takes to leave the body. Of course, a fast metabolism can speed the process up. While larger people will need more of the drug to reach the same blood concentrations, keep in mind that fat cells can store Wellbutrin. People with a higher body fat percentage will usually take longer to detox.

Specifics of Bupropion Use

In the rare case that Wellbutrin (Bupropion) is being abused, it can lead to a build-up of the drug in the system. Large dosages, a high frequency of use, and a long duration of abuse can all lead to this scenario. When the drug builds up in the body, it takes longer to remove.

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Can You Overdose on Bupropion?

Acute overdose typically produces seizures within a few hours after ingestion, although seizure onset may be delayed up to 24 hours in patients who ingest extended-release preparations. The median dose associated with seizures is about 4.4 g. Other reported signs of toxicity include lethargy, tremor, vomiting, and agitation. Associated cardiac toxicity includes sinus tachycardia, and massive overdose can cause a widening of the QRS complex, ventricular dysrhythmias, and cardiovascular collapse. Death can occur. Although reported data are limited, they suggest that less than 0.5% of reported cases of bupropion overdose result in death.

For all cases of bupropion overdose, seizures should be anticipated, and a poison control center consulted. Treatment with activated charcoal should be considered for patients presenting within 60 minutes of ingestion in whom the risk of aspiration is low. Whole bowel irrigation may be considered for patients with large ingestions of sustained-release preparations.

Wellbutrin (Bupropion) Withdrawal 

Discontinuing Wellbutrin requires the advice of a doctor and should never be stopped abruptly. A gradual decrease is necessary to avoid withdrawal symptoms. Over 50 withdrawal symptoms associated with Wellbutrin have been reported. They range in severity from mild annoyances to life-threatening conditions and generally require monitoring by a medical professional.

How Long Does Bupropion Stay in Your System? Those misusing or taking more bupropion than prescribed have a high chance of suffering from seizures. 
How Long Does Bupropion Stay in Your System? Those misusing or taking more bupropion than prescribed have a high chance of suffering from seizures. 

Physical Withdrawal Symptoms

Physical withdrawal symptoms include difficulties maintaining balance, lack of coordination, increased headaches or migraines, electric shock-like or tingling sensations, and general lethargy and fatigue. These may signal a more severe condition that needs medical intervention.

Psychological Withdrawal Symptoms

Wellbutrin withdrawal may trigger a host of psychological symptoms that are out of character for the user. Aggressive behavior that is not characteristic of the person taking the medication, irritability, hostility, and paranoia may occur. Anxiety, troubling thoughts, and worsening depression that cannot be explained by circumstances should be reported to the doctor. 

Highly emotional states, overreaction to normal situations, depersonalization, and severe internal restlessness happen for some individuals. Crying spells and nervousness may surface for no apparent reason. Notify your physician immediately if you experience psychological disturbances that are not characteristic of you or have suicidal thoughts.

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Treatment For Bupropion Abuse

To determine the most effective ways to treat Wellbutrin side effects, especially if it is mixed with alcohol, it’s crucial to first get an accurate assessment of all the symptoms. When a mental health professional has evaluated the symptoms, it may be determined that another form of depression is present and needs a particular type of treatment. Very often, some combination of psychotherapy, medication, and/or lifestyle changes are effective for coping with functional.

Medically Assisted Detox

Medical Detox is often considered the first stage of treatment. It will help you navigate the complicated process of alcohol withdrawal, but it doesn’t address patterns of thought and behavior that contribute to alcohol use. Various treatment approaches and settings can help provide the ongoing support necessary to maintain long-term sobriety after you complete detox.

Cravings are very common during detox and can be challenging to overcome. This often leads to relapse. Constant medical care provided during inpatient treatment helps prevent relapse. Clinicians can provide the necessary medication and medical expertise to lessen cravings and the effects of alcohol withdrawals.

Psychotherapy for Depression

Several different modalities of psychotherapy have been used in the treatment of depression including:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – an effective treatment that involves making changes in both the patterns of negative thoughts and the behavioral routines which are affecting the daily life of the depressed person for various forms of depression.
  • Person Centered Therapy – a strategy that allows and encourages clients to understand and resolve their concerns in a safe, support environment.
  • Solution Focused Therapy – an approach interested in solutions which can be quickly implemented with a simple first step leading to further positive consequences.
How Long Does Bupropion Stay in Your System? Therapists who specialize in substance use can help clients identify the underlying causes of substance abuse

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Alcoholism and mental health disorders often co-occur. In many cases, traumatic experiences can result in a mental health disorder and substance abuse. Dual diagnosis rehabilitation treats both of these issues together. The best approach for the treatment of dual diagnosis is an integrated system. In this strategy, both the substance abuse problem and the mental disorder are treated simultaneously. Regardless of which diagnosis (mental health or substance abuse problem) came first, long-term recovery will depend largely on the treatment for both disorders done by the same team or provider.

Medication-Assisted Treatments

Medication-Assisted Treatments (MAT) for alcohol use disorder and mental health disorder are commonly used in conjunction with one another. This includes the use of medications and other medical procedures. During your rehab, the staff from your treatment facility will help you identify what caused your addiction and teach you skills that will help you change your behavior patterns and challenge the negative thoughts that led to your addiction. Sometimes, the pressures and problems in your life lead you to rely on substances to help you forget about them momentarily.

If you or a loved one are struggling with long-term substance abuse and a co-occurring mental health condition such as depression and anxiety, contact one of our helpful treatment specialists today. We Level Up NJ can provide information on dual diagnosis and detox programs that may fit your specific needs.

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