Wellbutrin, also known as bupropion, is an antidepressant, and as such a prescription medication. It can also help people quit smoking. In addition, some studies have found that Wellbutrin may also help reduce methamphetamine cravings.
Other names used for different variations of Wellbutrin include Zyban, Aplenzin, Forfivo, Chantix, and Budeprion.
In this article, we will discuss common and uncommon Wellbutrin side effects, talk about the main uses of this medication, and explain how to use it.
What Is Bupropion?
Bupropion is an aminoketone. The most commonly prescribed antidepressant medication in the Western world, bupropion first became available in 1985 when it was approved for clinical use in the US.
Medical experts have approved it for treating the seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and major depressive disorder (MDD), and as assistance for people who want to cease smoking. Wellbutrin can cause seizures for people susceptible to them, but unlike SSRI, it is less likely to cause sexual dysfunction or weight gain.
SSRI is short for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, a medication which boosts serotonin levels in the brain. Unlike most antidepressants which fall into the SSRI category, Wellbutrin is a norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitor or NDRI. As the name suggests, NDRI boosts the levels of neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine. Another name for it is noradrenaline.
Besides treating depression, bupropion helps people who want to quit smoking. It blocks nicotinic receptors, thus effectively preventing nicotine from binding to them.
What Does It Treat?
Although bupropion was tested as a treatment for weight loss, ADHD, and bipolar disorder, the tests came up negative. It can be used for these conditions, being prescribed as “off-label”, but your doctor has to justify why he or she thinks it would be helpful.
So far, researchers have only managed to find evidence of its effectiveness for treating depression and nicotine addiction.
Wellbutrin is used for seasonal affective disorder, conveniently abbreviated as SAD, lately also known as major depression with a seasonal pattern. It commonly occurs in the fall and winter, while it is less common in spring and summer.
Bupropion can also be used to relieve the symptoms of a more serious type of depression. Known as major depressive disorder (MDD), this condition occurs when a person has some of the following symptoms for periods longer than two weeks:
- Appetite changes (usually a decrease in appetite)
- Sleep deprivation
- A feeling of guilt, hopelessness, worthlessness, helplessness
- Feelings of emptiness and sadness accompanied by crying
- A lack of interest in any of the activities you used to enjoy
- Lack of focus, overthinking, restlessness
- Suicidal tendencies (thinking about or even planning your own death)
How to Take Wellbutrin
Wellbutrin is available in three forms: sustained release (SR), extended release (XR), and immediate release (IR). You can take it with food or on an empty stomach; it does not make a difference. To avoid side-effects, make sure to swallow the tablet whole if you are taking the SR or the XR forms.
The tablets come in 75, 100, and 150 mg variants, XR tablet being the most popular one. Single doses must not exceed 150 mg, and daily doses must not exceed 450 mg.
Based on the type and severity of a patient’s depression, doctors determine the dose suitable for its treatment. Following doctor’s instructions is mandatory to prevent risks and ensure effective treatment.
Do not take multiple products which contain bupropion at once. This includes both antidepressants and products which are used to cease smoking. Never take a higher dose than the one your doctor prescribed to you. Doctors will increase your dose slowly if needed because a sudden increase can cause seizures.
Staying Safe While Taking Wellbutrin
Now that you know what it’s used for and how it’s used, let’s take a look at the possible Wellbutrin side effects. We’ll discuss the most common side effects first, but we’ll also list some that are far less likely to occur.
In general, the side effects of bupropion are mild and tend to pass over the first two weeks as you carry on with your treatment. If you’re just starting the treatment, you may feel restless and agitated or even have trouble sleeping. These are all psychological effects which usually go away quickly.
Common Side Effects
More than 10% of users will experience some of the following side effects:
- Dry mouth
- Sickness in the stomach and vomiting
Next, there are some common side effects which affect less than 10% of users. These include:
- Fever or excessive sweating
- Increased blood pressure
- Appetite changes
- Chest pain
- Blurred vision
Less Common Side Effects
The following are rare side effects which affect 1% of the users:
- Low attention span
- Feeling distracted and confused
- Increased heartbeat
- Weight loss
Some side effects occur in only 0.01% of the cases and are considered extremely rare. These include:
- Changes in blood glucose levels
- Changes in urination frequency
- Fainting and palpitations
- Skin rashes
- Pain in muscles and joints
Seizures are another rare side effect, experienced by only 0.1% of Wellbutrin users. However, some factors can add to the risk, especially if you have a history of head injuries or seizures. Increasing the dose you take so that it exceeds the doctor’s recommendation also puts you at risk of seizures. Avoid bupropion if you have:
- Brain tumor
- Eating disorders
- Drug or alcohol addiction
- Liver diseases
Many antidepressants warn users that their use can increase suicidal thinking and behavior if it already exists. These people should thus avoid taking bupropion before resolving these issues. The doctor should check in with the patient regularly for any signs of depression symptoms getting worse.
Children, teens, and young adults are more likely to have suicidal thoughts than adults. Whether they’re on antidepressants or not, MDD patients should be monitored very closely for strange changes in behavior and suicidal ideas.
As you can see, there are many side effects of Wellbutrin (bupropion). Most of them are not severe and should not scare you. Although more dangerous side effects can also occur, these are very rare.
In any case, always follow the doctor’s instructions and report any changes you may notice. If you fall into the category of people who should not be taking Wellbutrin due to your medical history or other aforementioned reasons, make sure to share this information with your doctor.