Wellbutrin: Side Effects, Treatments, and FAQs

Woman is shaking prescription Wellbutrin antidepressant into her hand.
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By: Renaissance Recovery

Clinically Reviewed by: Diana Vo, LMFT

Last Updated:

02/22/2023

Authored By: Joe Gilmore

Table of Contents

Wellbutrin is an NDRI antidepressant that is believed to act on the neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) dopamine and norepinephrine.

A branded form of bupropion, Wellbutrin is the only medication in its class. A NDRI (norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitor) antidepressant, Wellbutrin blocks the reuptake of norepinephrine and dopamine. Over time, this may lead to changes that alleviate the symptoms of depression.

Wellbutrin is available in two formulations:

  1. Wellbutrin XL: for the treatment of major depressive disorder and SAD (seasonal affective disorder.
  2. Wellbutrin SR: for the treatment of major depressive disorder only.

Zyban is another branded version of bupropion, but this is prescribed as a smoking cessation aid. Wellbutrin is not indicated for those looking to quit smoking.

On a light blue background, a person's hand is holding three small antidepressant pills next to a weekly pill organizer and a glass of water.

Common Wellbutrin Side Effects

Unlike most antidepressants, Wellbutrin is not associated with reduced libido or sexual dysfunction.

Common side effects of Wellbutrin can be categorized as follows:

  • Physical
  • Psychological
  • Emotional

Physical

Mild physical side effects of Wellbutrin may include:

  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Sweating
  • Night sweats
  • Abdominal pain
  • Muscle pain
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Hot flashes
  • Sore throat
  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness
  • Tremors
  • Heart palpitations
  • Skin rash
  • Weight loss or weight gain

If these side effects do not dissipate within two weeks or if they become more severe in presentation, consult your prescribing physician.

Serious physical side effects associated with Wellbutrin may include:

  • Vision problems
  • High blood pressure
  • Seizures

Psychological

The most common psychological side effects of Wellbutrin are:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Agitation
  • Irritability
  • Mood changes
  • Delusions
  • Psychosis
  • Suicidal ideation

Emotional

The most common emotional side effects of Wellbutrin are:

  • Mania
  • Hypomania
  • Nervousness
  • Decreased appetite
  • Insomnia

If side effects present, they usually subside within two weeks of starting Wellbutrin. If side effects worsen or persist, you may need to change your dosage or you may need to switch to another type of antidepressant.

Wellbutrin Addiction

When Wellbutrin is working, researchers believe that the effects of the medication on levels of norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain has some overlap with the effects of illicit stimulants like cocaine.

Some animal studies also suggest that Wellbutrin has addictive potential.

The first recorded case of recreational Wellbutrin abuse was reported in 2008. While the effects of non-medical bupropion use are not well researched, it appears that the medication can trigger stimulant effects when taken in doses exceeding the recommended daily maximum of 450mg.

When Wellbutrin is abused, many people crush then snort the pills. This route of administration counteracts the slow-release mechanism of Wellbutrin XL, delivering a high dose of the medication to the bloodstream.

Is Wellbutrin Addictive?

Addiction to Wellbutrin is uncommon, but it can occur. Those with a history of prescription medication abuse, drug addiction, or alcohol addiction may be at heightened risk of developing an addiction to Wellbutrin.

Some common markers of addiction to Wellbutrin may include:

  • Insomnia
  • Staying awake for prolonged periods
  • Increased activity and energy levels
  • Appetite loss
  • Euphoria
  • Boosted self-esteem
  • Doctor shopping to obtain multiple Wellbutrin prescriptions

Wellbutrin Withdrawal

Antidepressant drugs that influence levels of serotonin in the brain are associated with more severe withdrawal symptoms. Wellbutrin does not impact levels of serotonin, meaning that withdrawal symptoms are typically mild in presentation.

If you become physically dependent on Wellbutrin, you will experience withdrawal symptoms when you discontinue use. Always consult your prescribing physician rather than abruptly quitting bupropion.

Wellbutrin Withdrawal Symptoms

The most common Wellbutrin withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Problems with balance
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Irritability
  • Sweating
  • Headaches
  • Aggression
  • Anxiety
  • Suicidal ideation

Engaging with a supervised detox that also addresses any co-occurring substance use disorders is the most effective pathway to recovery from Wellbutrin abuse or addiction. We can help you achieve this at Renaissance Recovery Center in Huntington Beach.

Wellbutrin FAQs

Does Wellbutrin cause weight gain?

Wellbutrin (bupropion) is generally considered to be weight-neutral, meaning that it is unlikely to cause significant weight gain or weight loss in most people. In fact, it may lead to weight loss in some people due to its potential to reduce appetite and increase metabolism. That said, weight changes can still occur in some people taking Wellbutrin. The likelihood of weight gain is rare and will also depend on the dosage and length of time taking Wellbutrin, as well as other factors like metabolism and lifestyle.

What is Wellbutrin used for?

Wellbutrin SR is used to treat depression (major depressive disorder). Wellbutrin XL is used to treat depression and SAD (seasonal affective disorder).

Does Wellbutrin give you energy like Adderall?

Wellbutrin (bupropion) and Adderall (amphetamine/dextroamphetamine) are two different types of medications that work in different ways. While they may have some similar effects, they are not the same and are not typically used for the same purposes. Wellbutrin is an antidepressant medication that is sometimes used to treat ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). It may have some mild stimulant effects, like increasing energy and improving concentration, but these effects are not as strong as those of Adderall. Although Wellbutrin may have some mild stimulant effects, it is not typically used for the same purposes as Adderall

How long does it take for Wellbutrin to work?

The time it takes for Wellbutrin to start working can vary from person to person and depending on the condition being treated. It typically takes several weeks before the full therapeutic effects of the medication are felt. When prescribed for depression, it may take four to six weeks of treatment before improvements in mood are noticed. For smoking cessation, it may take a few weeks before the desire to smoke is reduced. For SAD (seasonal affective disorder), it may take one to two weeks before symptoms begin to improve.

Is it safe to mix Wellbutrin and alcohol?

No, it is not recommended to mix Wellbutrin and alcohol. Wellbutrin is an antidepressant medication that works on the brain’s chemistry, while alcohol is a depressant that can also affect brain function. Combining the two can increase the risk of side effects, including seizures.

Is Wellbutrin an SSRI?

No, Wellbutrin is not an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor). It is a different type of antidepressant medication known as an NDRI (norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitor). NDRI medications work by increasing the levels of the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain while SSRIs work primarily by increasing levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin. While both types of medications are commonly used to treat depression and other mental health conditions, they have different mechanisms of action and they can cause different side effects.

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Get Help for Wellbutrin Addiction at Renaissance Recovery

At Renaissance Recovery Center in Huntington Beach, we specialize in the intensive outpatient treatment of mental health conditions and addictions. We also provide coordinated dual diagnosis treatment for those with co-occurring disorders.

Choose a treatment program at the appropriate level of intensity at Renaissance, including:

  • PHPs (partial hospitalization programs)
  • IOPs (intensive outpatient programs)
  • Dual diagnosis treatment programs
  • Virtual IOPs (remote rehab programs)

All treatment programs at Renaissance provide individualized treatment for mental health issues like depression that combines holistic and evidence-based therapies that may include:

  • Medication-assisted treatment
  • Counseling (individual and group
  • Psychotherapy
  • Family therapy
  • Holistic therapies
  • Aftercare

 Call admissions at Renaissance today and we can help you address any mental health or substance use issues that are holding you back. Call 866.330.9449 for immediate assistance.

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