Bupropion “Abuse” Reported to US Poison Centers

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Bupropion use to obtain nonmedical psychoactive effects has been reported. The objective was to determine the prevalence, characteristics, clinical effects, and outcomes of bupropion “abuse.”


A 14-year retrospective review was conducted of single substance bupropion cases with “intentional abuse” as the coded reason for exposure in individuals 13 and older reported to the National Poison Data System. Data were evaluated for prevalence, demographics, clinical effect, route, final management site, and coded outcome.


There were 975 bupropion abuse cases, which accounted for 3.3% of single substance bupropion cases reported to US poison centers. The prevalence of abuse increased by 75%, from 2000 to 2012, declining slightly in 2013. The majority of cases were 13 to 29 years old (67.4%). The most frequent clinical effects were tachycardia (57.0%), seizures (33.5%), agitation/irritable (20.2%), hallucinations/delusions (14.0%), and tremor (13.1%). Most exposures were ingestions (745) followed by insufflation (166), parenteral (17), and other/unknown (17); 30 cases involved 2 routes. Seizure frequency was not significantly different between routes (P = 0.783) or exposure chronicity (P = 0.264). Final management sites were predominantly emergency department (36.9%) and admission to critical care unit (27.3%) or noncritical care unit (20.1%). Outcomes were major (11.4%), moderate (48.2%), minor (24.5%), and no effect (15.5%). There were 4 deaths.


Most bupropion abuse occurs in adolescents and young adults. Tachycardia and seizures are common indicating the potential for serious effects. Seizures occur regardless of route. Providers should be aware of risk of bupropion abuse.

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