Zyban (Bupropion) for Smoking Cessation


Although originally prescribed in 1985 with the name Wellbutrin® for the treatment of clinical depression, bupropion hydrochloride has been FDA approved under the name Zyban® to assist smokers in their effort to kick the habit since 1997.  The effect on a smoker is not the same as the effect on a patient with depression.  The oral tablet, taken daily, is thought to decrease a smoker’s cravings for nicotine while also easing withdrawal symptoms associated with nicotine addiction.  It is intended for adults who smoke 10 or more cigarettes per day.


What Zyban Does

It is not known precisely how Zyban works in the body as part of a smoking cessation program.  It is not a nicotine replacement therapy like the patch or gum, but may be used in combination with one.  Zyban eases symptoms associated with nicotine withdrawal like agitation, tobacco cravings, anxiety, concentration problems, and mood swings.  It is usually taken for approximately 12 weeks, but may be prescribed for as long as a year in some cases.  A smoker begins taking this medication before they quit, typically one or two weeks prior.  This allows the medication to reach an optimal level in the patient’s system before quitting completely.


Possible Side Effects

The most common side effects are dry mouth and trouble sleeping.  In roughly 70% of patients, these minor side effects will dissipate within about a week of the introduction to their new medication.  About 10% of patients will experience one or more of the following side effects: anxiety, constipation, dizziness, skin irritation, or tremors.  Approximately 10% of patients prescribed Zyban will need to discontinue its use due to excessively bothersome or possibly dangerous side effects.  Bupropion, the active ingredient in Zyban, also can cause seizures in patients with a history of seizure disorders.


So Why Take Zyban?

The benefits of ending a nicotine addiction are practically endless.  Smoking increases one’s chances of developing numerous diseases, from diabetes to cancer, from emphysema to circulatory failure.  Quitting decreases blood pressure, increases oxygen to the brain and other organs, and can increase life span up to decades if cessation occurs early enough.  The sooner you quit, the longer you could live.  Success is more likely when combining this medication with other forms of therapy.


What to Discuss With Your Doctor

Always discuss any and all current medications with your doctor.  Pregnant women may or may not be candidates for Zyban depending on how their doctor views the risk-benefit ratio of use.  Patients with a history of, or currently undergoing, psychiatric treatment should make sure their primary provider has all their current mental health information.



-you currently take monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)

-you have a seizure disorder or history of seizure activity

-you are already taking a medication containing bupropion

-you are breastfeeding

-you have an eating disorder

-you have an alcohol or drug abuse problem


Emergency Situations

There may be an increased risk of dangerous behavior associated with Zyban use.  If you or someone you know becomes harmful to themselves or others while using Zyban, seek medical attention immediately, as this may be a sign of the most severe side effects.  If, while taking this medication, you feel abnormal mood changes or hostility, discontinue using Zyban and contact your doctor right away.