Does Wellbutrin Cause Weight Loss?

With depression a prevalent mental disorder worldwide, antidepressants are also a common medication. While everyone may react differently to antidepressants, if someone were to experience weight changes, it is often weight gain. The antidepressant Wellbutrin is different, though, instead showing side effects of weight loss.

Despite these observances and clinical trials investigating the use of Wellbutrin as a weight-loss drug, it has not yet been FDA-approved for this purpose. However, those who take Wellbutrin for depression or smoking cessation may still find that it helps them to lose a few pounds.

What Is Wellbutrin?

Wellbutrin is a brand name for bupropion, an antidepressant medication. It is classed as an aminoketone and weakly inhibits the reuptake of dopamine and norepinephrine. 

This type of antidepressant differs from most other antidepressants, which typically boost serotonin levels in the brain. Wellbutrin, as a norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitor (NDRI), boosts norepinephrine and dopamine neurotransmitter levels.

Uses

The FDA has approved bupropion for the treatment of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and major depressive disorder (MDD), and to help someone quit smoking.

Bupropion has also shown benefits when prescribed “off-label,” or for a condition in which it has not been approved by the FDA. Some of these conditions include ADHD and bipolar disorder.

There have also been clinical trials for the usage of Wellbutrin for weight loss, ADHD, and bipolar depression, but it has not yet been FDA approved for these conditions.

Common Side Effects of Wellbutrin

Those who first start Wellbutrin may notice side effects such as restlessness, agitation, and insomnia. To help combat sleeping problems, temporarily lowering the dose or avoiding bedtime doses can help.

Additional side effects, affecting more than 10% of all Wellbutrin users, include:

  • headache
  • dry mouth
  • nausea and vomiting
  • difficulty sleeping

Wellbutrin And Weight Loss

Weight change is a common side effect of antidepressants, and although everyone reacts differently, weight gain is the most commonly observed weight change. However, Wellbutrin differs from other antidepressants because it is most commonly associated with weight loss, although researchers are unsure about why this occurs.

One theory behind the observance of Wellbutrin and weight loss has to do with the way that Wellbutrin affects dopamine and norepinephrine, two neurotransmitters that play a role in fullness (satiety), appetite, and feeding behaviors.

Increasing these neurotransmitter levels, which Wellbutrin does, may cause changes in eating, which could then manifest as weight loss.

Is Wellbutrin an Appetite Suppressant?

Wellbutrin is not an appetite suppressant, but it does affect the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. When these neurotransmitters increase, someone may not get hungry as often, or may become full sooner. This may explain why Wellbutrin can produce weight loss in some users.

Should You Use Wellbutrin to Lose Weight?

While research regarding Wellbutrin as a weight-loss drug is promising, it is currently not an FDA-approved treatment for obesity or weight loss. This is because the results surrounding Wellbutrin for weight loss are mixed, and for many, the weight loss is not significant.

However, there are some clinical trials showing that Wellbutrin can aid weight loss, especially when it is combined with healthy lifestyle changes such as regular exercise and a balanced diet.

According to one study, pairing Wellbutrin with a calorie-deficit diet showed decreases in body weight. After following a diet that reduced calorie intake by 500 calories a day for 12 weeks, almost twice as many participants who took Wellbutrin showed a 5% decrease in body weight compared to those who only followed the 500-calorie deficit.

Wellbutrin can also help with long-term weight loss. A study published in 2016 found that those who lost at least 5% of their body weight in the first 16 weeks of taking Wellbutrin had a higher likelihood of keeping off this weight when they continued the medication for at least a year.

How Much Weight Can You Lose with Wellbutrin?

In most of the clinical trials surrounding Wellbutrin, weight loss is minimal, typically measured in terms of 5% loss over the course of the first 3-4 months.

Since weight loss with Wellbutrin is minimal and gradual, there is often no concern of losing too much weight while taking Wellbutrin. However, if your weight is already low, this side effect may be something to discuss with your doctor. 

How Fast Is Weight Loss on Wellbutrin?

Wellbutrin is not a weight-loss drug, so results can be inconsistent regarding how fast someone loses weight. That being said, those who lose weight as a side effect of Wellbutrin typically notice changes within 8 weeks. Additionally, weight loss can be increased by implementing exercise and diet changes as well.

Wellbutrin Dosage

There are two forms of Wellbutrin: Wellbutrin SR, which comes in 100 mg, 150 mg, and 200 mg tablets, and Wellbutrin XL, which comes in 150 mg and 300 mg tablets. These tablets differ in the type of release. Wellbutrin SR is a sustained-release tablet, which is typically taken twice daily, once in the morning and once in the mid-afternoon. In comparison, Wellbutrin XL is an extended-release tablet that is only taken once a day.

It is crucial, especially for those taking the XR tablet, to swallow it whole, as breaking or chewing the tablet can increase the risk of overdose or seizures.

How Can DrHouse Help?

For those looking to start Wellbutrin, DrHouse can connect you with a board-certified doctor in just 15 minutes. During your appointment, your doctor can provide a consultation to decide if Wellbutrin is a good choice for you. Following your consultation, your doctor can write you a prescription for Wellbutrin.

Key Takeaways

Wellbutrin is an antidepressant medicine approved to treat depression and aid in smoking cessation. It works by increasing the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine, two neurotransmitters. Unlike other antidepressants, which often cause weight gain, Wellbutrin has shown the opposite effect and may cause weight loss.

While Wellbutrin is not an appetite suppressant, scientists suspect that it can change eating habits due to the increase in dopamine and norepinephrine it causes, which play a role in satiety, appetite, and feeding behaviors. When these neurotransmitters increase, you may eat less, which can lead to weight loss.

Clinical trials surrounding Wellbutrin for weight loss show promising results, especially when paired with exercise and diet changes, but it is currently not FDA-approved as a weight-loss drug. Still, you can meet with an online doctor to discuss Wellbutrin for depression or smoking cessation and discuss if its potential side effect of weight loss would be beneficial for you.

Sources

  • Patel, K., Allen, S., Haque, M., Angelescu, I., Baumeister, D., & Tracy, D. (2016). Bupropion: a systematic review and meta-analysis of effectiveness as an antidepressant. Therapeutic Advances In Psychopharmacology, 6(2), 99-144. doi: https://www.doi.org/10.1177/2045125316629071 
  • Jain, A., Kaplan, R., Gadde, K., Wadden, T., Allison, D., & Brewer, E. et al. (2002). Bupropion SR vs. Placebo for Weight Loss in Obese Patients with Depressive Symptoms. Obesity Research, 10(10), 1049-1056. doi: https://www.doi.org/10.1038/oby.2002.142 
  • Fujioka, K., Plodkowski, R., O’Neil, P., Gilder, K., Walsh, B., & Greenway, F. (2016). The relationship between early weight loss and weight loss at 1 year with naltrexone ER/bupropion ER combination therapy. International Journal Of Obesity, 40(9), 1369-1375. doi: https://www.doi.org/10.1038/ijo.2016.67 
  • Gadde, K., Parker, C., Maner, L., Wagner, H., Logue, E., Drezner, M., & Krishnan, K. (2001). Bupropion for Weight Loss: An Investigation of Efficacy and Tolerability in Overweight and Obese Women. Obesity Research, 9(9), 544-551. doi: https://www.doi.org/10.1038/oby.2001.71 

DrHouse articles are written by MDs, NPs, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. The contents of the DrHouse site are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you are experiencing high fever (>103F/39.4C), shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, chest pain, heart palpitations, abnormal bruising, abnormal bleeding, extreme fatigue, dizziness, new weakness or paralysis, difficulty with speech, confusion, extreme pain in any body part, or inability to remain hydrated or keep down fluids or feel you may have any other life-threatening condition, please go to the emergency department or call 911 immediately.

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