How Effective Is Wellbutrin For Weight Loss?

Wellbutrin (also known as bupropion) is an antidepressant prescribed to manage symptoms of adult depression and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). It is commonly used to help with quitting smoking.¹

Off-label, non-FDA-approved uses of Wellbutrin also include treating other disorders, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression associated with bipolar disorder, and obesity

Patients typically start to see the therapeutic effects of Wellbutrin in the second week of treatment, with the effect lasting approximately 24 to 48 hours.¹

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How does Wellbutrin work?

How Wellbutrin works is still not clearly understood. Previous data shows that Wellbutrin acts on the brain’s norepinephrine and dopamine pathways¹.

Clinical trial data shows that taking Wellbutrin doubled abstinence rates, both in the short and long term compared to controls or the nicotine patch, suggesting Wellbutrin to be an effective smoking cessation aid.

Can you take Wellbutrin to lose weight?

Although Wellbutrin is not specifically designed to support weight loss, you may experience weight loss when taking it. As there is a lack of research, it is unclear how Wellbutrin contributes to weight loss, but clinical studies have observed changes in body weight in individuals treated with Wellbutrin.² ³ ⁵

Despite its proven weight loss effects, experts consider this a side effect of its main treatment purpose.

One study examined a combination therapy of naltrexone/bupropion (known as Contrave, which is commonly prescribed for obese individuals). Its findings suggest that the drugs affected brain reward pathways and other associated regions of the brain that influence food intake, cravings, and eating behaviors.⁴ Researchers concluded that this might be a potential mechanism for targeting weight loss.

Clinical studies have also investigated the effects of numerous antidepressants on body weight and observed that Wellbutrin was the only antidepressant that directly resulted in weight loss.² ³ Of those who took Wellbutrin, non-smokers lost approximately seven pounds over two years, whereas patients taking other antidepressants gained weight

Other clinical trial data shows that Wellbutrin can promote weight loss in obese patients. Sustained weight loss of 7% and 10% of initial body weight was observed in patients treated with 300 or 400mg per day of Wellbutrin, respectively, after 48 weeks of treatment.⁵

However, Wellbutrin may not be a universal weight loss treatment, as every person has unique biology and circumstances. What is right for one person may not be right for another.

Clinicians will assess your history and medical condition and may recommend Wellbutrin in combination with a healthy diet and exercise to support your weight loss outcomes.

Is Wellbutrin safe?

The therapeutic effects of Wellbutrin are typically experienced in the second week of taking the medication.⁶ Depending on its formulation, the time it takes for optimal concentrations of Wellbutrin to enter the bloodstream differs from two, three, and five hours for immediate, sustained, and extended releases, respectively.⁶

The effect lasts for approximately one to two days, during which time you should be monitored for any serious adverse effects associated with taking this medication.⁶

Like most drugs, Wellbutrin can cause adverse effects, which have been reported to occur in over 10% of patients.¹

Common side effects may include:

  • Headaches

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Dizziness

More serious adverse effects may include:¹

  • Cardiovascular problems, such as tachycardia (elevated heart rate) or hypertension (high blood pressure)

  • Seizures

  • Suicidal thoughts and behavior, especially in young adults.

If you experience any of these side effects while taking Wellbutrin, it is important to contact your healthcare professional immediately.

It is also important to note that Wellbutrin can interact with other drugs that you may be taking. These interactions may cause undesired and potentially serious side effects. Medications that may react with Wellbutrin include other antidepressants, such as monoamine oxidase inhibitors and anti-seizure drugs (like clopidogrel)¹.

In particular, seizure disorder is a significant contraindication to Wellbutrin use. As a result, you should avoid taking Wellbutrin if you take any anti-seizure medication or have personal factors that predispose you to seizures, such as severe head injuries, stroke, alcohol consumption, or taking sedatives.⁷ This is because concurrent administration of Wellbutrin can exacerbate potential seizure activity.

Caution should also be taken with new mothers who are still breastfeeding due to reports of Wellbutrin being detected in breast milk.⁸ If you have any questions about whether Wellbutrin may interfere with your current medication, you should seek medical advice from your healthcare provider or pharmacist.

The lowdown

Wellbutrin is an antidepressant that is also used to promote weight loss, compared to other antidepressants which have not been shown to produce this effect. Numerous clinical trials have reported reduced body weight in patients taking Wellbutrin, indicating it may be an effective treatment for weight loss.

While the mechanisms of how Wellbutrin supports weight loss are unclear and have not been the subject of significant research to date, medical experts suggest that the medication affects the brain reward pathways that influence food intake, cravings, and behavior.

Despite being generally well-tolerated by patients, there are potential adverse effects of taking Wellbutrin. Consult your healthcare professional to discuss whether Wellbutrin is a safe option for you to help with weight loss.

Have you considered clinical trials for Weight management?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Weight management, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

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