Wellbutrin (bupropion) is a common antidepressant used to treat major depressive disorder (MDD). However, it is also prescribed off-label for other uses, such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Off-label drugs are drugs that are prescribed for a health condition or at dosage levels that have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Although unapproved, these drugs have shown promising effects in treating the condition when used off-label.
Bupropion is not usually the first treatment of choice for ADHD. However, your health care provider may prescribe it if your current medications are not working. Most uses that are not FDA-approved are still experimental and should only be used with the approval or supervision of a health care provider.
This article discusses the off-label use of Wellbutrin for ADHD, including its efficacy, side effects, and safety information.
Wellbutrin for ADHD
Wellbutrin is not usually an initial treatment option for ADHD. People with ADHD often receive supportive care (non-drug treatments) in addition to taking more standard ADHD medications, such as:
These drugs are commonly prescribed to control hyperactivity, impulsive behavior, and increase attention span.
Stimulants have a high success rate in treating ADHD, but they also have significant side effects and a high potential for addiction and abuse. Other drugs, such as Wellbutrin, may be used if stimulation therapy does not respond well.
A large and reliable study showed that Wellbutrin was as effective as a common drug called methylphenidate in clinical trials. People who took Wellbutrin tended to have fewer headaches as a side effect than people who took methylphenidate for ADHD.
Is it effective?
Over the past decade, research on the use of Wellbutrin for ADHD has been limited. However, some studies suggest positive results compared to common ADHD medications and placebos (substances that do not contain drugs).
In three head-to-head (comparative) studies, bupropion worked similarly to methylphenidate in resolving ADHD behaviors in children.
Another review of trials found low-quality evidence that bupropion helps control ADHD behavior compared to placebo in adults.
Although further research is needed for further confirmation, many health care providers feel confident enough to use bupropion even if other stimulants or traditional ADHD medications are initially ineffective. Masu.
Wellbutrin side effects
Like most medicines, Wellbutrin can cause side effects when used.
This includes a boxed warning from the FDA regarding the possible increased risk of suicidal thoughts and behavior. People receiving this drug should be monitored for suicidal thoughts, actions, or attempts.
Some of the more commonly reported side effects of Wellbutrin include:
Although rare, more serious side effects associated with Wellbutrin use include: These can occur due to a person’s mental state before starting the medication or if they are already taking medication for depression or seizures.
Always consult your healthcare provider before starting Wellbutrin. Give the patient an up-to-date list of medications to review before starting treatment. Wellbutrin can cause behavioral changes in some people, as well as other potentially serious side effects, including:
Safety warnings and interactions
If you have other health conditions, it may be unavoidable to use Wellbutrin with other medications. Wellbutrin can interact with:
- Antiviral drugs, such as Norvir (ritonavir), or antiepileptic drugs, such as Tegretol (carbamazepine) or Dilantin (phenytoin): These drugs can make bupropion less effective, so increase the dose if necessary May require (up to maximum dose only 150 milligrams three times a day).
- Antidepressants, such as Prozac (fluoxetine), and certain drugs used for heart-related disorders (such as beta blockers and antiarrhythmic drugs): Wellbutrin can increase the concentration of many of these drugs.
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs): Do not take MAOIs within 2 weeks of discontinuing Wellbutrin. Also, do not take Wellbutrin within 2 weeks of discontinuing the MAOI.
Another important warning when taking Wellbutrin is to make sure you are not taking any medications that may lower your seizure threshold (increase your chances of having a seizure). These include antidepressants, other bupropion products, and systemic corticosteroids.
Wellbutrin can cause seizures if:
- Taking medications to lower the seizure threshold
- experiencing alcohol withdrawal
- Have a history of seizures
It’s always best to make sure your healthcare provider knows all your medications before starting Wellbutrin.
How to take Wellbutrin for ADHD
Wellbutrin and most other antidepressants are usually prescribed by a psychiatrist or doctor who specializes in neurodevelopmental needs. This drug is not initially prescribed for ADHD. Initial treatment of ADHD usually recommends starting a stimulant or other non-stimulant medication, such as Strattera (atomoxetine).
The forms of Wellbutrin include:
- Immediate Release (IR), Wellbutrin
- sustained release (SR), Wellbutrin SR
- Extended Release (XL), Wellbutrin XL
Wellbutrin comes in tablet form and can be taken with or without food.
Comparing Wellbutrin to other ADHD medications
Many prescribers first start patients on other stimulant (e.g., Adderall) or non-stimulant (e.g., Strattera) ADHD medications before considering Wellbutrin. Current literature supports the use of methylphenidate in children and adolescents and amphetamines in adults as the preferred first-line short-term treatment for ADHD.
These drugs may be effective in alleviating behaviors associated with ADHD and improving mental alertness. However, serious side effects can occur, including:
- increased heart rate
- Insomnia (or lack of sleep)
- mood disorder
- Loss of appetite (when using stimulants)
Atomoxetine, like most antidepressants, is a non-stimulant ADHD treatment that changes brain chemistry over a short period of time (about 4 weeks). With the help of bupropion, these two drugs together may be a better drug combination for people who cannot tolerate stimulants.
Wellbutrin is not an inexpensive drug, but the generic version (bupropion) is more affordable and may be useful in treating co-morbid depression or depression after discontinuing ADHD stimulants.
Wellbutrin and its active ingredient bupropion may be considered for off-label use in ADHD. Bupropion is an antidepressant drug approved by the FDA to treat depression. However, it has been shown to have some benefits for ADHD.
Other ADHD medications are often prescribed first, but if you cannot tolerate the side effects of stimulants, bupropion may be a suitable alternative. Bupropion also helps treat depression in her ADHD patients who also have MDD. Be sure to keep an up-to-date medication list and check any prescribed medications with your health care provider or pharmacist.
How long does it take for Wellbutrin to work for ADHD?
There is not enough data to know for sure how long it takes Wellbutrin to work effectively for people with ADHD. However, an older study conducted over a six-week period in adults showed some benefit.
However, these results depend on various factors such as dosage and age.
Is Wellbutrin approved to treat ADHD?
Wellbutrin is not FDA approved for ADHD, but it may be prescribed by your health care provider for off-label use for ADHD.
Further research is needed to consider the use of Wellbutrin for ADHD before FDA approval.
Is Wellbutrin more effective than Adderall?
Wellbutrin is not the first or even second recommended drug for ADHD. If you or a loved one has her ADHD, FDA-approved medications such as amphetamines and methylphenidate are often the first choice.
If you cannot tolerate the side effects of stimulants, bupropion or another non-stimulant drug may be an option.
The authors would like to thank Jaycob Mathew Peña for contributing to this article.