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Does Wellbutrin cause weight loss?

Does Wellbutrin cause weight loss?

Wellbutrin is an FDA-approved (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) prescription medication used to treat adult depression and seasonal affective disorder. These conditions significantly impact many people’s lives. Interestingly, the active ingredient in Wellbutrin may also be used for smoking cessation and, off-label, for addressing ADHD and weight management issues.

The potential of Wellbutrin and its weight loss benefits has gained attention, particularly among those seeking dual benefits of mood improvement and weight management. This article aims to look at the efficacy and tolerability of Wellbutrin for weight loss, comparing it with other antidepressants, and to provide you with clear patient-friendly insights into how Wellbutrin might benefit your wellness journey, especially if you’re dealing with ADHD and looking for weight loss solutions.

Understanding Wellbutrin

Wellbutrin, known generically as bupropion, serves multiple therapeutic purposes, but is primarily an antidepressant medication, that also aids in smoking cessation. Wellbutrin is a norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitor (NDRI), meaning it boosts dopamine and norepinephrine levels. Both these neurotransmitters play an important role in controlling appetite. Here we will delve into its pharmacological properties and the practical considerations for its use.

Generic name and brand names

  • Generic Name: Bupropion
  • Brand Names: Wellbutrin, Aplenzin, Forfivo XL, Zyban

Forms, dosage, and administration

Bupropion is available in various forms, each requiring different dosing schedules:

  • Regular tablet (Wellbutrin): Administered three to four times daily
  • Sustained-release tablet (Wellbutrin SR, Zyban): Taken twice daily
  • Extended-release tablet (Aplenzin, Wellbutrin XL): Consumed once daily in the morning

Patients are advised to start with a low dose, gradually escalating to avoid side effects. Consistency in taking the medication, even after symptom relief is crucial to prevent relapse.

Precautions, side effects, and interactions

Bupropion’s use comes with necessary precautions due to potential side effects ranging from mild to severe:

  • Common side effects: Drowsiness, dry mouth, constipation, headaches, nausea, and weight loss
  • Severe reactions: Seizures, hallucinations, and severe allergic reactions
  • Drug interactions: Caution is advised when combined with monoamine oxidase inhibitors and anti-seizure medications

Patients with a history of seizures or eating disorders such as anorexia are advised against using bupropion. Patients should also discuss their mental health backgrounds and any other medications they are taking with their healthcare provider, to avoid adverse effects.

Wellbutrin and weight loss: What does the research say?

Research on Wellbutrin (bupropion) and its effects on weight loss has been extensively documented, providing valuable insights for those considering this medication for weight management, particularly in conjunction with mood disorders such as major depressive disorder or ADHD. Below are key findings from various clinical studies:

Clinical trials and weight loss outcomes

24-Week multicenter study:

  • Participants: 327 obese adults
  • Groups: Placebo, bupropion SR 300 mg/d, bupropion SR 400 mg/d
  • Results at 24 weeks: Bupropion SR 300 mg/d: Average weight loss of 7.2%, Bupropion SR 400 mg/d: Average weight loss of 10.1%
  • Long-term effectiveness: At 48 weeks, participants maintained an average weight loss of 7.5% and 8.6% for the 300 mg and 400 mg doses, respectively

Combination therapy study:

  • Medication: Naltrexone/bupropion (Contrave)
  • Findings: Influences brain reward pathways, reducing food intake and cravings

Comparative analysis with other antidepressants:

  • Antidepressants and weight loss: Wellbutrin, along with Prozac and Efexor, has shown potential for weight loss
  • Antidepressants and weight gain: Other antidepressants like Paxil, Celexa, and Remeron are generally associated with weight gain

Statistical data on weight loss

Percentage of participants achieving significant weight loss:

  • Placebo: 46% lost ≥5% of initial body weight
  • Bupropion SR 300 mg/d: 59% lost ≥5%
  • Bupropion SR 400 mg/d: 83% lost ≥5%

The above data underscores the potential of Wellbutrin, particularly in higher doses, to aid in significant and sustained weight loss. This makes it a compelling option for those concerned about the weight gain typically associated with the use of other antidepressants.

Comparing Wellbutrin with other antidepressants

Meta-analysis of bupropion vs. other antidepressants

A comprehensive meta-analysis encompassing 51 studies evaluated the effectiveness of bupropion both as a standalone treatment and when co-prescribed with other antidepressants. The findings revealed that bupropion is superior to placebo and shows comparable efficacy to other antidepressants in most head-to-head trials. It’s important to note however, that some of these trials did not include a placebo-controlled arm, which could influence the robustness of these comparisons.

Bupropion in treatment-resistant depression

Bupropion has shown promise for treatment-resistant depression. The STAR*D trial, one of the largest multi-medication studies, highlighted bupropion’s effectiveness, which was comparable to other medications typically prescribed for this challenging patient group. Despite generally low response rates in these cohorts, bupropion remains a real option, suggesting its robustness across different depression types.

Combination medication

The combination of bupropion and escitalopram has been studied for its impact on body mass index (BMI). Data taken from electronic medical records indicated that this combination might lead to a significant increase in BMI compared to using either medication alone. This is particularly important for patients where weight management is a concern alongside depression treatment. In contrast, bupropion alone, particularly in formulations like the extended-release combination with naltrexone (Contrave), has been associated with weight loss, which is beneficial for patients at risk of obesity-related complications.


Looking at Wellbutrin, especially in terms of its efficacy and tolerability for weight loss alongside its primary use in managing depression and aiding smoking cessation, it’s clear that this medication stands as a versatile option for patients.

The research and clinical trials discussed provide a significant reason for considering Wellbutrin, particularly for individuals struggling with weight management in conjunction with mood disorders or smoking addiction, and highlights Wellbutrin’s unique position in the array of treatment options, with its potential advantages over other antidepressants which may lead to weight gain.

Always speak to a healthcare professional about any medical conditions you have and medications you are taking including over-the-counter treatment and supplements before starting any new treatments.


Medical Disclaimer

NowPatient has taken all reasonable steps to ensure that all material is factually accurate, complete, and current. However, the knowledge and experience of a qualified healthcare professional should always be sought after instead of using the information in this page. Before taking any drug, you should always speak to your doctor or another qualified healthcare provider.

The information provided here about medications is subject to change and is not meant to include all uses, precautions, warnings, directions, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or negative effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a particular medication does not imply that the medication or medication combination is appropriate for all patients or for all possible purposes.

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