How Taking Wellbutrin Could Cause Weight Loss

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Are you taking Wellbutrin (bupropion) or considering going on the medication? Wellbutrin is primarily used as an anti-depressant but sometimes is prescrbed for other uses such as smoking cessation. Many consumers wonder if they will lose or gain weight on Wellbutrin. While your health care provider and/or pharmacist is always the best source of information about your prescriptions and how they might impact your body, this guide will help give you basic information about bupropion and weight loss.

What Is Wellbutrin?

Bupropion is sold under several different brand names including Aplenzin, Budeprion SR, Budeprion XL, Buproban, Forfivo XL, Wellbutrin, Wellbutrin SR, Wellbutrin XL, and Zyban. Many patients take Wellbutrin to manage depression or symptoms of depression. The medication may be prescribed for:

  • Major depressive disorder (MDD): A combination of symptoms including sadness, feeling low for several weeks, a lack of interest in activities, sleep problems, changes in appetite and/or a feeling of worthlessness. Symptoms generally last for several weeks or longer. Your healthcare provider can tell you if your symptoms indicate a major depressive disorder.
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD): Depressive symptoms that present during seasonal changes—usually in the fall and winter months when days are shorter—can be a sign of seasonal affective disorder. This condition is also referred to as major depression with a seasonal pattern.
  • Smoking cessation: The medication may be used as part of a comprehensive program to help manage symptoms while you quit smoking.

Wellbutrin is available only by prescription so you would need to see your healthcare provider to determine if the medication is right for you.

Once prescribed, you take the medication as directed for the length of time needed. People who use Wellbutrin for MDD may be on the medication for a longer period of time. Those with SAD may take it only when symptoms arise and those who use it to ease cravings while they quit smoking might stop taking the medication once they have fully kicked the habit. Together, you and your doctor can determine when it is time for you to stop taking Wellbutrin.

Is Weight Loss a Side Effect of Wellbutrin?

According to the prescribing information for the medication, you may experience changes in body weight when you take Wellbutrin. But the change might be weight loss or weight gain.

In clinical trials lasting up to six months for Wellbutrin XL (extended-release oral tablets), about 3 percent of study participants gained more than five pounds while taking 300 mg daily. Two percent gained more than five pounds while taking 400 mg daily and 4 percent gained weight taking the placebo.

With regards to weight loss, 14 percent lost more than five pounds while taking 300 mg daily, while 19 percent lost more than five pounds while taking 400 mg daily. Six percent of study participants lost more than five pounds while taking a placebo.

Both weight loss and weight gain have been reported in studies of weight changes while taking Wellbutrin.

You may experience weight loss as a side effect of the medication for reasons that are not directly related to the drug. For example, you should not drink alcohol while taking Wellbutrin. If you currently drink on a regular basis, the calorie reduction that happens when you stop consuming alcohol may result in weight loss.

In addition, if you eat to manage depression, you may find that getting some relief from depressive symptoms may help you to eat only when you are hungry and not in response to your feelings.

Should I Take Wellbutrin to Lose Weight?

Even though you may experience weight loss on Wellbutrin, this medication is not specifically designed for losing weight. However, if you are taking (or plan to take) an anti-depressant and worry about possible weight gain, it is important to note that Wellbutriin is less likely to cause weight gain than many other anti-depressants.

If you are interested in taking a weight loss pill, talk to your healthcare provider about taking a medication for weight loss. Options may include Qsymia, Saxenda, Contrave or others. There are also medical procedures and bariatric surgery solutions that are available if you have tried traditional methods of weight loss, such as diet modifications and exercise, without success.

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Article Sources
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  1. Medication Guide Wellbutrin (WELL byu-trin) (bupropion hydrochloride) SR Sustained-Release Tablets. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Published 2013.

  2. Bupropion hydrochloride (marketed as Wellbutrin, Zyban, and generics) Information. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Updated December 8, 2016.

  3. Medications for the Treatment of Depression. Cleveland Clinic. Reviewed December 28, 2016.

  4. Fava M, Rush AJ, Thase ME, et al. 15 years of clinical experience with bupropion HCl: from bupropion to bupropion SR to bupropion XL. Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry. 2005;7(3):106-13. doi:10.4088/pcc.v07n0305

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