Bupropion (Wellbutrin) and the Treatment of Bipolar Disorder - dummies

Bupropion (Wellbutrin) and the Treatment of Bipolar Disorder

By Candida Fink, Joe Kraynak

Marketed as the antidepressant Wellbutrin and the smoking cessation product Zyban, bupropion increases the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain synapses. It has an unknown mechanism of action but is clearly different from antidepressants in other classes, such as SSRIs, SNRIs, and tricyclics; therefore, bupropion belongs in its own category. It’s sometimes used off label to treat ADHD, sexual dysfunction from SSRI/SNRI, and weight gain from other medications, and possibly ADHD.

The following table lists the potential pros and cons for this popular medication in the treatment of bipolar disorder.

Potential Benefits and Side Effects of Bupropion (Wellbutrin)
Generic Name Brand Name Average Adult Dose Potential Benefits Some Possible Side Effects*
Bupropion Wellbutrin
Wellbutrin SR
Wellbutrin XL
Zyban (for smoking cessation)
20 to 450 mg/day
150 to 400 mg/day
300 to 450 mg/day
Antidepressant (approved for treating unipolar depression);
reduces cravings for nicotine; no sexual side effects; may improve
attention and focus; does not cause weight gain.
Suicidal ideation; agitation; disinhibition; mania;
jitteriness; insomnia; anxiety; decreased appetite; weight loss;
seizure; can’t be used in people with current or previous eating
disorders or seizures.

mg/day = milligrams per day.

* Other side effects may occur that aren’t listed.