Depression Home > Wellbutrin

A healthcare provider may prescribe Wellbutrin to help treat depression. When certain chemicals in the brain become unbalanced, it can cause a variety of conditions, including depression. Wellbutrin works by blocking the reuptake of these chemicals. The medication comes in tablet form and is taken two to four times a day. Commonly reported side effects include nausea, insomnia, and weight loss.

What Is Wellbutrin?

Wellbutrin® (bupropion hydrochloride) is a prescription medicine used to treat depression (also known as major depression or clinical depression).
(The information in this article refers specifically to short-acting, immediate-release Wellbutrin, not the longer-acting Wellbutrin SR® or Wellbutrin XL®.)
(Click Wellbutrin Uses for more information, including possible off-label uses.)

Who Makes It?

Wellbutrin is manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline. Generic versions are made by several manufacturers.

How Does Wellbutrin Work?

Wellbutrin 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 cells. This is called "reuptake."
Normally, this process works without any problems. But when the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine become unbalanced, it can cause a variety of conditions, including depression and seasonal affective disorder. Wellbutrin helps 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 NDRI antidepressants approved for use are medications containing bupropion. Wellbutrin is the short-acting version of it. Bupropion also comes in longer-acting forms, including:
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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