Bupropion (Zyban) for Quitting Smoking

Discusses bupropion (Zyban or Wellbutrin), medicine to help you quit smoking by reducing your craving for tobacco. Covers how well it works and side effects. Also covers risks related to taking bupropion.

Bupropion (Zyban) for Quitting Smoking


Generic Name Brand Name
bupropion Zyban

How It Works

Bupropion is a pill you take to reduce
your craving for tobacco. The way it does this is not entirely known. Bupropion
does not contain nicotine and does not help you quit smoking in the same way
that nicotine replacement therapy does. But like other medicines, it decreases cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

Doctors also prescribe
bupropion (under the brand name Wellbutrin) to treat
depression. But bupropion’s ability to help
people quit smoking is not related to its antidepressant action. It can help
you stop smoking even if you do not have depression.

You begin
taking bupropion daily, 1 to 2 weeks before you quit smoking. This builds up
the level of medicine in your body. You take bupropion for 7 to 12 weeks after
you stop using tobacco. You can take it for as long as 6 months to a

Why It Is Used

Bupropion is approved for use in
people who smoke 10 or more cigarettes a day and are at least 18 years old.
Doctors prescribe it to help people when they quit smoking.

should not take bupropion if you:

  • Are already taking other medicines that contain
    bupropion (such as Wellbutrin).
  • Have
    seizures or a medical condition that makes you prone
    to seizures.
  • Are taking a monoamine oxidase inhibitor
  • Have an eating disorder.
  • Have an
    alcohol use problem.

How Well It Works

Bupropion works just
as well as nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs). Using bupropion
along with nicotine replacement therapy (such as nicotine patches, gum, or
inhaler) may increase your chances of success.

Taken as directed,
bupropion reduces:

  • Craving.
  • Irritability,
    restlessness, anxiety.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Feelings of unhappiness or depression.

Side Effects

Common side effects include:footnote 1

  • Dry mouth, affecting 1 out of 10 people who use
  • Difficulty sleeping (insomnia). If you take a morning and evening dose, taking the evening dose in the
    afternoon may help with sleep problems. Take the evening dose at least 8 hours
    after the morning dose.

In over 70 out of 100 people who use bupropion, the above side
effects go away within about a week after they stop taking the medicine. Only
about 10 out of 100 people have to stop taking bupropion because of side

Less common side effects (occurring in less than 10 out of 100
people) include:

  • Dizziness.
  • Difficulty
  • Upset stomach
  • Anxiety.
  • Constipation.
  • Tremors.
  • Skin
    problems or rashes.

There is a small risk of having seizures when using
bupropion. The risk increases if you have had seizures in the past.

Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not
available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Like other treatments, bupropion
works best when it is part of a program that includes setting a quit date;
having a plan for dealing with things that make you reach for a cigarette
(smoking triggers); and getting support from a doctor, counselor, or support

Using bupropion along with nicotine replacement therapy
(such as nicotine patches, gum, or inhaler) may work better than either therapy
alone. Talk to your doctor before combining bupropion with nicotine replacement

If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning to get pregnant, do not use any medicines unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm your baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all your doctors know that you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning to get pregnant.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF) ( What is a PDF document? ) to help you understand this medication.



  1. Drugs for tobacco dependence (2008). Treatment Guidelines From The Medical Letter, 6(73): 61–66.


ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical Reviewer Adam Husney, MD – Family Medicine Kathleen Romito, MD – Family Medicine Elizabeth T. Russo, MD – Internal Medicine Specialist Medical Reviewer Michael F. Bierer, MD – Internal Medicine,

Current as ofNovember 29, 2017