Wellbutrin is an antidepressant medication that shows promising signs of treating ADHD, particularly in adults.
It also goes by several other brand names, including: Zyban, Budeprion, Prexaton, Elontril, Aplezin, and Voxtra.
The general formula is called Bupropion and has been available in the United States since 1989. It was first introduced to improve on the safety and tolerability of existing antidepressants.
Wellbutrin is not considered a ‘first line’ treatment for ADHD.
It is rarely prescribed before stimulants such as Adderall and Ritalin, but is often considered if the first treatments show no sign of positive results.
Note: Besides treating ADHD, Wellbutrin has several other applications; from fighting depression, and dysthymic disorder, to quitting smoking, and to encouraging weight loss in overweight and obese women.
Taking Wellbutrin for ADHD: How It Might Help
Wellbutrin is effective as an NDRI (Norepinephrine-Dopamine Reuptake Inhibitor) according to clinical data.
NDRI means that it inhibits the reuptake of both dopamine and norepinephrine.
How does that help ADHD?
Dopamine is thought to help improve cognition, while norepinephrine is used to improve vigilance.
By preventing reuptake of these neurotransmitters, some individuals may experience a boost in concentration and focus, along with reductions in both inattentive and hyper-impulsive ADHD symptoms.
The resulting feeling is described as one of ‘enjoyment and motivation’.
Wellbutrin can be stimulating, so it is likely to have an energizing effect.
This can boost mood and productivity, but it can also cause anxiety or insomnia, especially during the early stages of treatment.
What Are People Saying?
Wellbutrin for ADHD is a treatment that is growing in popularity, although the results are (predictably) mixed.
Opinion is divided across forums, blogs and clinics
Reviews from patients taking Bupropion (Wellbutrin) to treat ADHD give the medication a rating of 7.2/10 on Drugs.com. Over 70% of users rated the treatment above 8. 13% gave it the lowest possible score (1).
One positive is that the negative experiences tend to relate to Wellbutrin simply not working rather than producing notably bad side effects.
Sites like YouTube are full of users documenting their experiences on Wellbutrin for ADHD.
These video diaries can make for interesting anecdotal evidence both for and against its use.
Clinical Studies and Research
Research in to the effectiveness of Wellbutrin for ADHD is still primitive, but there are studies reporting promising results.
A double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial of 40 patients, showed a statistically significant effect in Wellbutrin improving symptoms of adults with ADHD.
The treatment was associated with a significant 42% reduction in ADHD symptoms after six weeks, which beat the effects of the placebo (24% reduction).
However, the 2007 guideline on the ADHD treatment from American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) suggests that evidence for bupropion is “far weaker” than for the current FDA-approved treatments.
Wellbutrin Side Effects
Wellbutrin is known for having a favorable side effect profile compared to other medications in the same class of antidepressants.
Side effects associated with Wellbutrin include:
- Dry mouth
In studies, these symptoms were described as ‘mild to moderate’.
One risk of taking Wellbutrin is the possibility of seizures. Your doctor will aim to negate this by prescribing you the lowest effective dose.
The same side effect research above highlighted sexual dysfunction as an issue for less than 1% of the subjects tested.
Many antidepressants are known for causing varying forms of sexual dysfunction. Wellbutrin is regarded as an outlier in that it has considerably less sexual side effects associated to it.
It is this lack of negative interaction that has made it such a popular choice for treating depression and smoking, as well as a viable ADHD treatment.
Wellbutrin is classed under Pregnancy Category C.
Animal reproduction studies have shown an adverse effect on the fetus and there are no adequate and well-controlled studies in humans, but potential benefits may warrant use of the drug in pregnant women despite potential risks.
Source: Drugs.com Pregnancy Categories
Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant should not use Wellbutrin unless a doctor or qualified medical professional judges that the benefits outweigh the risks.
As with most antidepressants, Wellbutrin may cause a higher risk of suicidal thoughts in young people.
Be sure to discuss this with your doctor if you (or your child) have a history of depression.
Wellbutrin for ADHD: In Summary
The jury is still out on whether Wellbutrin is as effective as commonly prescribed medications such as Adderall and Ritalin.
It is unlikely that your doctor will give you Wellbutrin for ADHD until the front-line options have been exhausted.
This may change as more research is published.
If you have been treated for ADHD with Wellbutrin, we’d love to hear your thoughts.
Was Wellbutrin effective? Did it have side effects?
Let us know in the comments below.