Wellbutrin Review: A Miracle for Major Depression?

Wellbutrin Review: A Miracle for Major Depression?

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​​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 US 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.

But is Wellbutrin proven in clinical studies to reduce symptoms of depression? Does the medication cause side effects? How does Wellbutrin compare to other antidepressants? And how do real users rate and describe its effects?

In this article we'll answer all of these questions and more, as we analyze clinical studies on Wellbutrin to determine if it's effective for relieving depression.

We'll also document side effects of the drug, share reviews from Wellbutrin patients, and explain if Wellbutrin causes weight loss.

Does Wellbutrin Relieve 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, which is unsurprising given that the medication is approved for that indication by the FDA.

Does Wellbutrin Cause Side Effects?

Wellbutrin black box warning

There is a black box warning on Wellbutrin's FDA 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.

YouTuber Tries Wellbutrin

One of the most popular YouTube reviews of Wellbutrin is from a creator named Torie Bram, who shares her experience after using the drug after six months:

Does Wellbutrin Cause Weight Loss?

Although Wellbutrin is not currently FDA-approved for the treatment of obesity, some clinical trials have shown an association between Wellbutrin use and weight loss.

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.

more recent review on Wellbutrin analyzed clinical trial data and found that the medication caused weight loss.

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.”

Weight loss may 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 are associated with 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 tested 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 may also be greater when taking two drugs compared with one.

Patients with severe depression may 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 efficacy of Wellbutrin versus selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) drugs for treating anxiety.

Wellbutrin reduced anxiety scores by 56%, which was slightly less than SSRI treatment.

It's important to note that the patients in these studies were diagnosed with depression, so this does not necessarily suggest that Wellbutrin relieves anxiety in patients without depression.

This research suggests that anxiety relief may be a potential secondary benefit of Wellbutrin in patients with both depression and anxiety.

Patients Rate Wellbutrin

Drugs.com is a website that allows patients on prescription medication to rate and review the drugs they're taking.

We cannot verify the accuracy or authenticity of any reviews on this site.

Wellbutrin has been reviewed over 700 times on Drugs.com at the time of updating this article, and has an average review rating of 6.9 out of 10 for the treatment of depression.

A top positive review comes from a user named "Courtney R" who gave the drug a 10/10 rating:

"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."

A top negative review is written by a user named "TheTwizler" who gave the drug a 1/10 rating:

"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."

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). 

Wellbutrin delays natural processing of norepinephrine and dopamine, resulting in artificially increased levels of both neurotransmitters in the brain.

Some 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 On Wellbutrin?

Wellbutrin's FDA label states that there have been rare cases of "adverse neuropsychiatric events" when combining alcohol and Wellbutrin.

The drug's 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 Picks

Brightside Health is our top overall mental wellness pick.

Brightside is an online therapy and medication platform that connects patients with licensed therapists and psychiatrists from the comfort of their home.

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.

Mindbloom is our top alternative mental wellness pick.

Mindbloom offers ketamine therapy, and over 88% of patients experienced relief of anxiety and depression symptoms in a clinical trial on the brand.

Stay up-to-date on our research reviews


Wellbutrin is effective for treating depression, and may also reduce symptoms of anxiety in depressed patients. 

The drug does have the potential to cause significant side effects, including suicidal thoughts and rapid heart beat. 

According to medical research, over 10% of Wellbutrin patients experience side effects to the medication.

Wellbutrin seems to cause weight loss in overweight and obese patients, but is not FDA-approved for weight loss alone.

This may be a secondary benefit of the drug for overweight and obese patients who are prescribed Wellbutrin for depression.

Lexapro appears to be more effective than Wellbutrin based on comparative studies, but also seems to cause more side effects.