Chances are, you know someone who takes some sort of psychiatric medicine. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 12.7% of the U.S. population over age 12 in 2017 took antidepressants in the past month and one in six Americans take some sort of psychiatric drug.
With the prevalence of antidepressants, how do we distinguish between the many types? Wellbutrin is a norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitor (NDRI) that stands out among the host of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which are the most common drug for depression treatment. SSRIs are known to come with side effects like nausea, insomnia, diarrhea, weight changes, and nervousness.
While SSRIs are also notorious for their unwanted influence on libido and orgasms, Wellbutrin is an antidepressant alternative that has been shown to cause fewer sexual side effects and can even improve sexual function in some cases.
Wellbutrin, or bupropion, is an NDRI antidepressant that is FDA approved to treat major depressive disorder (MDD) and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). The drug is prescribed off label to help with bipolar disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Because it has also been known to help people quit smoking, the drug could be a good choice for those who are affected by mood disorders and want to quit smoking. Wellbutrin comes in the form of an oral tablet.
Much like most medication for mood disorders, Wellbutrin works most effectively to decrease the symptoms of depression over the course of a few weeks. In the first 1-2 weeks, physical symptoms related to energy levels, sleep, or appetite tend to improve first, followed by mood improvement and renewed interest in activities in 4-6 weeks.
For long-term improvement, it's important to keep using bupropion even after symptoms have subsided to ensure depressive symptoms don't return. However, if you're taking Wellbutrin to quit smoking, the period of use may be shorter. Please consult your provider on the length of your treatment and do not stop taking or change the dosage without asking your healthcare provider first.
When taking medication that may affect your mood and behavior, it's important to be diligent about how and when you're taking it. Here are some best practices for taking Wellbutrin:
There are three formulations and dosing variations. Please consult your doctor to find the appropriate treatment:
Side effects are usually resolved in the first 1-2 weeks of treatment and are typically mild. Unlike many antidepressants, Wellbutrin does not typically lower libido or cause sexual side effects and is often prescribed along with other antidepressants to counter the sexual side effects other drugs might have. For those with bipolar disorder, Wellbutrin may lead to manic episodes.
The most common side effects are:
Rare side effects occur in less than 10% of patients and include:
Other drugs may influence how Wellbutrin works or increase side effects:
Please consult a medical professional to see if Wellbutrin is a good fit for your condition.
Dr. Ho Anh
Chief Medical Officer at Cerebral