- What is Wellbutrin?
- Side effects
- Wellbutrin for ADHD
- Is it effective?
- Risks and considerations
- Suicide prevention
Doctors will usually prescribe stimulant drugs, such as Ritalin, Concerta, or Vyvanse, for treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. However, not everyone can tolerate these stimulant medications.
Nonstimulant treatments, such as Wellbutrin, are common alternatives that doctors can prescribe to people with ADHD. Wellbutrin is an antidepressant that researchers have tested for the treatment of ADHD in adults.
In this article, we discuss the effectiveness, side effects, warnings, and doses of Wellbutrin for treating ADHD in adults.
What is Wellbutrin?
Doctors may prescribe Wellbutrin for depression, seasonal affective disorder, and ADHD.
Wellbutrin is one brand of the generic drug bupropion. People use bupropion for treating depression and seasonal affective disorder, and as an aid for quitting smoking.
Some doctors also prescribe Wellbutrin for antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction, obesity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and depressive episodes in people with bipolar disorder.
Wellbutrin acts on norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain, which are two chemicals associated with mood.
Wellbutrin is available in three formulations:
Extended release formulations release the medication throughout a 12-hour or 24-hour period.
The different formulations also have different “peak serum concentration” times when the level of medication in the blood is highest.
Peak serum concentration
Wellbutrin is available in the following strengths in milligrams (mg).
immediate release bupropion: 75 mg and 100 mg
sustained release Wellbutrin: 100 mg, 150 mg, and 200 mg
extended release Wellbutrin: 150 mg and 300 mg
People may experience side effects when taking Wellbutrin. Researchers estimate that side effects may occur in at least 1 in 10 people taking the drug.
Side effects of Wellbutrin can include:
Wellbutrin for ADHD
ADHD is a psychological condition that affects both children and adults. People with ADHD may find it difficult to concentrate or pay attention. Other symptoms include impulsivity and hyperactivity.
These symptoms can interfere with a person’s daily functioning or a child’s development.
Doctors often prescribe stimulant medications and recommend therapy for people living with ADHD. However, not everyone responds well or tolerates stimulant medications.
People with other psychiatric conditions or tic disorders cannot use some stimulant medications.
Stimulant medications are controlled substances with a potential for abuse, so they may not be suitable for some people.
As an alternative to stimulants, doctors can prescribe Wellbutrin to treat symptoms of ADHD in adults. Doctors do not know the safety and efficacy of Wellbutrin in children.
List of ADHD medications: Comparing types
Learn about a variety of ADHD medications here, including both stimulants and nonstimulants.
Is it effective?
Previous research suggests that taking Wellbutrin can help treat symptoms of ADHD.
In 2017, researchers reviewed six clinical studies that evaluated the effects and side effects of Wellbutrin compared with a placebo in adults with ADHD.
Each study used a long-acting formulation of Wellbutrin and doses ranging from 150 mg to 450 mg per day.
The results of this study showed a possible benefit of using Wellbutrin to treat symptoms of ADHD in adults. The researchers found evidence that Wellbutrin decreased the severity of ADHD symptoms.
Wellbutrin also increased the proportion of participants who experienced a significant improvement in ADHD symptoms. People who took Wellbutrin were 50% more likely to improve compared to people who received a placebo (no treatment).
The studies included in the analysis were only 6 to 10 weeks long, so researchers still do not know the long term effects of Wellbutrin. And the studies only looked at ADHD in adults, so they do not know whether Wellbutrin will have the same effect in children.
Researchers need to do more studies to investigate the safety and efficacy of Wellbutrin for treating symptoms of ADHD. They also need time to investigate the long term effects.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have not approved Wellbutrin for treating ADHD. When doctors prescribe it “off-label” for this purpose, they must refer to clinical studies to find the right dosage.
A doctor may begin by prescribing 150 mg per day and slowly increasing the dose until it is effective, up to a maximum of 450 mg per day.
Risks and considerations
Taking antidepressants can increase the risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors in children, adolescents, and young adults.
Wellbutrin is an antidepressant, and antidepressants can increase the risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors in children, adolescents, and young adults.
Doctors need to monitor people taking Wellbutrin for suicidal thoughts and behaviors during the first few months of them taking the drug, and whenever the doctor increases the dose.
Wellbutrin can also cause seizures. The risk of seizures is greater in people taking higher doses of the medication.
If any person experiences a seizure while taking Wellbutrin, they should seek treatment, and their doctor will change their medication.
Some people also experience high blood pressure when taking Wellbutrin, so a doctor will regularly check a person’s blood pressure.
The risk of high blood pressure is greater when people use Wellbutrin alongside some other medications, such as monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs).
If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:
Call 911 or the local emergency number.
Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
Remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects.
Listen to the person without judgment.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 1-800-273-8255.
The FDA have not approved Wellbutrin for the treatment of ADHD. However, some doctors may prescribe it to adults if they cannot take standard treatments, such as stimulants.
While researchers are unsure about the safety of using Wellbutrin for ADHD symptoms in children, it appears to be relatively effective in some adults.
Researchers need to carry out further studies to determine the best dose of Wellbutrin for treating ADHD and who can benefit most from this treatment.
Wellbutrin can cause both mild and severe side effects. Anyone taking Wellbutrin who experiences a seizure or thoughts of suicide should see a doctor as soon as possible.