Disclaimer: None of the information in this article constitutes medical advice, and is just the opinion of the writer(s). We recommend that patients follow their doctor’s guidance in regard to prescription medication.
Wellbutrin is an FDA-approved antidepressant that's taken by millions of patients annually in the U.S. alone. The generic version of this drug is called bupropion, and we'll use these terms interchangeably throughout this article as they refer to the same active drug ingredient.
Is Wellbutrin proven in medical studies to reduce symptoms of depression? Does the medication cause side effects? How does Wellbutrin compare to other antidepressants? Can the drug cause weight loss? And how do real users rate its effects?
In this article we'll answer all of these questions and more as we review clinical studies on Wellbutrin to determine if it's effective for reducing depression scores, document side effects of the drug and share real, unsponsored user reviews from Wellbutrin patients.
Does Wellbutrin Resolve Depression?
Wellbutrin was initially approved for treatment of major depressive disorder (MDD) in 1985, so it's been studied extensively.
A medical review published in the Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology journal found that Wellbutrin reduced depression scores in 24 of 27 clinical trials.
In trials where Wellbutrin was compared with placebo, it was superior in 5 of the 6 trials. The researchers also noted that Wellbutrin was found to be similarly effective to other antidepressant medications like sertraline (brand name Zoloft) but not superior.
A 2005 meta-study concluded similar: that Wellbutrin in all of its formats (extended release, sustained release, immediate release) was effective for treating major depressive disorder. The review also noted that Wellbutrin had a lower incidence of common side effects caused by antidepressants such as sexual dysfunction and weight gain.
We will conclude from the available research that Wellbutrin is effective for treating depression.
Wellbutrin Side Effects
There is a black box warning on Wellbutrin's label, shown above, which states that the drug may increase the risk of suicidal thoughts and actions in children, adolescents and young adults. This is the most serious type of warning required by the FDA, and documents side effects that may be life-threatening.
A medical review on Wellbutrin found that “many side effects occur” in over 10% of patients on the medication. Some of the most common side effects are tachycardia (rapid heart beat), headache, insomnia and constipation.
It may be worthwhile for young adult patients (or the guardian of pediatric patients) to speak with their doctor about alternative medications that do not confer a risk of suicidal behavior. Since this risk does not appear to affect older adults, the at-risk group may benefit from considering different antidepressants.
Wellbutrin Real, Unsponsored User Review
One of the most popular YouTube reviews of Wellbutrin is published by a creator named Torie Bram. She shares her experience using the drug after six months. The video is unsponsored:
Does Wellbutrin Cause Weight Loss?
Patients are often curious about whether Wellbutrin causes weight loss. The drug does appear to have this effect in some cases.
A clinical trial published in the Obesity Research Journal found that Wellbutrin was significantly more effective than placebo for causing weight loss in obese patients. Patients on Wellbutrin lost 4.6% of their baseline weight over 12 weeks, while the placebo group lost an average of 1.8% of their baseline weight.
A more recent review of Wellbutrin for weight loss analyzed clinical trial data and found that the medication did cause weight loss on average. The researchers noted that although Wellbutrin isn’t approved by the FDA for weight loss, “There might be a role for this drug as a second-line consideration for obesity.”
It appears that Wellbutrin can cause weight loss in overweight and obese patients, though it is not FDA-approved for weight loss alone.
Weight loss can be considered a secondary benefit of the medication for overweight and obese patients who are taking Wellbutrin for depression. This may make the drug a better option for overweight patients than other antidepressants (many of which actually cause weight gain).
Wellbutrin Vs. Lexapro
Lexapro is another commonly-prescribed antidepressant, so patients are often curious about whether Wellbutrin or Lexapro is more effective. There have been studies comparing the effects of both drugs.
A clinical trial published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry compared the efficacy and sexual side effects of Wellbutrin and Lexapro.
Lexapro was found to be more effective for treating depression, as Wellbutrin failed to outperform placebo pills in regard to depression scores. However, 30% of patients on Lexapro experienced negative sexual side effects such as orgasm dysfunction compared to only 15% of patients on Wellbutrin.
Another clinical trial compared the effects of Wellbutrin and Lexapro combined for treating depression. 62% of patients on the combined treatment responded (meaning they experienced a reduction in depression symptoms) and 50% of patients experienced full remission (meaning they were no longer clinically depressed).
This study suggests that Wellbutrin and Lexapro combined may be more effective than either drug in isolation, but the risk of side effects will be greater when taking two drugs compared with one, so perhaps only patients with severe depression should consider speaking with their doctor about this option.
Does Wellbutrin Reduce Anxiety?
Wellbutrin is only FDA-approved for the treatment of depression, but patients with both anxiety and depression are often curious whether the drug can relieve their anxiety symptoms as well.
A 2008 medical review compared the effectiveness of Wellbutrin and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) drugs which is a common drug class used to treat anxiety disorders.
Wellbutrin reduced anxiety scores by 56%, which was slightly less than SSRI treatment. It's important to note that these studies were on a depressed patient population, so this does not prove that Wellbutrin treats anxiety in patients that are not depressed.
Based on this research, it seems like Wellbutrin may be effective for patients with both anxiety and depression at reducing symptoms of both conditions.
Is Wellbutrin an SSRI?
Wellbutrin is not an SSRI, but it has a similar mechanism of action. SSRI drugs artificially increase circulating levels of a neurotransmitter called serotonin by delaying its biological processing by the body.
Wellbutrin affects reuptake of norepinephrine and dopamine instead. This makes it a SNDRI (selective norepinephrine dopamine reuptake inhibitor).
This means that Wellbutrin delays natural processing of norepinephrine and dopamine, resulting in artificially increased levels of both neurotransmitters in the brain.
Researchers theorize that patients experiencing depression may have lower levels of norepinephrine and dopamine than neurotypical patients, so this mechanism of action may normalize symptoms and relieve depression.
Can I Drink Alcohol While On Wellbutrin?
Wellbutrin's FDA label states that there have been rare cases of "adverse neuropsychiatric events" when combining alcohol and Wellbutrin. The drug manufacturer suggests that patients reduce or minimize use of alcohol while taking Wellbutrin.
Given this negative interaction and warning, it's extremely important that patients are honest with their doctor about their alcohol use prior to taking Wellbutrin. Even moderate alcohol intake may increase the risk of side effects according to the drug's label.
If a patient is unable to refrain from using alcohol while on Wellbutrin, their doctor may be able to prescribe them an alternative antidepressant that does not interact negatively with alcohol.
Our Mental Wellness Recommendation
We recommend a platform called Brightside to patients on a mental health journey. It's an online therapy and medication platform that connects patients with licensed therapists and doctors from the comfort of their home.
A medical review published in the Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy journal found that online therapy was equally effective to in-person therapy for treating depression, anxiety and PTSD. Therapy may be a good first option for patients who want to avoid the side effects of medication.
Brightside also can connect patients with licensed psychiatrists that can prescribe medication. Some patients choose only therapy, some choose only medication, and some choose both. The brand reports that 86% of members feel significantly better within 12 weeks of treatment.
Patients with and without health insurance can use Brightside. For many patients with health insurance, treatment is entirely covered by insurance.
The cost for medication without health insurance is capped at $95/month and the cost for therapy without health insurance is capped at $299/month.
Interested patients can check out Brightside at this link to the brand's website.
Real Patient Reviews of Wellbutrin
Wellbutrin has been reviewed over 600 times on Drugs.com, which is a website that allows users of prescription medication to share their experience and rate the drug(s) they're taking.
The medication has an average rating of 6.9 out of 10 for treating depression.
The top positive review comes from a user named "Courtney R" who claims that Wellbutrin significantly improved their quality of life:
"Background: depression, anxiety, intrusive thoughts, seasonal depression I went with Wellbutrin because it had the least side effects compared to most depression medications and it was recommended by many people. I must say it really has been life changing. When I started Wellbutrin it made me think much clearer. While I still do get thoughts, they are not intrusive."
The top negative review is written by a user named "TheTwizler" who claims that the drug caused many side effects:
"I'm on day 3 of wellbutrin. So far it's been miserable. I'm on the lowest dose and still having horrible stomach side effects. I can't eat, I have no appetite, severe diarrhea with intense stomach pain. I'm also exhausted but can't seem to sleep more than a few hours at a time. My mouth is dry and my eyeballs feel like sandpaper."