Effexor vs Wellbutrin: Differences and Similarities

By Craig Sorkin, DNP, APN
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
June 6, 2022

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.

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Differences

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.

Similarities

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.

Conditions Treated

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.

ConditionEffexorWellbutrin
Major depressive disorder (MDD)YesYes
Social anxiety disorderYesNo
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)YesNo
Panic disorderYesNo
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)Off-labelYes
Depression associated with bipolar disorderOff-labelOff-label
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)Off-labelOff-label
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)Off-labelNo
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)Off-labelNo
Sexual dysfunction caused by other antidepressantsNoOff-label
Smoking cessationNoOff-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:

Common side effects of Wellbutrin may include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Insomnia
  • Dizziness
  • Sweating
  • Constipation
  • Nervousness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Rapid pulse or palpitations
  • Weight changes
Side effectEffexorWellbutrin
DrowsinessYesNo
InsomniaYesYes
Dry mouthYesYes
DizzinessYesYes
NervousnessYesYes
NauseaYesYes
Weight changesYesYes
HeadacheYesYes
PalpitationsYesYes
SweatingYesYes
Muscle weaknessYesYes
Abnormal ejaculationYesNo
Decreased libidoYesNo

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.

Drug Interactions

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 classMedicationsInteracts with Effexor?Interacts with Wellbutrin?
Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)IsocarboxazidPhenelzineYes, serious. Do not take within 14 days of each other.Yes, serious. Do not take within 14 days of each other.
Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs)NortriptylineOthersYesYes
Other antidepressantsCitalopramEscitalopramFluoxetineYesYes
Herbal supplementSt. John’s wortMelatoninOthersYesYes
AnticoagulantsWarfarinOthersYesYes
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)IbuprofenNaproxenAspirinYesNo
Antiplatelet drugsClopidogrelYesNo
Opioid pain relieversTramadolOthersYesYes
AlcoholAny typeYesYes
Medications for bipolar disorderLithiumAripiprazoleYesYes
Anti-anxiety medicationAlprazolamBusparClonazepamOthersYesYes
StimulantsAmphetamineDextroamphetamineYesYes

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.

EffexorWellbutrin
Covered by insurance?YesYes
Covered by Medicare Part D?YesYes
Typical Medicare Part D copay$0-$1$0-$22
Typical cash price$146$100+
Standard dosage30 tablets of 75 mg30 tablets of 150 mg

Warnings

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.

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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

Did you know you can get affordable primary care with the K Health app?

Download K to check your symptoms, explore conditions and treatments, and if needed text with a doctor in minutes. K Health’s AI-powered app is HIPAA compliant and based on 20 years of clinical data.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which is better: Wellbutrin or Effexor?
Wellbutrin and Effexor are similarly effective for treating depression. Effexor may be more effective for anxiety, whereas Wellbutrin causes fewer sexual side effects. Your medical provider will choose the medication that is most likely to address your symptoms while causing the fewest side effects.
Is there a better antidepressant than Effexor?
The best antidepressant is the one that works for you. Many factors can influence your personal response to a medication. Your healthcare provider will prescribe the antidepressant that they think will be safest and most effective for your medical needs, keeping in mind interaction risks with other drugs you may take.
Is it OK to take Effexor and Wellbutrin together?
Wellbutrin and Effexor work on different brain chemicals. Sometimes healthcare providers prescribe them simultaneously for a combination treatment for major depression. Always follow your healthcare provider’s dosing instructions. Do not increase or decrease your dosage without consulting your healthcare provider.

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.

Craig Sorkin, DNP, APN

Craig Sorkin, DNP, APN is a board certified Family Nurse Practitioner with over 15 years experience. He received his Undergraduate and Graduate degrees from William Paterson University and his doctoral degree from Drexel University. He has spent his career working in the Emergency Room and Primary Care. The last 6 years of his career have been dedicated to the field of digital medicine. He has created departments geared towards this specialized practice as well as written blogs and a book about the topic.