Wellbutrin Weight Loss: How Does It Work?

A bottle of wellbutrin pills.
  • Wellbutrin is an antidepressant that may be prescribed for weight loss as this is one of the drug’s side effects (off-label uses).
  • Unlike most antidepressant drugs, Wellbutrin does not make you gain weight; however, the weight loss benefits of Wellbutrin may not be experienced by everyone.
  • Wellbutrin is not available over-the-counter in the U.S., but a licensed physician will be able to prescribe it to you for weight loss.
  • Wellbutrin has several side effects, but most of these can be avoided by following your doctor’s instructions.
  • Before committing to Wellbutrin for weight loss, consider other options. The drug tends to yield better weight loss results in those who are prone to overeating when they’re stressed.

Bupropion (Wellbutrin) is a popular antidepressant and smoking cessation aid. In 2019, almost 26 million prescriptions were given for the drug in the U.S.

Although bupropion has several off-label uses, the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) has only approved the drug for depression, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and smoking cessation.

Weight loss is among the off-label uses of Wellbutrin. Unlike most other antidepressants that cause weight gain, weight loss is a common side effect of bupropion.

In this article, we'll discuss what Wellbutrin is, including its uses, side effects, and how it can aid weight loss.

What is Wellbutrin?

Wellbutrin is a brand name of bupropion hydrochloride. This oral antidepressant comes in three different formulations, namely Wellbutrin, Wellbutrin SR, and Wellbutrin XL.

The drug is FDA-approved to treat certain disorders, but there are also non-FDA-approved uses.

In the U.S., the drug is not available over-the-counter and can only be prescribed by a healthcare provider.

What Are the Uses of Wellbutrin?

Bupropion has been approved by the FDA for three different uses, but it can also be used to treat a range of other conditions. A licensed healthcare provider will be able to prescribe Wellbutrin for off-label uses.

Listed below are the on-label (approved) uses and off-label (unapproved) uses.

On-label uses:

  • Adult depression
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
  • Smoking cessation

Off-label uses:

  • Anxiety
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Depression (associated with bipolar disorder or obesity)
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Neuropathic pain
A woman measures her waist to check her weight loss.

How Does Wellbutrin Work for Weight Loss?

Even though the FDA has not approved bupropion for weight loss, it’s one of the active ingredients in the FDA-approved weight loss drug, Contrave.

A 2016 study showed compelling evidence for long-term weight loss results on bupropion. Because it stimulates noradrenaline, dopamine, and serotonin, bupropion may aid your weight loss efforts by:

  • Giving you more energy
  • Suppressing your appetite
  • Lifting your mood
  • Decreasing your stress
Key Point: Will Everyone Lose Weight on Wellbutrin?

Although Wellbutrin has shown promising results in some individuals, such as overweight and obese women, it might not be a solution for everyone struggling with chronic weight management issues.

If you are someone who's prone to eating when stressed, Wellbutrin might be a great choice for you as it decreases stress and improves your mood. However, someone who merely has poor eating habits may not experience Wellbutrin weight loss the same way as an "emotional eater" would.

How soon will I see weight loss results with Wellbutrin?

Taking Wellbutrin has shown promising results in clinical trials, with subjects losing double the percentage of body weight on 400 milligrams of Wellbutrin per day than those in the placebo group.

However, it's important to note that Wellbutrin is a drug that's used to treat depression and not a miracle product for weight loss. It may not work for everyone who’s struggling to lose body weight.

Wellbutrin weight loss depends on several factors, but individuals using the drug can expect to start seeing results at around eight weeks.

How much weight can I lose on Wellbutrin?

The amount of body weight you can lose on Wellbutrin depends on several factors. Patients may see more significant weight loss on Wellbutrin if they:

  • Have a higher body mass index (in other words, they have more weight to lose).
  • Follow a good eating plan.
  • Create a caloric deficit in their diet (they consume fewer calories than they did before, or they increase their physical activity to use more calories than they consume).
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Use Contrave, which is a combination of bupropion and naltrexone.
A man stands on a scale to measure his weight.

How much Wellbutrin should I take for weight loss?

You should always consult a healthcare provider regarding medication dosages, but taking 300 or 400 mg of Wellbutrin per day can yield good weight loss results.

Curbing food cravings and achieving weight loss is never easy, no matter which route you take. By discussing your goals and limitations with your doctor, they'll be able to suggest weight loss modifications and medications that will work for you.

Key Point: Can I Crush Wellbutrin pills?

Unlike other medications that you may be able to crush, chew, or dissolve in water, Wellbutrin pills should be swallowed whole to preserve their slow-release mechanism.

Bupropion medications are available as controlled-release tablets to avoid a rush or high — this ensures they enter the bloodstream slowly and that the drug performs as intended.

Should I Be Using Wellbutrin to Lose Weight?

Most antidepressants will cause weight fluctuations, but bupropion treatment may not cause weight loss in everyone who takes it for this purpose.

There is also a small chance that Wellbutrin can cause weight gain as a side effect. It is therefore important to discuss your goals with your doctor before you start treatment.

Individuals who overeat when they are stressed typically see better weight loss results on Wellbutrin than those who are not prone to emotional eating.

There are many medications your doctor can prescribe for weight loss. Be sure to consider other options before starting Wellbutrin.

A woman sits on a yoga mat with a towel around her neck and eats a salad while smiling.

How Can I Improve My Weight Loss Results with Wellbutrin?

If you want to see greater weight loss results, there are plenty of other things you can do to supplement your Wellbutrin weight loss plan.

To lose weight faster or to enjoy longer-lasting results, you should:

  • Eat a balanced diet.
  • Consult a professional, such as a dietitian or nutritionist.
  • Follow a sustainable meal plan with a caloric deficit.
  • Cut down on ‘empty calories’ such as those in sugary drinks.
  • Limit your alcohol intake, and stay hydrated with increased water intake.
  • Cut down on processed foods, especially processed meats.
  • Be mindful of your sugar intake.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Improve sleep quality and quantity to help normalize hunger signals.
  • Increase your fiber intake to stay fuller for longer.
  • To avoid getting discouraged, don’t weigh yourself too often; rather look for other signs that you’re losing weight over time, such as clothing that fits better/more loosely.
  • Be consistent in your efforts.

What Are the Side Effects of Wellbutrin?

All medications have side effects and Wellbutrin is no exception. Wellbutrin side effects can be divided into two categories, namely common side effects and uncommon side effects.

Common Side Effects

  • Sleep disturbances
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Headache
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea

Uncommon Side Effects

  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Seizures
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Delusions and paranoia
  • High blood pressure
  • Severe allergic reactions
  • Manic episodes
  • Eye problems
A woman holds her head and clenches her face in pain.

Antidepressant medication can have serious side effects, so always listen to your doctor’s instructions.

Following these steps will help you avoid the more severe side effects of Wellbutrin:

  • Use your medication as directed.
  • Tell your doctor about all the other over-the-counter and prescription medications you’re currently taking.
  • Discuss your questions and concerns with your doctor.
  • Avoid other drugs, alcohol, and high-risk activities.
  • Enjoy a healthy, balanced diet.
  • Speak to your physician if you think you may be experiencing bad side effects or need the Wellbutrin dose adjusted. Notify your healthcare provider if you’re experiencing depression or having thoughts of suicide.
  • Monitor your blood pressure, and be sure to keep it in a normal range.

What Else Can I Do to Lose Weight?

Approximately 71% of adults aged 20 and over are overweight or obese, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. The direct medical cost of obesity amounts to over $260 billion. Besides taking Wellbutrin, there are plenty of other things you can do right now to start losing weight or to at least set yourself on the right track. Below are some tips and guidelines for losing weight:

  • Always eat breakfast.
  • Eat at regular intervals each day.
  • Be mindful of your food intake — keeping a journal helps!
  • Incorporate exercise into your routine.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking water.
  • Consume foods high in fiber as well as whole foods (unprocessed) and foods that have been minimally processed.
  • Focus on getting an adequate amount of quality sleep.
  • Speak to your doctor about other weight loss medications.
  • Eat from a smaller plate.
  • Don’t keep junk food in your home.
  • Prepare healthy home-cooked meals instead of ordering takeout.
  • Limit alcohol and refined sugar.
  • Plan your meals ahead of time.
  • Consult a professional, such as a dietician or nutritionist, to gain a better understanding of food.

When Should I See a Doctor to Lose Weight?

Before you start a new diet plan or rigorous workout routine, it’s best to consult a doctor. This is especially important if you have existing medical conditions, such as high blood pressure or diabetes.

To ensure that your new plan is safe, always speak to your primary physician beforehand. A weight loss regimen that works for a friend or family member may not work the same way for you.

If any of the following is true, schedule an appointment with your doctor:

  • You have experienced unexplained weight gain.
  • You seem unable to lose weight no matter how many diets or exercises you try.
  • You are obese and need to lose weight as you're at a higher risk for certain illnesses.
  • You are overweight with depressive symptoms.
  • Your weight is directly affecting your health.
  • You need to lose weight for surgery.
  • You suspect you may have an underlying condition that makes it difficult to lose weight.
A woman looks at her phone and makes a thumbs up.

How Can I Learn More about Wellbutrin for Weight Loss?

Is stress eating getting you down? If you'd like to find out more about how Wellbutrin can help you reach your weight loss goals and lead a healthier life — or if you’d like to learn about other weight loss options — you can meet with a board-certified doctor or nurse practitioner from your smartphone, computer, or tablet. Visit LifeMD to make your first appointment.

Dr. Danielle Weiss

Dr. Weiss earned her MD from NYU School of Medicine, completed her residency at Scripps Mercy San Diego, and an endocrinology fellowship at Stanford University. She’s Board Certified in both Internal Medicine and Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism.

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This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Consult a healthcare professional or call a doctor in the case of a medical emergency.

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