Wellbutrin XL is commonly prescribed to treat depression and prevent seasonal affective disorder. The drug prevents the reuptake of certain chemicals in the brain, which helps alleviate the symptoms of these conditions. The medication comes in tablet form and is taken once a day. Possible side effects of Wellbutrin XL include headaches, weight loss, and insomnia.
What Is Wellbutrin XL?Wellbutrin XL® (bupropion XL) is a prescription medicine used for the treatment of depression (also known as major depression or clinical depression). It is also approved for the prevention of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). It is an extended-release version of Wellbutrin® (bupropion hydrochloride).
(Click Wellbutrin XL Uses for more information on what the drug is used for, including possible off-label uses.)
How Does Wellbutrin XL Work?Wellbutrin XL is a norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitor, or NDRI for short. NDRIs affect specific chemicals within the brain known as norepinephrine and dopamine. These are two of several chemicals used to send messages from one nerve cell to another.
As a message travels down a nerve, it causes the end of the cell to release either norepinephrine or dopamine. The chemical enters the gap between the first nerve cell and the one next to it. When enough norepinephrine or dopamine reaches the second nerve cell, it activates receptors on the cell, and the message continues on its way. The first cell then quickly absorbs any norepinephrine or dopamine that remains in the gap between the cells. This is called "reuptake."
Normally, this process works without any problems. But when the levels of dopamine or norepinephrine become unbalanced, it can cause a variety of conditions, including depression and seasonal affective disorder. Wellbutrin XL helps to block the reuptake of norepinephrine and dopamine so that more remains in the space between the brain's nerve cells. This gives the chemicals a better chance of activating the receptors on the next nerve cell.
Currently, the only approved NDRI antidepressants are those containing bupropion. Wellbutrin XL is the longest-acting version of bupropion, taken just once a day. Forfivo™ XL and Budeprion XL® are the brand names of other long-acting versions of bupropion.
Bupropion also comes in several other forms, including:
- Wellbutrin (bupropion hydrochloride), a short-acting version
- Wellbutrin SR® or Budeprion SR® (bupropion SR), a sustained-release version (taken twice a day)
- Aplenzin™ (bupropion hydrobromide), taken once a day
- Zyban® (bupropion SR) or Buproban®, a sustained-release version used to quit smoking (smoking cessation).