Meds & Supplements, Mental Health

Wellbutrin Side Effects

Dizziness is one of Wellbutrin’s most well-known side effects, one with which I’ve become intimately familiar. Since I know I need an antidepressant right now and refuse to take any with sexual side effects, I’ve become experienced in managing Wellbutrin side effects. In addition to dizziness, I’ve had some trouble with insomnia. This information stems from dealing with those problems, but it may be helpful for other side effects, as well.

The main points:

  • Try different release types
  • Take the meds with food
  • Try different ways of taking different dosages (example: for 300 mg, take 200 in the morning and 100 in the afternoon or vice versa)
  • Try generics from different manufacturers
  • Try the name brand drug, if possible

Wellbutrin (generic: bupropion) comes in regular release, sustained release (SR) and extended release (XL). I started on 200 mg of the generic sustained release. My diet is heavily restricted, so I don’t eat many calories at once and eat few carbohydrates, both of which seem to make me more susceptible to dizziness. I could manage as long as I consumed 800 calories before my first dose and took the second dose six hours later.

Then I increased my dose to 300 mg a day, which added insomnia to the dizziness. If I took 200 mg in the morning, I got dizzy and stayed that way all day. Taking 200 mg in the afternoon caused less dizziness, but made it difficult for me to fall asleep and stay asleep.

So I switched to 300 mg of the generic extended release, taken in two 150 mg tablets with breakfast. I still had a little bit of dizziness, but it was pretty mild, and no trouble with sleep. Then I started taking the 300 mg in a single tablet and wound up with intense dizziness that even kicked up when I rolled over in bed.

The question is whether I did better with two 150 mg tablets because there were two pills or because they are manufactured by a different company than the 300 mg tabs. I’m guessing the latter since generic drugs have the same active ingredient as name brand drugs, but the other ingredients may differ and, thus, may have different side effects.

Which leads to what will be my next experiment — taking two 150 mg tablets of Wellbutrin XL, the brand name extended release version. If my insurance company approves it, I’ll let you know how the experiment goes.

(And now you know why my posts have been sporadic and I’ve been slow to respond to email and comments the last few months. Computer time is the first thing to go when I’m dizzy. Today it feels manageable; we’ll see if that lasts.)

Update: I got the dizziness under control a few ways:

  1. I always take it with food, usually about 30 minutes after eating.
  2. I split the dose, one with breakfast and two around 3p. (It can cause insomnia, so you might need to take it earlier.)
  3. When those two things stopped being sufficient, I switched to name brand Wellbutrin XL (I was on generic XL before that).

If name brand Wellbutrin isn’t an option (insurance companies often don’t cover it), you could try generic bupropion from a different manufacturer. Ingredients vary enough from one manufacturer to the next that switching to another generic can do the trick. The downside is that you may have to try generics from multiple companies to find one that doesn’t have side effects for you. To switch, find out which company makes the bupropion that’s causing your dizziness (it should be on the bottle or your pharmacist can tell you). Then ask your pharmacist if they stock another brand or are able to order a different brand for you. This usually is no problem, but there’s a chance you’ll need to try a different pharmacy.

Mental Health, News & Research

Three Fascinating Depression Articles in Recent News

People say that you don’t notice how many pregnant women are in the world until you’re pregnant yourself. I’m finding a similar phenomenon now that I’m depressed again — I barely thought about depression for a couple years, but now that it’s back on my mind, I’m noticing articles everywhere. Three very different, very interesting articles on depression have caught my eye this week.

Why Don’t Antidepressants Work Faster? (Slate)
I’m pretty sure anyone who has taken antidepressants has wondered this very thing. This informative article from a Scientific American writer is easy to understand, but doesn’t skip over important scientific information.

Sleep Therapy Seen as an Aid for Depression (New York Times)
A newly published study found that helping depressed people overcome insomnia with a “cheap, relatively brief and usually effective” form of therapy could double their chances of a full recovery. The technique uses specialized cognitive-behavioral therapy and sounds kind of like typical sleep hygiene recommendations, but is actually quite different, according to researchers.

Gut Bacteria Might Guide the Workings of Our Minds (NPR)
Researchers are investigating whether the bacteria in our digestive systems could influence our moods and behaviors. Such a fascinating idea.

Meds & Supplements, Mental Health, Treatment

Sleeping Pills & Alcohol

Drugs come with so many warnings missing some is easy. The interaction of sleeping pills like Ambien and Sonata and alcohol is one to be aware of. It can increase the side effects of the drugs significantly — and is potentially fatal. Alcohol is also a common cause of insomnia.

  • Severe depression
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Memory blackout
  • Lack of coordination
  • Speech problems
  • Drowsiness

Most alarming is that of severe depression, which many people with headache disorders and chronic illness already deal with. Not to mention the dangers of combining alcohol and antidepressants.

Resources, Triggers

Sleep, Sweet Elusive Sleep

Not sleeping enough can trigger headaches, so can sleeping too long. Getting the right amount at the wrong time can also be a trigger. Headaches can also disrupt your sleep. You may simply not be able to sleep. If you can, you may be so restless — even though you may not realize it — that you don’t get a good night’s rest. Relying on sleep medication is tempting, but they can make you feel groggy throughout the day.

How to solve these dilemmas? The December issue of Healthy Women Take 10, a newsletter published by the National Women’s Health Resource Center, has an article about sleeping well without medication. You don’t even have to
be a woman to get benefit from the article. It’s got good suggestions and explains the “why” behind the recommendations.

The Headache and Migraine News blog has a great suggestion that I’ve never heard of — splash water on your skin if you are having trouble falling asleep. Cooling off your skin will help you settle down and relax enough to drift off to the land of nod.

Here’s my trick: When you’re lying in bed and the sheep aren’t putting you to sleep, take three deep breaths, inhaling and exhaling slowly. After your third
inhalation, hold your breath for a count a three then slowly exhale. The magazine said to do it three times, but I usually do it until I fall asleep. This tip is the only useful information that I got from reading Teen magazine. (Contrary to what the editors and advertisers would like you to believe, it’s not helpful to learn that everyone else is prettier than you are or that you could be much more appealing, thus a better person, if you only wore these clothes or had the right length of hair or an acceptable thigh circumference).

To learn about insomnia or get more tips on getting to sleep, see what the American Insomnia Association has to say. The Michigan Head Pain and Neurological Institute explains more about headaches and sleep.

Here’s hoping that one of these suggestions will help you sleep better tonight.