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Signs Wellbutrin (Bupropion) is Working

Wellbutrin Dosage
Written by:

Rabia Khaliq

MSc in Applied Psychology

Dr. David Toomey



Medical Disclaimer
The medications listed on this website are provided for informational purposes only. Their inclusion does not guarantee that they will be prescribed to any individual, as treatment decisions are ultimately at the discretion of healthcare providers. This list is not exhaustive, and healthcare providers may prescribe other medications, including non-stimulant options, based on the patient’s unique health circumstances and needs.Read more
The medications listed on this website are provided for informational purposes only. Their inclusion does not guarantee that they will be prescribed to any individual, as treatment decisions are ultimately at the discretion of healthcare providers. This list is not exhaustive, and healthcare providers may prescribe other medications, including non-stimulant options, based on the patient’s unique health circumstances and needs.

Bupropion, commonly known under its brand name Wellbutrin, is an antidepressant medication. The FDA has authorized it as a treatment for depression and seasonal affective disorder. It can also be prescribed as a smoking cessation aid under the brand name Zyban [1*] .

Even though Wellbutrin has proven efficacy [2*] , it may not work the same for all patients. Several signals can help understand whether Wellbutrin is functioning or not. Read on to learn more about these signs that can prepare you for an informed discussion with a doctor during follow-up appointments.

Consult licensed mental health professionals online to get a personalized treatment plan.

How Does Wellbutrin Work?

Wellbutrin is classified as a norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitor (NDRI). Its exact mechanism of action is yet unknown. Researchers [3*] think it interferes with the reuptake of two neurotransmitters: dopamine and norepinephrine (although the inhibition is weak compared to other antidepressants). These neurotransmitters play crucial roles in regulating mood, attention, and pleasure. However, Bupropion does not affect serotonin reuptake or the blocking of monoamine oxidase, two important enzymes in the brain.

As a result of its ability to boost dopamine levels in the brain, Bupropion can effectively treat depressive disorders by improving mood and alleviating the nicotine withdrawal-induced dopamine deficit. After entering the body, the medication is broken down into three distinct metabolites, each of which has a separate effect on the body, which accounts for its efficacy.

What is Wellbutrin SR?

Wellbutrin is available in different formulations, such as Wellbutrin SR and Wellbutrin XL. The SR in the former one stands for sustained-release while the latter one is an extended-release medicine. With Wellbutrin SR, bupropion is slowly released into the bloodstream over a longer period, typically around 12 hours, which helps minimize the occurrence of side effects. The use of Wellbutrin SR is primarily focused on the treatment of major depressive disorder (MDD). On the other hand, Wellbutrin XL is commonly used to treat major depressive disorder and seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

How Long Does Wellbutrin Take to Work?

Usually, Wellbutrin doesn’t start working right away. The amount of time it takes for Wellbutrin to take effect depends on the patient and the condition being treated. For example, when prescribed Wellbutrin for depression treatment, patients may notice an improvement in their sleep, energy, or appetite during the first 1-2 weeks. The recovery from a depressive mood and a lack of motivation, on the other hand, may take up to 8 weeks or more. When used to ease nicotine withdrawal symptoms, it may take 1-2 weeks before a person notices appreciable benefits.

Things to Know Before Taking Wellbutrin

Before starting Wellbutrin, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare provider who can evaluate symptoms, medical history, current medications, and any potential contraindications or risks. The intake recommendations may differ from one person to another. However, there are some basic facts that should be considered every time Wellbutrin is prescribed.

  • Like most medications, Wellbutrin can cause side effects. These include dry mouth, insomnia, headache, nausea, dizziness, and increased heart rate. Bupropion’s side effects often improve over the first week or two as a person continues to take the medication.
  • In some cases, Wellbutrin may cause or exacerbate psychiatric symptoms such as anxiety, agitation, irritability, or suicidal thoughts.
  • Wellbutrin may interact with other medications, including monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), antipsychotics, anticonvulsants, and certain other medications used for smoking cessation.
  • At higher doses, Wellbutrin may carry a risk of seizures as it causes a lowering of the seizure threshold. Wellbutrin is contraindicated in anyone who is abusing alcohol or who is a frequent drinker. Alcohol use also lowers the seizure threshold and with Wellbutrin, this effect is exponential.
  • During Wellbutrin treatment, it’s important to be vigilant about potential increases in blood pressure, and therefore blood pressure should be monitored regularly.
  • Bupropion is essentially weight neutral when compared to other antidepressant medications. In some patients, it may cause weight loss.
  • Patients who are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or who are breastfeeding, should discuss the risks of taking Wellbutrin with their healthcare provider. Wellbutrin may pass into breast milk and could potentially affect the baby.

Signs Wellbutrin is Working

Response to medication may vary from one person to another, so it is essential to follow up with a healthcare provider during the course of treatment. Moreover, when it comes to antidepressants like Wellbutrin, the effects may not be seen immediately. However, there are some common signs of Wellbutrin efficacy that are noticed extensively within a few weeks after starting treatment. So, here is how patients can understand if Wellbutrin is working for depression, smoking cessation, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Wellbutrin for Depression

When used for major depressive disorder and seasonal affective disorder, Wellbutrin may bring the following initial effects after two weeks of treatment:

  • Improved mood and concentration.
  • Enhanced quality of sleep.
  • Improved eating habits.
  • Increased energy levels.

It takes six to eight weeks for Wellbutrin to positively affect emotions and increase enthusiasm in people with depression. The period of treatment for mood disorders is generally long since it takes time for the medication to impact serotonin levels and signaling pathways in the brain.

Get a holistic treatment plan for depression from medical doctors at MEDvidi.

Wellbutrin for Smoking Cessation

Wellbutrin can help people to quit smoking. By altering dopamine levels, bupropion aids in overcoming addiction to cigarettes relatively fast. In this case, it is typically prescribed for short-term treatment, as symptoms tend to improve after a few weeks:

  • Decrease in the desire to smoke.
  • Better self-control and willpower.
  • Alleviation of smoking withdrawal symptoms.
  • Positive mood.

Wellbutrin for ADHD

Aside from FDA-approved uses, Wellbutrin may also be prescribed off-label for ADHD management. After around two to three weeks on medication, people with ADHD may see the following changes in their symptoms:

  • The ability to focus for a longer amount of time.
  • Reduced impulsivity and hyperactivity.
  • Better emotional regulation.
  • Better organization skills.
  • A more positive frame of mind.
  • Decreased agitation.

Consult with one of our qualified mental health specialists and get professional medical advice.

Wellbutrin side effects

Signs Wellbutrin is Not Working

The time period between starting the medication and noticing its full effects may take several weeks. This is dependent on different individual factors and the drug’s mechanism of action. It’s essential to consult a medical provider if a patient has any concerns about the medication’s efficacy. A doctor can investigate the validity of the patient’s concerns and adjust treatment accordingly as needed. These are some potential signs that may indicate the medication is not having the desired effect on a patient with depression:

  • Persistent or worsened depressive symptoms.
  • Increased anxiety or agitation.
  • Unmanageable side effects.
  • Suicidal thoughts or behavior.
  • Intolerance.

What to Do If Wellbutrin Doesn’t Work

If you are taking Wellbutrin and it doesn’t seem to be effectively addressing your symptoms, it is important to communicate this to your healthcare provider. Some possible steps include:

  • Discuss with your doctor your experience with Wellbutrin. Open and honest communication is key to finding the most suitable treatment approach.
  • A doctor may tailor the intake recommendations to your needs, including adjustments in the prescribed dose, and this is often based on your individual response.
  • A doctor may choose an alternative medication for depression treatment. It is common to have a period of trial and error when choosing the most suitable and effective antidepressant.
  • In some cases, combining Wellbutrin with another medication or psychotherapy may be considered.

It is important not to stop taking Wellbutrin abruptly without consulting your healthcare provider so as to avoid withdrawal symptoms. They will provide guidance on how to safely discontinue the medication or switch to another drug if needed.

How Long Does Wellbutrin Remain in Your System?

Wellbutrin (bupropion) is known for its extended elimination half-life of 12 to 30 hours. It means it takes that long for the concentration of the drug in the bloodstream to decrease by half. Consequently, even after stopping the medication, Wellbutrin can remain in the body for up to a week. This extended presence sets Wellbutrin apart from many other antidepressants.

Interactions With Other Medications

Wellbutrin (bupropion) can interact with other medications, increasing the risk of side effects. Some examples include:

  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs: Phenelzine, Isocarboxazid).
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and other antidepressants.
  • Antipsychotics (Haloperidol, Risperidone, Thioridazine).
  • Anticonvulsants (Carbamazepine, Phenobarbital, Phenytoin).
  • Beta-blockers (Metoprolol).
  • Medications that lower the seizure threshold (Theophylline, Corticosteroids, and tricyclic antidepressants).
  • Medications used for smoking cessation.

Bottom Line

On average, Wellbutrin starts working within a few weeks when used for depression and smoking cessation. There are certain signs that may show a high or low efficacy of the medicine during that time, but the best way to know if a drug is suitable for you is to talk to your doctor. At MEDvidi, we have a team of certified and experienced mental health professionals. Our goal is to provide you with the most accurate diagnosis and a holistic treatment plan tailored to your needs. Contact us today to get in touch with an expert online and receive comprehensive care.


The answer to the question “How quickly does bupropion work?” can vary from person to person. On average it takes 1-2 weeks to reach a steady state concentration. Peak serum concentrations vary on the formulation, and it takes 2-5 hours. For some individuals, it may take longer to experience the full therapeutic effects.

When Wellbutrin starts working, individuals may experience various changes in their symptoms and overall well-being. However, it’s important to note that the effects can differ from person to person. Some general experiences that people report when Wellbutrin begins to take effect:

  • Improved mood.
  • Increased energy and motivation.
  • Enhanced focus and concentration.
  • Reduction in other depressive symptoms.

Bupropion has multiple formulations, each with its own pharmacokinetic properties. Therefore, the time it takes for bupropion to work and reach its peak concentration in the blood can vary depending on the specific formulation:

  • Immediate-release (IR) formulation: approximately 2 hours
  • Extended-release (ER) formulation: approximately 5 hours
  • Sustained-release (SR) formulation: approximately 3 hours

Wellbutrin (bupropion) does not typically provide immediate relief or produce an immediate effect. It usually takes time for it to reach therapeutic levels in the body and for its effects to become noticeable.

Immediate-release Wellbutrin is typically taken two to three times a day. It’s best to follow a regular dosing regimen and take the medication at evenly spaced intervals throughout the day. The extended-release form of Wellbutrin, Wellbutrin XL, is designed to provide effects over time. Due to that, it is taken once daily, usually in the morning.


3 sources
  1. ZYBAN (bupropion hydrochloride) sustained-release tablets, for oral use Initial U.S. Approval: 1985
    Source link
  2. Bupropion: a systematic review and meta-analysis of effectiveness as an antidepressant. (2016)
    Source link
  3. Bupropion. (2023)
    Source link
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Written by:

Rabia Khaliq

MSc in Applied Psychology

Dr. David Toomey



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This article is based on scientific evidence, written by experts and fact checked by experts.

Our team of experts strive to be objective, unbiased, honest and to present both sides of the argument.

This article contains scientific references. The numbers
in the parentheses (1, 2, 3) are clickable links to peer-reviewed scientific papers.