The Dangers of Taking Wellbutrin If You Are Bulimic

There is growing evidence that the combination of specific antidepressant usage and targeted psychotherapy can be an effective treatment for bulimia nervosa. However, the limited success of some antidepressants does not mean that all antidepressants should be regarded as similarly effective treatment options. In fact, many antidepressants, such as Wellbutrin, can be extremely dangerous when taken by a person with an eating disorder.

Side Effects of Using Wellbutrin

Wellbutrin, also sold as Zyban, is the branded name for bupropion, a class of multi-response antidepressants. Before we even get into the efficacy of using Wellbutrin to treat bulimia, we’d like to bring your attention to the listed side effects of taking Wellbutrin:

Common Side Effects

  • Episodic or generalized insomnia
  • More frequent headaches
  • Intermittent fatigue and drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Dry mouth
  • Weight fluctuations

Less Common Side Effects

  • Confusion and slow thinking
  • Skin rashes
  • Decline in vision
  • Development of seizures
  • Interruptions in menstruation
  • Irregular heart rate

Why Should People with Bulimia Avoid Wellbutrin?

As you can see from the previous section, there is a long list of possible side effects to taking Wellbutrin. For people with bulimia nervosa, some of these side effects – namely, nausea, weight fluctuations, and heightened seizure risk – should stand out as immediate red flags.

The potential use of Wellbutrin as a treatment for people with bulimia nervosa was first suggested after the limited treatment success of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants in lowering purge frequency. Following encouraging treatment outcomes for antidepressants like Paxil, Prozac, and Zoloft, Wellbutrin was tested on a sample group of 69 patients with bulimia nervosa. However, this limited trial was a disaster, with 4 of the 69 patients suffering one or more Wellbutrin-related grand mal seizures. During a grand mal seizure, patients typically experience violent muscle contractions and a temporary loss of consciousness. Without immediate emergency care, a grand mal seizure can be fatal.

Unfortunately, even though there is well-documented evidence that taking Wellbutrin lowers the seizure threshold in people with bulimia nervosa, the drug is still mentioned as a viable treatment option across a range of eating disorder discussion forums.

Alternative Treatment Options

Eating disorders, especially disorders like bulimia and anorexia nervosa, are complex conditions, encompassing both compulsive behavioral outcomes and debilitating physical symptoms. In most cases, medication in isolation is not an effective treatment option for bulimia nervosa. For more successful treatment, experts will likely recommend the use of safe, prescribed medication alongside routine counseling and dietary therapy.

Sources: National Institutes of Health, Mirror Mirror
Photo: Pixabay

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