Wellbutrin (bupropion) is an atypical antidepressant of the aminoketone class of drugs.
It is frequently prescribed over other antidepressants because side effects such as weight gain or sexual dysfunction are less common.
In lower-dose formulations bupropion is marketed as Zyban and Voxra.
Wellbutrin is a mild psychostimulant which inhibits the reuptake of norepinephrine and dopamine.
Bupropion is mainly used to treat major depressive disorder (MDD). The effectiveness of the drug in treating MDD has been evaluated in a number of different studies.
One study published in the journal Clinical Drug Investigation concluded that bupropion is as effective as other antidepressant drugs, such as Zoloft, Prozac and Paxil.1
Unlike other antidepressants, Wellbutrin does not usually cause sexual dysfunction or weight gain.
In addition, research suggests that patients who don't respond to treatment with SSRIs may benefit from the addition of bupropion.2
There is evidence to suggest that bupropion is effective in helping reduce the severity of nicotine cravings and withdrawal symptoms. One study involving 707 smokers compared the effectiveness of 300 mg of bupropion daily for 7 weeks versus placebo. The researchers concluded that "bupropion SR in combination with counseling increased the abstinence rate compared with placebo, and was well tolerated."3
However, Wellbutrin was found to be slightly less effective than varenicline (Chantix) in a study published in BMC Public Health.4
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
In 2006, bupropion was approved by the FDA for the treatment of SAD; the first drug to be approved specifically for this condition.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
There have been studies demonstrating that bupropion can help treat symptoms of ADHD. A paper published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry reported that bupropion was somewhat effective at treating ADHD.5
However, according to the largest-double blind study of bupropion to date, carried out by GlaxoSmithKline, findings were inconclusive.5
Bupropion should not be taken by people who suffer from epilepsy or other conditions that lower their seizure threshold, such as:
In addition, people who take monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) should avoid taking bupropion because of severe adverse effects. Bupropion interacts with CYP2B6 inhibitors, including:
Caution should be taken when prescribing the drug to patients with hypertension and kidney disease.
Common side effects of Wellbutrin include:
- Stomach cramps
- Dry mouth
- Irregular bowel movements
- Difficulty sleeping.
Less frequent side effects of Wellbutrin include:
- High blood pressure
- Blurred vision
- Throat irritation
- Hearing problems
Written by Joseph Nordqvist