Can You Cut Or Split Wellbutrin XL?

In our latest question and answer, the pharmacist discusses whether or not Wellbutrin XL can be cut or split in half.

Question

I have been taking Wellbutrin XL (bupropion extended-release) 300 mg for years. Recently I started taking a whole pill one day and a half pill every other day. I have been experiencing anxiety, trembling hands, and sweating so I am hoping a lower dosage might help. I’ve read conflicting opinions on whether it is safe to split the pills in half. Please give me your opinion and tell me if I should keep up with my practice of about two months, go back to 300mg every day or something else? I haven’t noticed much difference so far and I’d hate to take more than I need plus getting rid of the annoyances would be great. Please advise. Thank you

Asked by Jean On May 18, 2022

Answered by
Medical Content Reviewed By HelloPharmacist Staff

Published May 18, 2022
Last updated May 18, 2022

Key points

  • Wellbutrin XL tablets should not be cut, split, crushed, or otherwise altered.

Thanks for reaching out!

Wellbutrin XL tablets are designed to slowly release the active ingredient (bupropion) over an extended period of time and are indicated for once-daily dosing.

According to the package insert for Wellbutrin XL, you should not crush, chew, cut or split the tablets. They should be swallowed whole as altering the medication will destroy the controlled-release properties of the medication.

Why You Shouldn't Split Wellbutrin XL Tablets

Wellbutrin XL tablets contain both a moisture-barrier coating and a control-releasing coating around a core that contains the actual drug (bupropion).

The integrity of the tablet is essential for the extended-release mechanism and any alteration (e.g. chewing, cutting, or crushing) to the tablets would disrupt the delivery mechanism.

This could potentially result in the entire dose being released at once (i.e. "dose dumping), increasing the risk of significant side effects.

In addition, bupropion is reported to have an extremely bitter taste and can produce a local anesthetic effect in the mouth and throat.

Wellbutrin XL (Bupropion)

Wellbutrin XL (bupropion XL) is an extended-release medication available in 150 mg or 300 mg tablets. It is most commonly used to treat:

  • Major depression disorder
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Seasonal affective disorder

Common adverse reactions include:

  • Tremor
  • Blurred Vision
  • Dizziness
  • Sweating
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Dry mouth
  • Abnormal Dreams
  • Weight loss
  • Headache

As you can see, the adverse reactions that you are describing are common for patients taking Wellbutrin XL.

There is a dose-related central nervous system stimulant effect caused by bupropion in animals. Meaning that in theory, if you decrease the dose of bupropion that you are taking, the risk of the CNS side effects that you have described will be decreased.

If you are experiencing any side effects from taking a medication it is important to tell your doctor. Your doctor can then report the event and change your treatment accordingly. It is especially important to report the following symptoms when taking bupropion.

  • Thoughts of suicide
  • New or worse depression
  • New or worse anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Aggression or irritability
  • Unusual changes in behavior

Never stop taking an antidepressant medication without first talking to your doctor as this may cause other symptoms.

Final Words

I would recommend that you speak with your doctor about the adverse reactions (anxiety, tremors, and sweating) that you are experiencing.

Do not decrease the dose yourself or cut the 300 mg tablet for the reasons discussed above.

If your doctor does decide to decrease your bupropion dose, it would be better to prescribe the 150 mg tablet that is available.

Your doctor may decide to change your medication altogether because of the side effects of bupropion XL that you are experiencing. 

References

  • Wellbutrin XL Prescribing Information, AccessFDA

About the Pharmacist

Dr. Brian Staiger, PharmD

Dr. Brian has been practicing pharmacy for over 11 years and has wide-ranging experiences in many different areas of the profession. From retail, clinical and administrative responsibilities, he's your knowledgeable and go-to source for all your pharmacy and medication-related questions! Feel free to send him an email at Hello@HelloPharmacist.com!

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