Wellbutrin is the brand name of the medication bupropion.
Wellbutrin and bupropion are considered to be the same medication.
Wellbutrin can be incredibly helpful for people living with depression as well as some other conditions, such as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Still, it doesn’t work for everyone or may cause side effects that someone would rather not live with.
Going off of Wellbutrin may be the right solution in some instances but it may lead to Wellbutrin withdrawal symptoms.
Though typically mild, it’s best to know what may happen so you can work with your healthcare provider to create a plan to cope with these symptoms if they do occur.
In this article, I’ll discuss Wellbutrin, antidepressant discontinuation syndrome, potential symptoms, and helpful ways to cope with Wellbutrin withdrawal.
What Is Wellbutrin?
Wellbutrin (Bupropion) is a frequently prescribed antidepressant medication.
It is in the class of medications known as norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitors (NDRIs).
These medications adjust the balance of brain chemicals that may be causing depressive symptoms.
Wellbutrin is a popular antidepressant because it usually has fewer side effects and is less likely to cause weight gain, decreased sexual functioning, and fatigue when compared to other antidepressants.
Wellbutrin is primarily prescribed for treating major depressive disorder (MDD) and seasonal affective disorder.
It can also be prescribed to help with quitting smoking. In this instance, treatment typically lasts for up to 12 weeks. Wellbutrin works for about 20% of those who try it for smoking cessation.
For some patients, Wellbutrin may be used for:
- Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
- Weight loss
- Bipolar disorder
How Wellbutrin works
Wellbutrin works by helping the brain use the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine.
Low levels of these neurotransmitters are associated with symptoms of depression.
Over the course of a few weeks or months, Wellbutrin can help alleviate those symptoms.
Wellbutrin comes in two forms:
- Wellbutrin SR: This sustained-release version has to be taken more frequently, usually twice a day
- Wellbutrin XL: This extended-release version can be taken once a day because it stays in the body longer.
Antidepressant Discontinuation Syndrome
Antidepressants are commonly prescribed medications.
It is common for people who take them to eventually change medications or stop using antidepressants altogether.
In either case, this can lead to withdrawal symptoms that are called “antidepressant discontinuation syndrome”.
A healthcare provider should be contacted before stopping Bupropion (Wellbutrin) to create a plan to safely wean off of the medication
People who use antidepressants for a long time are at greater risk of antidepressant discontinuation syndrome.
Symptoms typically last for 1-2 weeks and are generally mild.
Symptoms of Wellbutrin Withdrawal
Wellbutrin appears to cause less severe withdrawal symptoms than other types of antidepressants.
Common signs and symptoms of withdrawal include:
- Muscle pain
- Difficulty sleeping
- Nicotine cravings (in people who use it to aid in smoking cessation)
Tips for Coping With Wellbutrin Withdrawal
Follow any instructions from your healthcare provider regarding slowly decreasing the medication dose.
If bothersome or severe withdrawal symptoms develop, your healthcare provider should be notified.
Also consider the items below to help support yourself through the process of stopping Wellbutrin.
Mood changes like irritability and anxiety can make you feel less in control.
Talking to a counselor or therapist may help to provide some routine and support during the transition, and may help you feel more in control of your feelings and mood.
If you plan to use psychotherapy to support your medication transition, plan to start your sessions before or as close to discontinuation as possible.
Closely follow the taper dosage
When you stop taking Wellbutrin, your healthcare provider may provide “taper” instructions.
This means the dose of the medication will gradually decrease until the medication has been stopped.
Careful dosing is very important during this time.
Follow your provider’s instructions and contact them if you have any questions.
Keep in communication with your healthcare provider
Your plan to work your way off of Wellbutrin may need to be adjusted if you experience withdrawal symptoms.
Stay in touch with your healthcare provider and let them know if you start feeling worse, experience unexpected symptoms, or have other concerns.
Eat right and exercise
Focusing on your overall health can provide a helpful routine while you transition off of Wellbutrin.
Plus, eating well-balanced meals and getting regular physical activity are also great ways to promote a good mood.
Additional wellness ideas include staying hydrated, getting enough sleep, and managing stress in proactive ways.
When to See a Doctor
See your healthcare provider if you want to talk about changing antidepressant medications, reducing your dosage, or if you have concerns about your tapering or withdrawal process of Wellbutrin.
While Wellbutrin is not commonly known to lead to withdrawal symptoms, serious side effects and symptoms can occur.
Because of this potential risk, it is important to follow your provider’s instructions for stopping Wellbutrin.
If you experience suicidal thoughts or other thoughts that concern you while going off of Wellbutrin, immediately go for medical care at the nearest healthcare facility.
You can also contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
If you feel you or a loved one is in danger, call 911 for immediate assistance.
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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.
15 Years of Clinical Experience With Bupropion HCl: From Bupropion to Bupropion SR to Bupropion XL. (2005).
Antidepressant Discontinuation Syndrome. (2017).
Bupropion-Associated Withdrawal Symptoms: A Case Report. (1999).
The Efficacy and Tolerability of Bupropion in the Treatment of Major Depressive Disorder. (2011).
Norepinephrine-Dopamine Reuptake Inhibitors. (n.d.).
The Use of Buproprion SR in Cigarette Smoking Cessation. (2008).