The increased number of medications available to treat mental health conditions means you’re more likely to find a treatment that not only helps you manage your health but that also fits your lifestyle and minimizes unwanted side effects.
However, having more choices can also make it harder to determine which drug may be best for you.
While you should always rely on your healthcare provider to help select any prescription medications, you also want to be knowledgeable about your options.
In this article, I’ll discuss in depth the differences and similarities between Venlafaxine (Effexor) and bupropion (Wellbutrin).
I’ll explore the conditions they treat, common side effects, potential drug interactions, typical coverage and costs, and warnings. Lastly, I’ll explain when to see a healthcare provider about either medication.
Effexor vs Wellbutrin
Both Effexor and Wellbutrin address symptoms of depression by increasing different brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters.
In turn, they improve mood, support better sleep, and increase quality of life.
Still, each is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of different conditions.
While Effexor and Wellbutrin are both effective for the treatment of depression, they are in different drug classes.
Effexor is a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) type of antidepressant. Wellbutrin is an aminoketone drug.
These two medications work on different neurotransmitters.
- Effexor: Blocks the absorption of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine in the brain.
- Wellbutrin: Blocks the absorption of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. It does not impact serotonin levels.
Dosages of these two drugs also differ.
- Effexor: Available as generic or brand name as extended-release tablets in 37.5 milligrams (mg), 75 mg, and 150 mg. Typical dosage ranges from 75-225 mg per day in divided doses.
- Wellbutrin: Available as generic or brand name in immediate-release, sustained-release, or extended-release tablets in 75 mg or 100 mg. Typical dosage ranges from 100 mg 2-3 times per day.
Studies show that both Wellbutrin and Effexor are effective, but each person responds differently.
Clinical trials have demonstrated that Wellbutrin is as effective as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), a different class of drugs. Effexor has been shown to be more effective than SSRI antidepressants, although its adverse effects may lead fewer people to take Effexor long-term.
Both Effexor and Wellbutrin are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the long-term treatment of major depressive disorder in patients 18 and older.
They are similarly effective. Wellbutrin may have fewer sexual side effects than Effexor and other antidepressant medications, but otherwise the two are similar.
Wellbutrin and Effexor are FDA-approved to treat some of the same conditions, but they also have some different approved uses. Each may also be used off-label for other purposes.
|Major depressive disorder (MDD)||Yes||Yes|
|Social anxiety disorder||Yes||No|
|Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)||Yes||No|
|Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)||Off-label||Yes|
|Depression associated with bipolar disorder||Off-label||Off-label|
|Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)||Off-label||Off-label|
|Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)||Off-label||No|
|Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)||Off-label||No|
|Sexual dysfunction caused by other antidepressants||No||Off-label|
Common Side Effects
Both Wellbutrin and Effexor may cause some common side effects.
In many cases, these will lessen as your body adjusts to the medication.
If side effects worsen or become challenging to manage, talk to your medical provider.
Common side effects of Effexor include:
- Dry mouth
- Loss of appetite
- Daytime drowsiness
- Feelings of nervousness
- Muscle weakness
- Increased heart rate or palpitations
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Abnormal ejaculation
- Decreased libido
- Weight changes
Common side effects of Wellbutrin may include:
- Dry mouth
- Sore throat
- Muscle weakness
- Rapid pulse or palpitations
- Weight changes
Less commonly, Wellbutrin and Effexor may cause some serious side effects. These include:
- Worsened mental health symptoms
- Suicidal thoughts
- Agitation and hostility
If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your healthcare provider immediately and seek emergency medical care.
Both Effexor and Wellbutrin have the potential for drug interactions.
To help avoid these, tell your healthcare provider or pharmacist about any prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medications, as well as any supplements, herbs, or vitamins, that you take.
|Drug class||Medications||Interacts with Effexor?||Interacts with Wellbutrin?|
|Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)||IsocarboxazidPhenelzine||Yes, serious. Do not take within 14 days of each other.||Yes, serious. Do not take within 14 days of each other.|
|Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs)||NortriptylineOthers||Yes||Yes|
|Herbal supplement||St. John’s wortMelatoninOthers||Yes||Yes|
|Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)||IbuprofenNaproxenAspirin||Yes||No|
|Opioid pain relievers||TramadolOthers||Yes||Yes|
|Medications for bipolar disorder||LithiumAripiprazole||Yes||Yes|
These are not all the potential drug interactions.
Always check with your healthcare provider or pharmacist about your medicines before starting something new.
Coverage & Costs
Effexor and Wellbutrin have similar insurance and Medicare coverage.
Copays or out-of-pocket costs for Wellbutrin may be slightly higher than Effexor depending on your coverage, pharmacy, and location.
|Covered by insurance?||Yes||Yes|
|Covered by Medicare Part D?||Yes||Yes|
|Typical Medicare Part D copay||$0-$1||$0-$22|
|Typical cash price||$146||$100+|
|Standard dosage||30 tablets of 75 mg||30 tablets of 150 mg|
Antidepressants can improve mental health by supporting better balance of brain chemicals.
However, they also come with some serious warnings.
Both Effexor and Wellbutrin may increase the risk of mood problems or suicidal thoughts or behavior changes, particularly in younger people.
Tell your healthcare provider if you notice signs of behavior change or worsening mood (including aggression or hostility) or any thoughts of suicide or self-harm.
Seek emergency medical help if you become preoccupied with thoughts of suicide or harming yourself or others.
Both Effexor and Wellbutrin may increase blood pressure. Inform your doctor if you have a history of hypertension before starting either medication.
If you have normal blood pressure, monitor it at home while taking either of these medications, and tell your doctor if your levels increase.
Lastly, both Effexor and Wellbutrin may increase the risk of serotonin syndrome, especially if you take them with alcohol, illegal drugs, or other substances that affect serotonin in the brain.
Serotonin syndrome is a medical emergency and includes symptoms like elevated heart rate, increased blood pressure, fever, and lack of awareness.
When to See a Doctor
If you experience symptoms of depression, anxiety, or other mental health changes, speak with your medical provider.
They can discuss treatments such as prescription medication, therapy, and lifestyle changes to support your quality of life.
If you are taking Wellbutrin, Effexor, or other antidepressants and do not notice improvements or feel worse, see a doctor.
They may switch your medication or adjust your dosage.
How K Health Can Help
Think you might need a prescription for Effexor (Venlafaxine) or a prescription for Wellbutrin (Bupropion)?
K Health has clinicians standing by 24/7 to evaluate your symptoms and determine which prescription is right for you.
Get started with our free assessment, which will tell you in minutes if treatment could be a good fit. If yes, we’ll connect you right to a clinician who can prescribe medication and have it shipped right to your door.
Frequently Asked Questions
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.
K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
Bupropion: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Effectiveness as an Antidepressant. (2016).
A Double-Blind Comparison Between Bupropion XL and Venlafaxine XR: Sexual Functioning, Antidepressant Efficacy, and Tolerability. (2006).
Effexor (Venlafaxine Hydrochloride). (2012).
Efficacy and Tolerability of Venlafaxine Versus Specific Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors in Treatment of Major Depressive Disorder: A Meta-Analysis of Published Studies. (2012)
Efficacy, Tolerability, and Acceptability of Bupropion for Major Depressive Disorder: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized–Controlled Trials Comparison with Venlafaxine. (2013).
Venlafaxine, Desvenlafaxine. (2020).
Wellbutrin (Bupropion Hydrochloride). (2019).