Written by Claire Imber,
11 Minute Read
Medically reviewed by:
Mimi Winsberg, MD
Chief Medical Officer
10 Minute Read
This article does not replace the advice of a medical professional and is only intended for informational and educational purposes.
Wellbutrin is in a class of drugs called antidepressants. Wellbutrin is an antidepressant medication commonly prescribed for the treatment of depression. Unlike many antidepressants that are SSRIs or SNRIs, Wellbutrin is an NDRI (norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitor).
Norepinephrine and dopamine are two neurochemicals—chemicals that impact the nervous system—that can affect mood. A reuptake inhibitor works to prevent these chemicals from being reabsorbed to help make them available for use longer inside your body, usually in higher amounts at once. When used properly, Wellbutrin may be highly effective at improving symptoms of depression.
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What are the symptoms of depression?
People experience depression in different ways. Some feel profound sadness or hopelessness. Many also feel overwhelmed, stressed, and burned out. Some people may have low self-esteem or feel nothing at all.
The main symptoms of depression include:
- Having little interest or pleasure in doing things
- Feeling down, depressed, or hopeless
- Feeling tired or having little energy
- Poor appetite or overeating
- Feeling bad about yourself or feeling like a failure
- Trouble concentrating on things
- Moving or speaking so slowly that other people could have noticed, or being fidgety/restless
- Thoughts that you would be better off dead, or thoughts of hurting yourself
There are many treatments for depression, including medication and therapy. Wellbutrin is just one example of antidepressant medication. There’s no shame in taking antidepressants— around 13% of Americans take them and millions have benefitted from them.
If you take medication for depression, working to build a stronger understanding of how you should be using your medication can help you achieve better results. If you are not sure which medication might be best for you, or if you have tried other medications but have not noticed any improvements, it may be a good idea to consult your provider about Wellbutrin or other antidepressants like SSRIs or SNRIs. Your provider can answer any questions or concerns you may have, and they can also work with you to come up with a tailored treatment plan.
How does Wellbutrin work?
Wellbutrin is the brand name for bupropion, which is neither an SSRI nor an SNRI, but rather an NDRI. Bupropion (Wellbutrin, Wellbutrin SR, Wellbutrin XL, Aplenzin) is used to treat depression. Bupropion (Wellbutrin XL, Aplenzin) can also be used to treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is a subtype of depression, and bupropion (Zyban) is used as part of a treatment plan to help people stop smoking. Wellbutrin works by preventing your body from reabsorbing norepinephrine and dopamine, which can lessen symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Wellbutrin is thought to have comparable effects to other antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), which makes it a good option if other medications have proved to be ineffective for your needs.
Like many other antidepressants, Wellbutrin can take a few weeks to start causing noticeable changes, and it may even take up to 12 weeks to produce its full effects by building up in your body. Patience is key, and unless your provider tells you otherwise, it’s generally recommended to give it the appropriate time before determining whether or not the medication is working for you.
What are the side effects of taking Wellbutrin?
There are some potential side effects of taking Wellbutrin, including:
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Dry mouth
- Muscle twitches
- Weight loss
- Sleep troubles
- Sore throat
These side effects are often mild and temporary, typically improving within a week or two. You should always alert your provider of any side effects you are experiencing.
Some rare, but more serious side effects may occur in which case you should call your provider or seek medical attention immediately:
- Suicidal thoughts
- Significant worsening of any symptoms of depression
- Dizziness and fainting
- Severe headaches
- Irregular, fast, or pounding heartbeat
- Rashes, such as hives
- Confusion or hallucinations
- Seizures or convulsions
If you experience these more serious side effects, this may indicate that your body is not tolerating your medication properly, and a change in medication may be in order. You will want to find a medication that is both tolerable and effective. Your provider will be able to work with you to get to the root of the problem and help you find a solution.
What class of antidepressant is Wellbutrin?
Wellbutrin (bupropion hydrochloride) is an antidepressant of the aminoketone class, used to manage depression.
Is Wellbutrin XL an SNRI or NDRI?
Wellbutrin XL is an extended-release form of Wellbutrin. Like Wellbutrin and Wellbutrin SR, it is not an SNRI. Wellbutrin XL is an NDRI (norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitor) antidepressant.
What are the long-term side effects of Wellbutrin?
To date, there are no known problems associated with the long-term use of bupropion. It is a safe and effective medication when used as directed, though it may increase your blood pressure.
What antidepressant is closest to Wellbutrin?
Wellbutrin (bupropion) is an atypical antidepressant, meaning it doesn’t fit into other classes. Atypical antidepressants are unique medications that work differently from other antidepressants and typically change the levels of one or more neurotransmitters in the brain. Wellbutrin affects the norepinephrine and dopamine neurotransmitters.
Forfivo XL, Aplenzin, and Zyban are other brands of bupropion.
Is Wellbutrin safer than an SSRI or SNRI?
You will need to talk to a provider to determine what types of medications are safe for you. In general, these types of antidepressants are safe for most people.
According to the Mayo Clinic, SSRIs are also generally safe for most people, though in some circumstances they can cause problems. For example, high doses of citalopram may cause dangerous abnormal heart rhythms, so doses over 40 milligrams (mg) a day should be avoided according to the FDA and the manufacturer.
Likewise, SNRIs are safe for most people, though in some circumstances they can cause concerns. For example, certain SNRIs may raise your blood pressure or worsen liver problems.
Summary Of FDA warning
According to NAMI, here is a comprehensive summary of the FDA warning that accompanies antidepressants, including Wellbutrin, SSRIs, and SNRIs:
Depression and certain other psychiatric disorders are themselves associated with increases in the risk of suicide. Patients with major depressive disorder (MDD), both adult and pediatric, may experience worsening of their depression and/or the emergence of suicidal ideation and behavior (suicidality) or unusual changes in behavior, whether or not they are taking antidepressant medications. This risk may persist until significant remission occurs.
In short-term studies, antidepressants increased the risk of suicidality in children, adolescents, and young adults when compared to placebo. Short-term studies did not show an increase in the risk of suicidality with antidepressants compared to placebo in adults beyond age 24. Adults ages 65 and older taking antidepressants have a decreased risk of suicidality.
Individuals, their families, and caregivers should be alert to the emergence of anxiety, restlessness, irritability, aggressiveness, and insomnia. If these symptoms emerge, they should be reported to the individual’s prescriber or healthcare professional.
All people being treated with antidepressants for any reason should watch for and notify their healthcare provider for worsening symptoms, suicidality, and unusual changes in behavior, especially during the first few months of treatment.
Proper usage: What you need to know
- Any symptoms you are experiencing that you find particularly bothersome
- If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or are harming yourself
- Any medications you have previously taken for your symptoms, including how effective they were or were not
- Any adverse effects you have previously experienced from medications
- Any health conditions you are experiencing aside from the condition you are currently looking to treat
- Any other medications you are already taking, including vitamins and supplements
- If you are pregnant, trying to conceive, or are breastfeeding
- If you have a history of seizures or epilepsy
Wellbutrin may not be recommended for use by people with certain conditions or who are taking certain medications. According to the University of Michigan Health, you should not use bupropion within 14 days before or 14 days after you have used an MAOI (monoamine oxidase inhibitors inhibitor), such as isocarboxazid, linezolid, methylene blue injection, phenelzine, rasagiline, selegiline, or tranylcypromine.
The first step when it comes to proper usage of your medication is making sure that you have informed your provider of all important information that could harm your health if not disclosed. Additionally, because there can be drug interactions with Wellbutrin and other medications, you should also talk to your provider before taking any over-the-counter medication with Wellbutrin. For example, cold and allergy medications can affect your central nervous system so you should check with your provider before taking them.
How should I take Wellbutrin?
Talk to your provider for instructions and follow them carefully. In general, you may take Wellbutrin with or without food. But if you have nausea, take the medicine with food.
Swallow the tablet whole. Do not chew, crush, or break it.
What are the forms of Wellbutrin?
There are three main forms of Wellbutrin available, including immediate-release, sustained-release, and extended-release, and the proper dosing for you will depend on your situation as well as which form of Wellbutrin your provider has prescribed.
The three forms are:
- IR (immediate-release)
- SR (sustained-release)
- XL (extended-release)
Can I take Wellbutrin while pregnant or breastfeeding?
Wellbutrin is not a recommended treatment during pregnancy. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) states:
If you are planning on becoming pregnant, notify your health care provider to best manage your medications. People living with major depressive disorder (MDD) who wish to become pregnant face important decisions, each with risks and benefits as they relate to how the illness, medications, and risks to the fetus may interact. Untreated MDD has risks to the fetus, as well as the mother. It is important to discuss the risks and benefits of treatment with your doctor and caregivers.
Bupropion has also been evaluated for smoking cessation during pregnancy and is recommended only after other therapies have failed.
Caution is advised with breastfeeding since bupropion does pass into breast milk.
What should I do if Wellbutrin is not working for me?
If the medication is not providing relief from your symptoms, you should consult your provider. Your provider will work with you to determine if your dosing needs to be adjusted, and by how much.
You should take care to follow the specific instructions included with your medication as well as any instructions your provider has personally given you. If you have any questions or concerns, it is always best to play it safe and consult your provider rather than trying to guess what may be the correct way to use your medication. In general, drinking alcohol should be avoided with bupropion.
If you are seeking high-quality mental health care that you can access right from the comfort of your home while still also having access to effective medication, Brightside is here to help.
With Brightside, you have unlimited access to the care you need, including precision prescribing, psychiatry and therapy experts, and science-backed approaches that can help you feel like yourself again. Depression can be difficult, but Brightside is here to get you the care you deserve, whether that’s therapy, medication, or a combination of both.
The bottom line
Wellbutrin is not an SSRI or an SNRI—it is an NDRI, one of many commonly prescribed antidepressants. This means that the drug works by blocking your body from reabsorbing dopamine and norepinephrine, resulting in higher levels of both of these chemicals, which are associated with the regulation of your moods and emotions.
Wellbutrin is the brand name for bupropion, and while it may be highly effective, it can take several weeks to work. In fact, it may take around 12 weeks for Wellbutrin to produce its fullest effects after building up in your system, so patience is key with this medication as with many others. You may notice positive effects on your sleep, energy, or appetite before noticing an impact on mood. These can be good indicators that the medication is working.
When you begin taking Wellbutrin, you should carefully follow your provider’s instructions alongside any instructions that come along with the medication itself.
If Wellbutrin proves to be ineffective at bringing you relief from your symptoms, your provider will recommend other medications that may be a better fit for you.
Brightside provides you with access to both expert psychiatric providers and licensed therapists, as well as medication so that you can get the care you need all in one place. Get started with Brightside by taking a free assessment today and see if medication like Wellbutrin may be helpful for you.