What is Wellbutrin?
Wellbutrin is the brand name of the generic medication bupropion. It is approved to treat major depressive disorder (MDD), seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and smoking cessation (to help quit smoking).
Wellbutrin may also be prescribed for “off-label” use, meaning it is being taken to treat a condition other than one that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved it to treat. Off-label use is a common and acceptable medical practice.
Off-label uses of Wellbutrin include:
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Bipolar disorder
- Sexual dysfunction caused by SSRI antidepressants
Wellbutrin is a type of antidepressant medication known as a norepinephrine/dopamine reuptake inhibitor (NDRI). NDRIs work by boosting the levels of norepinephrine and dopamine (two types of neurotransmitters, or molecules, in your brain that send messages between nerves) in your brain.
Norepinephrine and dopamine affect a wide range of emotions and other areas of wellbeing, such as happiness, motivation, and pleasure. By preventing these neurotransmitters from being reabsorbed and deactivated in the nerves in your brain (neurons), NDRI medications increase the amount of norepinephrine and dopamine available.
Wellbutrin and generic Wellbutrin (bupropion) are available in multiple forms and doses:
Wellbutrin SR tablets
- 100 mg
- 150 mg
- 200 mg
- 150 mg
- 300 mg
Bupropion hydrochloride immediate release tablets
- 75 mg
- 100 mg
Bupropion hydrochloride sustained release tablets
- 100 mg
- 150 mg
- 200 mg
Bupropion hydrochloride extended release tablets
- 150 mg
- 300 mg
Bupropion hydrobromide extended release tablets
- 174 mg
- 348 mg
- 522 mg
The dose of Wellbutrin you take typically depends on what you are taking it for, as well as which form you are taking:
- If you are taking the extended release tablets for depression, a typical starting dose is 150 mg once daily (in the morning). If this dose does not ease your symptoms, your prescribing doctor, nurse practitioner, or Minded psychiatry provider may gradually increase the dose. While the maximum recommended dose is 450 mg daily, some people might need a higher dose for symptom relief.
- If you are taking the extended release tablets for seasonal affective disorder (SAD), the starting dose is typically 150 mg daily taken in the morning. The maximum recommended dose for SAD treatment is usually 300 mg daily.
- If you are taking the sustained release tablets for depression, a typical starting dose is 150 mg taken once daily in the morning. While your healthcare professional may increase this dose as needed, the maximum recommended dose is usually no more than 200 mg taken twice a day, with the doses taken at least 8 hours apart.
- If you are taking the sustained release tablets to quit smoking, the typical starting dose is 150 mg once daily for 3 days. Then, your prescribing provider may adjust the dose depending on your needs. The maximum recommended Wellbutrin for smoking cessation dosage is usually no more than 300 mg daily.
- If you are taking the immediate release tablets for depression, a typical starting dose is 100 mg taken twice daily. Your provider may adjust your dose as needed if this dose is not enough to ease your symptoms. The maximum recommended dose is usually no more than 150 mg taken three times per day, with each dose taken a minimum of 6 hours apart.
If you accidentally miss your dose of Wellbutrin, you will want to either: take the missed dose as soon as you remember—or, if it is closer to when you would take the next dose, just go ahead and take the next dose.
For more information:
Wellbutrin side effects, warnings, and interactions
Wellbutrin side effects
Common side effects of Wellbutrin include:
- Dry mouth
- Fast heartbeat
- Sore throat
- Weight loss
Many side effects of Wellbutrin may improve during the first few weeks of starting this medication.
If you experience these or any other side effects, talk to your prescribing doctor, nurse practitioner, or Minded psychiatry provider .
Rare or serious side effects of Wellbutrin include:
- Angle-closure glaucoma (symptoms include: pain in your eye, vision changes, or swelling or redness in or around your eye)
- Anxiety and/or disturbing thoughts
- Heart problems (this risk is increased is you have heart disease, high blood pressure, a history of heart attack or irregular heartbeat, or are using a transdermal nicotine replacement product)
- Muscle pain
- Pain in the stomach
- Ringing in the ears
- High blood pressure
- Skin rash
Seek immediate medical attention if you experience these (or any other) serious side effect(s).
Wellbutrin weight gain vs Wellbutrin weight loss
While weight loss is a common side effect of Wellbutrin, weight gain is not as common with Wellbutrin compared to other antidepressant medications.
Always let your prescribing doctor, nurse practitioner, or Minded psychiatry provider know about any and all medications and supplements you are taking so that they can determine if Wellbutrin may have any potential negative interactions with them.
Wellbutrin may interact with:
- Benzodiazepines, when stopped abruptly
- Certain anticonvulsants, such as Dilantin (phenytoin), Equetro (carbamazepine), or Tegretol (carbamazepine)
- HIV medications, such as Kaletra (lopinavir), Norvir (ritonavir), Sustiva (efavirenz), or Viracept (nelfinavir)
- Hypoglycemic agents, such as insulin
- Mellaril (thioridazine)
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs—another type of antidepressant medication)
- Other antidepressants
- Some antibiotics, such as Cipro
- Strattera (atomoxetine)
- Tagamet (cimetidine)
- Tricyclic antidepressants, such as Norpramin (desipramine) or Tofranil (imipramine)
- Ultram (tramadol)
Wellbutrin and alcohol
You should not drink alcohol while you are taking Wellbutrin—or any antidepressant medications generally. Alcohol can both increase the negative effects of these medications and decrease their benefits. There is also a risk of accidentally overdosing on medications if they are taken with alcohol.
Wellbutrin should be taken regularly in order to be effective. Do not skip doses of Wellbutrin in order to drink alcohol.
Wellbutrin comes with a “Black Box” warning, which means that the FDA has identified certain potentially serious safety risks that may occur from taking this medication. These safety warnings are very serious, though the actual risk may be low or even rare.
The Black Box warning for Wellbutrin says that antidepressants might increase the risk of suicidal behaviors or thoughts in children, adolescents, and young adults under 25 years old.
Wellbutrin and pregnancy
Talk to your prescribing doctor, nurse practitioner, or Minded psychiatry provider if you are planning on becoming pregnant or breastfeeding. There are potential risks to the baby when someone is pregnant or breastfeeding, but Wellbutrin can still be taken after considering the risks and benefits with your prescribing doctor, nurse practitioner, or Minded psychiatry provider.
In general, if you have to stop taking your depression medication for any reason, it is important that you work with your prescribing doctor, nurse practitioner, or Minded psychiatry provider to develop a plan to do so carefully and gradually in order to avoid withdrawal symptoms. That being said, withdrawal symptoms from norepinephrine/dopamine reuptake inhibitors (NDRIs)—like Wellbutrin—may be less problematic than those caused by other types of antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).