View Full Version : Wild Ride in Saigon: a Wellbutrin Journal

01-05-14, 09:03 AM
I live in Saigon, Vietnam. In case you weren't aware, in most Asian countries, psychology is still in a far less accepted position than in the West, and ADD, depression, and other mental disorders aren't even acknowledged by most medical and governmental authorities.

This has made dealing with my problems extremely complicated.


I've always been a happy, motivated, creative guy. I ran a successful business for a decade in America before deciding to come to Asia to see more of the world. I've also always had ADD, but I've never really been too bothered by it and if anything I always thought it helped me in my field, which required a lot of creativity and thinking on your feet.

Once I moved from Seoul to Saigon, however, my life seemed to suddenly change. After a few weeks of really enjoying this exciting, noisy, strange city I began to turn into a bit of a shutin. My fiance was really upset by this, because she loves going out, and my social life basically died. Furthermore, I was feeling my anxiety (I've always been a bit "neurotic" and socially anxious, but it's never been much of a problem, and if anything I'm pretty darned good at people and have always been a good salesman.) I stopped having the motivation to work and I really just felt like total crap.

Once I became suspicious that I had depression I instantly decided to do something about it. Unfortunately, it was EXTREMELY difficult to find psychological help, especially in English, but eventually I did find someone to council me a bit and the current theory is that my ADD is being extremely exacerbated by my environment.

The psychologist thinks I am being overstimulated by the constant noise, riding a motorcycle every day with the millions of other motorbikes on the street, and working with screaming, rowdy children on the weekends. To be honest these are the only things I don't like about Vietnam, besides the pollution, and I'm no expert, but I really think this diagnosis is pretty apt.

I took adderol back in college, but only when I was studying for and taking exams. I asked if that might help me in Saigon and he laughed, because, A) a stimulant would probably exacerbate the overstimulation and anxiety and B) adderol is completely illegal in most of Asia, especially Vietnam. He instead "prescribed" me a three month course of 300ml Wellbutrin. I say "prescribed" because in Vietnam you buy pretty much everything over the counter without a prescription, including heavy painkillers, xanax, and tons of other scary stuff.

I did some research about Wellbutrin and decided it would be worth a shot, so I went down to the pharmacy to pick some up. They didn't have any... nor did the next pharmacy, nor the next. I called a few Western pharmacies and one of them had Bupropione as a "smoking cessation" aid... for NINETEEN US DOLLARS PER PILL.

After even more research I found that I could buy it in Thailand and bring it (legally) into Vietnam, so I took the pain in the *** trip and picked some up.

So exactly one day ago I finally started my very first "Crazy Meds."

I am a 30 year old male, about 5'10", 150lbs, and I had an extremely difficult time finding Bupropione in Asia, but I found some. Unfortunately I could ONLY find the 300mg XL and my doc said it would be okay, but to expect some major side effects for the first few days and to check in every day.

Here's my first week:

Day 1: I popped my pill around lunchtime and felt some euphoria, including a giggle fit, and a major energy rush similar to a TON of coffee. I also felt like I could focus clearly and the "brain fog" I have experienced for the past few years lifted quite a bit. I was psyched! Had pretty bad insomnia but some melatonin more or less put me to bed within an hour or two.

Day 2: The energy turned into anxiety and lightheadedness. During a business meeting I became really disoriented and worried for no reason at all, and on the way home my heart started beating and I couldn't really focus. I ate some food and felt a little better but had MAJOR insomnia and I had to take 10mg of melatonin and STILL couldn't sleep through the night. I felt twitchy and itchy and could NOT get comfortable and my thoughts were racing. I recently started meditating using guided meditation tracks, and I have always been a fan of binaural entrainment for sleep hacking, and those techniques helped a tiny, tiny bit, but I didn't get much rest at all.

Day 3: This day was pretty good, actually. I felt kind of tired and foggy like before I started taking the medicine, but not too much anxiety. I did have a weird episode after the gym when my heart was POUNDING, and I've always had a very healthy heart/heart rate. Had a pretty great night with my fiance celebrating new years eve, but it sucked not being able to drink (I've decided to stay away from alcohol in all forms until my body has been adjusted for at least a month or two). Went to bed late but slept decently. I did have a beer for lunch today, without even thinking about it, just out of habit.

Day 4: This day was freaking SCARY. Felt anxiety immediately. I went to the gym and felt very strong, and felt great for an hour or two, but by early afternoon I had an episode that I can only describe as feeling completely drunk and detached and through the roof with way too much energy. That doesn't even really describe it very well, but I felt for the first time in my life like I might actually be crazy, up to and including the stereotypical pacing back and forth and talking to myself (mostly just trying to talk myself down from going into a full fledged panic attack).

Note: I didn't make the connection until a couple days later, but I wonder if the alcohol from the beer I had on Day 3 might have spurred on this episode?

This mellowed out by around dinner time and filling my stomach helped put it at bay, but eating the cheeseburger and fries from Burger King (my favorite guilty pleasure/comfort food in Vietnam) was a freaky, hollow experience. I tasted the food, and the food tasted exactly like it always did, but I had NO pleasure nor joy from eating the food. I don't know how else to explain it. It's like the food tasted good, and I knew it tasted good, but it gave me NO pleasure and I had to force myself to finish it. So strange. The insomnia that night was the worst yet but meditation did help me finally get to sleep.

Day 5: I was actually terrified to take the dose this morning and almost considered stopping all together after yesterday's episode. Definitely realized that starting at 300mg was probably a terrible idea, but I decided to muscle through. Fortunately it wasn't nearly as bad, but I did feel extreme anxiety and uneasiness, especially in a fairly important business meeting. I'm sure they noticed something was weird but I just told them I was on heavy antibiotics and they were very kind about it. I did have a breakthrough this night because my meditation really helped me feel better. After 30 minutes of meditation I felt completely at ease. Here is the track I've found to really help me. It's a little cheezy but her voice really just puts my mind at ease:

It's amazing because when I laid down my heart was beating like crazy and I thought it might explode, but after the meditation I felt perfectly fine. For the first time I went to bed without too much trouble and slept more or less through the night.

Day 6: Breakthrough day. I felt fine through most of the day but towards the evening some anxiety crept up. As soon as I started to feel it I laid down and did some meditation and had a near religious experience. Seriously, I have NEVER felt more serene or happy or at peace in my entire life. I felt flooded with good feelings and had a great night with my fiance.

Day 7: My libido has been up since I started taking Wellbutrin, but today I realized some, er, VERY interesting side effects. I'm really, honestly not one to talk about these things but I will say for science: my fiance was REALLY pleased with the medication this morning. The rest of the day was okay with some mild anxiety but meditation totally killed it.

Day 8: Today. Strangely, no anxiety at all, though I felt major nausea in the afternoon. It was caused by the motorcycle traffic whizzing by and made far worse by the crappy fluorescent lights in the supermarket. I took a stomach pill when I got home (just mild indigestion stuff), and it helped a bit, and now I feel fine but very SLIGHTLY lightheaded. I feel tired and brain foggy but not terrible. I have noticed that my motivation is a bit better but still not nearly where it used to be, nor where I want it.

So here I am. If there's one thing I can say to offer advice to ANYONE going through ANY trouble, but especially someone taking Wellbutrin, it's: TRY MEDITATION.

I used to think it was total BS malarkey feel-good ridiculousness, but my friend who has ADD told me I HAD to try it and I swear, it is changing my life. Even if the Wellbutrin doesn't work out I think the meditation alone will have lasting impact on my mental wellbeing as long as I keep it up.

I do think my side effects have been incredibly tough, but I think that's primarily because I started at 300mg which I do NOT advise. If I could go back and do it all over again I would definitely be patient and ramp myself up gradually, I just didn't have that option. I'm also what I'd describe as a "heavy social" drinker, meaning I never drink alone but when I drink with friends I do tend to get drunk (maybe once a week), and I do have a beer with lunch or dinner from time to time. I've heard that people who drink alcohol experience the effects of Wellbutrin faster and more intensely so I wonder if that has something to do with it.

I'll keep you posted and would appreciate any insights from anyone else who's used Wellbutrin. As of right now I'm optimistic and I think the worst of the side effects are far behind me. I am hoping they'll be completely gone by next week and my "goal" would be to start feeling the positive effects within a month, but I will definitely finish my 3 month supply unless things take a major turn for the worse.


01-05-14, 09:05 PM
Another note, regarding caffeine and nicotine:

I learned long ago that I am particularly sensitive to caffeine, though this was masked for years by the quantity of caffeine I was taking. Until my mid-20's, I drank energy drinks, coffee and diet soda freely and without inhibition any time I felt tired. I was up to two or three huge Monsters before I made the connection that the caffeine was making me feel like crap. First I cut back, to two or three a day, and when that didn't really help I cit back to one or two, but not after 3pm. That helped a LOT with my sleep patterns but I still felt reliant on it so I cut it out all together.

When I stopped taking caffeine I went through SEVERE withdrawal, and couldn't even get out of bed the third day. I was monstrously irritable and treated my loved ones terribly for about a week, but once I got over my lifelong addiction to caffeine I felt SO MUCH BETTER.short

I have infinitely more energy off caffeine and I know now that the lift of caffeine is just an illusion. I still get re-addicted once or twice a year and have to quit cold turkey and go throu .a mini-withdrawal, but I know life is better off caffeine now so that makes it easier.

As far as nicotine, I have never smoked cigarettes but I do smoke pipes and cigars and have always found the nicotine extremely relaxing and soothing. I've read that nicotine is uniqur because in quick, short doses (cigarettes) it is a stimulant, while in long, large doses (cigars) it is a depressant. At any rate, I have never been addicted to nicotine and often go weeks or months without with zero problems or cravings. Basically, I feel like nicotine, for me, the way I use it, is overall positive for me and my life.

That's all to say that I decided before starting the medicine to refrain from nicotine, alcohol, and caffeine because I want to see the "pure" effects of the medicine on my system. If Wellbutrin works then after a few months I will try to reintroduce moderate use of alcohol and cigars back into my life, one at a time, in a careful and controlled manner.

I mention all of this because I notice in many of the negative reviews of wellbutrin and other drugs that most people still consume cigarettes and caffeine, and even alcohol, while taking psych drugs.

I really encourage anyone and everyone dealing with stress, attention deficit, depression, and other psych drugs to detox by eliminating caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, and all other drugs from their system if at all possible. These drugs could make your startup side effects far worse or, more profoundly, could be the actual cause of your problems like caffeine was for me in my 20's

I know that's easiet said than done, but I fear that Wellbutrin or other medications may have been of benefit to people who quit too early because of side effects amplified by their other vices.

01-06-14, 09:02 AM
Day 9, in case anyone is at all interested:

My side effects are always in the afternoon, and today I had mild nausea (not as bad as yesterday, but still fairly bad). I was hoping I would have no side effects by now, but here we are.

Today was very, very rough in terms of a lot of stupid stuff happening, and I feel really stressed and frazzled and irritated, but not depressed. I'm still hopeful that this medicine will do the trick in the long run, but I really hope these side effects go away soon!

01-07-14, 10:18 AM
Day 10: A little nausea today, not as bad as yesterday. Had another stressful day but didn't get too down. Still feeling a lack of motivation and energy but at least the depression is more or less gone... I really hope this stuff works, because I passed up some awesome beer at a German restaurant tonight.

01-07-14, 11:19 AM
Welcome to addf and thanks for sharing your experiences with us. :)

01-08-14, 11:54 AM
Thanks, Unmanageable!!

Day 11: I am sleeping fine without the need for melatonin the last couple days. Went to the gym today and heart pumped a little harder than normal but I was able to do some intense lifting, much better than usual. Some mild nausea in the afternoon but not as bad as yesterday. At this rate I'm hoping tomorrow the side effects might be completely gone, or at least by this weekend. Still not really any benefit to my brain fog, lack of motivatiob or fatigue, nor is my concentration much improved, though I did feel a boost my first couple days so I'm hoping eventually the effectiveness will return.

01-08-14, 12:07 PM
Nice to hear about your experiences as you document your sincere effort. Thankyou!

01-09-14, 10:52 AM
Day 12: Almost no nausea at all today. Maybe just a touch of it in the late afternoon, but hardly worth mentioning. The only time I really felt bad were the two times I got hit by cars on my motorbike, today! But no harm, no foul.

I got a lot of work done today and cleaned our entire apartment... can't say it was because of the medicine but it was nice to be productive and gives me some additional hope!

01-11-14, 07:16 AM
Day 12: NO SIDE EFFECTS! Seriously, yesterday I felt perfectly normal, and it was sort of a "day off" so I spent most of the day watching videos and reading. Still not feeling like I used to, but definitely feeling better than before I started the medication.

Day 13: Again, no side effects. I think my heart rate is getting close to normal, too, and I took a long nap in the afternoon which would have been impossible a few days ago. I feel more calm in noisy environments so I think my anxiety is cooling off, as well.

01-17-14, 05:54 AM
Day 20... The days since my last post have actually been pretty much normal. Almost TOO normal, as I am back to my old self again with a lot of fatigue/sleepiness during the day. I am a bit more motivated than I was prior to starting the medication but that could just be because the depression is gone, now. If nothing else I'm glad I took the drug because it kicked me out of my depression, but I'm really hoping that it will start giving me some real benefits by the time week 5 comes around.

I REALLY want to figure out why I'm tired and can't focus all the time... Medical tests show nothing. I'm thinking about getting a sleep study done, but I guess I'll give the wellbutrin a few more weeks before I spend money on other stuff.

01-17-14, 06:38 AM
It's hot there... you mention light headedness a few posts back... I suggest trialling berocca~or-similar~ in the morning for a week... ( zinc, amgnesium, b etc. )... eggs... dairy... if your not getting any too...

what is your diet anyways - including any supplements... have you felt this way before in your life? or similar and over how long a period?

01-20-14, 11:14 PM
I have tried Vitamin B and Iron supplements in the past, hard to say if they worked or not. In general my diet is pretty good. My fiance is Korean so we eat a lot of Korean food, which is generally healthy and based on vegetables for the most part, or else I'll cook for myself (mostly vegetarian food). I also eat a lot of balanced local food, though I do occasionally hit up Burger King or pizza or burritos as comfort food. The last few days I've been eating quite poorly due to being kind of tired and not in the mood to cook.

I exercise at least 3 times a week and it does help. It's funny, I've been struggling with this for so long that I've incorporated a lot of things that DO help:

-Cutting out alcohol
-Cutting out caffeine
-Eating more healthy

All of these things have helped a little, which culminates in a fairly good energy boost, but none of it breaks through the focus/fatigue wall that just keeps me from being the energetic, creative guy I used to be and I know I can/should be.

I think I might have some kind of sleep disorder at the moment. I know quite a bit about sleep, and have experimented with all sorts of sleep aids from melatonin to binaural audio tracks to light/sound machines and all of them are interesting and help, but here in Vietnam it is NEVER quiet and my bedroom is really bright, plus my fiance wakes up way earlier than I do and that usually wakes me up, and then I can't get back to sleep. I also almost never sleep through the night -- I usually wake up after about 3 hours and have to go to the bathroom or adjust my sleep position or something, so I know I could definitely be sleeping better and that could easily be the ultimate root problem.

...anyway, I'll try the zing and magnesium with B vitamins, I think they have berocca here. Anything that might help!

Thanks and let me know if anyone has any other thoughts on what might be going on here. :X