Guide to Zyban - including how it works, how to use, success rate and side effects.

What is Zyban?
Zyban is one of the newest drugs on the market that can help smokers in their battle to give up smoking. It is not a nicotine replacement therapy product, as it does not contain nicotine. Therefore, it does not replace the nicotine that is obtained from smoking a cigarette with nicotine that is administered in a different way, as with products such as the nicotine patch or gum.

Zyban is the trade name of the drug "bupropion" and it was approved as a stop smoking aid in 1997. The same drug, bupropion, was previously and still is known as an anti-depressant and is manufactured under the name of Wellbutrin.
The manufacturing of Zyban came about after smokers, who were taking the anti-depressant medication Wellbutrin, declared that they no longer had such a desire or craving to smoke cigarettes. Further research, based upon these claims, found that bupropion was in fact a highly effective tool in helping people to stop smoking.

Zyban has been manufactured in the form of a pill, which is taken twice a day and is only available on prescription from a doctor. It cannot be bought over the counter at the present moment.

How does Zyban work?

Zyban is a treatment that should be taken for a minimum of 8 weeks and up to 12 weeks.

You actually start to take the tablets one week before giving up smoking, so in fact for the first week of treatment you are smoking and taking Zyban at the same time. This is because it takes a full week for the Zyban to reach the necessary levels needed by the body to be most effective and efficient. As the drug starts to work, you will soon begin to feel that you don't want to smoke as much or you just don't fancy a cigarette.

During the second week, you must stop smoking and continue to take the medication for a further 7 - 11 weeks. If you can't stop smoking during the second week, it is important to do so as soon after as possible, as the longer you leave it until you actually give up, the harder it will become and the lower the chances of success.

The tablet should be taken twice a day, once in the morning and then in the evening, or with at least 8 hours between doses. The pill should be taken with water and swallowed whole. It should not be chewed, crushed or divided.

Each tablet is a 150mg dose. For the first three days only one dose is taken, and then for the rest of the treatment course this is increased to a dose of 300mg. No more than 300mg of bupropion should be taken in any one day.

This non-nicotine drug works on the brain by boosting two chemicals in particular that release feelings of well being and enjoyment. This in turn reduces the severity of the withdrawal symptoms when a person stops smoking, as well as lessening the urge to smoke. One of these chemicals, dopamine, is also found in increased levels in smokers, as smoking cigarettes also boosts dopamine levels in the body and the increased dopamine levels brought on through smoking help to contribute to the addiction of nicotine (see section on nicotine).

What is the success rate?

There is no doubt that taking Zyban may help a number of smokers to quit smoking altogether. Clinical studies have proven that withdrawal symptoms from not smoking are reduced, especially feelings of irritability, anxiety, anger, poor concentration, restlessness and depression. There is also considerable evidence that shows that a smoker's desire to smoke is not as high when taking this medication.

Studies have reported that success rates oscillate between 15% and 25%, although one study did show the success rate to be more than double these figures.

One particular study from the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that almost one in three users of Zyban were still smoke-free after a period of one year. This was compared to one in six users of the nicotine patch.

Is this method safe?

Zyban is still a relatively new drug and therefore studies are still being carried out concerning the effects and safety of the drug. In the UK there was certain controversy regarding Zyban over a period of time and allegations of suicide, psychological disorders, cardiovascular disease and toxic build-up were reported. Zyban has also been banned or restricted in several other countries.

Nowadays Zyban is only available on prescription and on solely one occasion.

The main concern in using this drug (bupropion) is that it may cause seizures or convulsions and certain people are more at risk than others. It has been estimated that one out of every thousand users will suffer a seizure whilst using Zyban.

The likeliness of suffering a seizure increases with the increased dosage of bupropion. For this reason, you should never take more than 150mg at any one given time.

Obviously, people who are taking the drug in the form of an anti-depressant (Wellbutrin) should never take Zyban at the same time. Incidentally, the same goes for people who are being treated for anorexia nervosa or bulimia, as they are at an increased risk of suffering seizures or convulsions.

If you are already taking other medications, you should inform your doctor, as the doses of the existing medications may have to be altered if you are prescribed Zyban as well.

Nevertheless, Zyban will not be prescribed without a doctor's consent and your doctor should inform you of the risks and precautions on taking this drug.

Despite the warnings, Zyban has been approved by the FDA and it is safe to use by the majority of people.

You should never use Zyban if:
  • You are taking Wellbutrin, Wellbutrin SR or any other medications that contain bupropion.
  • You are suffering from any eating disorders.
  • You are taking any form of medication for treatment of depression.
  • You have chronic liver cirrhosis.
  • You suffer from any seizure disorders, such as epilepsy.
  • You are pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • You are under the age of 18.
You should consult a doctor and take precautions with this drug if:
  • You have kidney or liver problems.
  • You suffer from alcohol or narcotic abuse.
  • You have suffered any head injuries.
  • You are diabetic.
  • You have high blood pressure.
  • You have a history of psychiatric illnesses.

Are there any side effects?

As with any medication side effects may occur. The most common side effects reported with use of Zyban are sleeping disorders, dry mouth and headaches. The side effects are usually mild and disappear after a few weeks with continuous use.

Other common side effects that have been reported are stomach pains, vivid dreams, changes in bowel movement, muscle and joint pain, coughing, lack of concentration, itchiness, sore throat and nausea.

If you take too much bupropion and overdose, you will notice symptoms such as confusion, hallucinations, dizziness, blurred vision or you may suffer a seizure.

With any prolonged side effects that are uncomfortable, you should stop taking Zyban immediately and consult your doctor.

What are the advantages of using this method?

  • Zyban does not contain nicotine.
  • The side effects are usually few and mild.
  • Zyban alleviates withdrawal symptoms and cravings to smoke.
  • It is easy to use.
  • It is a safe alternative to NRT's.
  • You do not have to safely dispose of the medication after use.
  • It is discreet.
  • Studies show it to be a successful method of giving up smoking.

Are there any disadvantages?

  • The drug is relatively new and not all side effects or adverse reactions are known.
  • It is only available on prescription.
  • It may not be safe for some users.
  • It may cause seizures or other disorders.
  • You could forget to take the tablets.

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