Can Taking Wellbutrin Really Help With Weight Loss?

People who suffer from depression or seasonal affective disorder have found Wellbutrin (generic name bupropion) to be an effective means of treatment. It's also used to help patients quit smoking under the name Zyban. In some cases, patients who suffer from depression and bipolar disorder can also benefit from treatment with Wellbutrin, as can some people who are affected by attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. People who are being treated with Wellbutrin tend to start on a lower dose and usually see results within four weeks or so.

According to a 2004 review published in The Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, Wellbutrin's ability to prevent the reuptake of the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine means that people taking the drug often do not experience some of the same symptoms associated with antidepressant therapy, including fatigue, sexual side effects, and weight gain. In fact, according to LifeMD, when it comes to weight and Wellbutrin, the drug may actually have the opposite effect of other antidepressant drugs, leading patients to shed pounds instead of putting them on.

Wellbutrin may help take weight off and keep it off

The weight-loss benefits of Wellbutrin were first picked up during the drug's clinical trials (per ro). During that time, it was found that 28% of patients experienced a weight loss of either 5 pounds or more while taking Wellbutrin. In addition, 35% of patients taking tricyclic antidepressants experienced weight gain, compared to just 9% of Wellbutrin patients.

Wellbutrin's efficacy as a weight-loss drug was reinforced by a 2016 study published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine. That study showed that non-smokers who took Wellbutrin for two years showed an average weight loss of around 7 pounds. Smokers, however, did not experience these effects. During the trial, patients taking fluoxetine, commonly known by the brand name Prozac, experienced weight gain.

In addition to helping patients lose weight, Wellbutrin may also be effective in keeping it off, according to a 2012 study published in Obesity. According to that study, Wellbutrin users lost between 7% and 10% of their body weight while taking the drug. After 11 months, they managed to maintain that weight loss.

Work with your doctor to stay healthy

While Wellbutrin itself has not yet been officially approved as a weight-loss treatment, bupropion is one of the active ingredients in Contrave, a weight-loss drug approved by the FDA. According to a 2015 review published in American Family Physician, Contrave, when combined with diet and exercise, showed a more improved weight loss in patients than those treated with a placebo. 

It's important to consider the side effects of Wellbutrin, which have been reported in approximately 10% of patients (per StatPearls). These can include headaches, nausea, insomnia, and blurred vision. A more serious side effect can be tachycardia or a raised heart rate. Of particular concern is the possibility of seizures and suicidal ideation. While these side effects are not common, it's advisable to talk with your doctor before deciding to try Wellbutrin, either for depression or weight loss. Balancing the drug with healthy lifestyle changes is the most important step.