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Wellbutrin (Bupropion) For ADHD and Depression

The usage of Wellbutrin (Bupropion) for treating ADHD and comorbid depression has become a newer practice. It is not very common to use this medication to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, but in some cases people have tried it. Typically when someone is diagnosed with ADHD, they go through the first line of stimulants – this involves trying things like Adderall, Vyvanse, Concerta, Ritalin, etc. If the person doesn’t respond well to those medications, psychiatrists may try a second line of treatment option like Provigil for ADHD.

If the person still doesn’t respond, they may need to get re-evaluated to make sure there isn’t some other problem causing the symptoms. A relatively new treatment option that some psychiatrists are trying is that of Wellbutrin to help with ADHD. In cases of ADHD with comorbid depressive symptoms, this may be a first or second-line treatment option because it is thought to help target both. Wellbutrin is known as one of the safer antidepressants on the market and tends to have a stimulating effect on the person.

What is Wellbutrin (Bupropion)?

Wellbutrin is a medication that is extensively used to treat depression and also is approved to help people quit smoking. It is also marketed under the names Zyban, Budeprion, Prexaton, Elontril, Aplezin, and Voxtra. It helps smokers reduce nicotine cravings and helps depressed people by acting as a non-tricyclic antidepressant. It is a different class than most antidepressants which primarily work by influencing the reuptake of serotonin (SSRI’s).

It can be used as a standalone treatment for depression, and many people believe that it is one of the safest medications to try first. The side effect profile is minimal compared to most antidepressants and it is typically well-tolerated. It is also commonly used as an augmentation treatment option to an SSRI medication. Unlike most antidepressants, it does not typically cause weight gain or sexual problems – this is due to the fact that it doesn’t reuptake serotonin.

Wellbutrin works mostly as an NDRI (Norepinephrine-Dopamine Reuptake Inhibitor) according to clinical data. This means it inhibits the reuptake of both dopamine and norepinephrine. Dopamine is thought to help improve cognition while norepinephrine is thought to improve vigilance. By preventing the reuptake of both of these neurotransmitters, it is thought that the individual may experience improvements in concentration and focus along with reductions in ADHD symptoms. It should be noted that it also works as a nicotinic receptor agonist.

Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC514842/

Wellbutrin for ADHD and Depression

In my unprofessional opinion, this drug may provide some therapeutic value for a subset of individuals that have ADHD with comorbid depression. It may be the “miracle” drug that helps people get up in the morning, stay productive, and maintain high levels of energy. This is a totally different story than treating just ADHD because a person may notice that their ability to focus improves as their depression improves. With that said, I would recommend working closely with your psychiatrist to see what he or she recommends.

I tend to think that Adderall would do a better job than Wellbutrin at targeting both ADHD and depression. The reason I think Adderall for depression is a better option has to do with my personal experience. It helped take away all the depressive symptoms and is also approved for ADHD (something I do not have). Adderall is FDA approved for the treatment of ADHD, and is sometimes used to help with depression. Additionally the side effect profile for Adderall is pretty minimal compared to Wellbutrin.

I would even recommend trying Strattera to treat both ADHD and depression before I would recommend Wellbutrin. I guess it depends on the person, how intense your ADHD is in contrast to your depression. If you aren’t getting good responses from approved medications to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, then you may want to look into Wellbutrin.

Wellbutrin (Bupropion) for ADHD

It is important to understand that as a standalone treatment for ADHD, this is not a first line option. In fact, most would argue that it shouldn’t even qualify as a second or third line option. Many consider it to be a third or fourth line treatment option. Meaning, the only individuals that are prescribed this medication for ADHD either have tried many other options and/or they have comorbid depression.

There have been reports of Wellbutrin being effective at treating ADHD in both adolescents and adults. With that said, it has also been studied in children (a huge double-blind study) and the results of the study were not conclusive. Therefore it is tough to say whether this would be a decent option for a child with attention deficits. Although aggression and hyperactivity improved compared to a placebo according to teachers, parents and clinicians could not tell a difference in placebo vs. Wellbutrin for ADHD.

It should be pretty obvious that since this is not a typical first-line treatment option for ADHD, it isn’t going to work as well as the classic psychostimulants. As someone who has used both Wellbutrin and Adderall, I have found Adderall to help with focus and concentration much better than Wellbutrin. In fact, I was so fidgety and anxious on Wellbutrin that there was no way I could focus.

The only time a medication like Wellbutrin should be used for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is if you’ve tried everything else that’s FDA approved for the condition. Meaning you should have tried all of the stimulants, enrolled in behavioral therapy, and even should have tried natural treatments for ADHD before you consider an antidepressant like Wellbutrin. Most psychiatric professionals would only recommend this medication as a fourth-line treatment option after trying two different stimulants and Strattera.

Source: http://ps.psychiatryonline.org/article.aspx?articleID=1557669

Should you take Wellbutrin for ADHD?

If you are taking it as a standalone treatment for your ADHD and are successfully managing the symptoms, great. It does work by inhibiting the reuptake of norepinephrine and dopamine – but the reuptake of each is pretty weak. If you are having difficulty with something like ADHD and depression, this may be something to consider as a second or third line treatment option. Your psychiatrist will be able to assess your situation and come up with some hypotheses as to which medications may work best based on your history.

If you want to try Wellbutrin for ADHD, I tend to think that it could work. Although I don’t have ADHD, it made me extremely less impulsive than I already was and increased my anxiety levels. I think that the increase in overall anxiety may be part of the reason that people become less hyperactive. One of my friends who has classic ADHD became depressed and his doctor prescribed him Wellbutrin. He said that it helped him with energy levels and he became more productive as a result of the extra energy.

As with any medication, this one does carry side effects including risk of seizures. If you are prone to epilepsy, this medication is not for you. Ultimately it is up to you to decide what works best to treat your symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. If Wellbutrin helps manage symptoms so that you can live productively, then that should be proof enough that it can help treat ADHD and depression.

Many people have tried this medication for their ADHD and have had success.  If you read online, you will find that a lot of people like this medication better than the classic stimulants because it allows them to feel more natural and less medicated.  On a scale of 1 to 10, the average effectiveness rating based on anonymous data collected is slightly greater than a 7/10.  This shows that it clearly works very well for some people.

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{ 5 comments… add one }
  • Melissa December 30, 2015, 4:48 pm

    Why not both? Why not a low dose of adderall to go along with wellbutrin? I’ve taken both and am currently on wellbutrin. I feel that wellbutrin is ok for depression, but does not raise my dopamine levels quite enough. Adderall would raise the levels, wellbutrin would allow the brain to soak in it?

    • carol ann January 5, 2016, 10:21 am

      Although my situation is more complex, I do have the same question. Wellbutrin was almost lifesaving for me. I was unfocused, poor concentration and simply felt ‘not present’ in conversations, etc. I was in a haze. This appears to have been a result of cancer treatment. A prolonged form of chemo brain. After a few weeks of Wellbutrin it was like a huge cloud lifted from my head and I was all of sudden present.

      Amazing result. I do have a history of ADHD – with no meds ever taken. This was a time when diagnosis and treatment was not terribly popular or acceptable. I have immediate recall memory problems which i believe were present prior to cancer treatment but made worse with treatment. This is my current struggle. I want to improve my memory in order to return to my profession. Should I try Adderall, Strattera?

      Hopefully, we can work out an appropriate mix to help my memory, control the fog/haze from my chemo brain and treat my history of depression! Wow. It may well be what you suggest is my answer: some Adderall and continue the Wellbutrin. Hope to find out this week.

  • Lindsey September 20, 2016, 12:20 am

    My experience with bupropion, ( Wellbutrin generic), was a complete surprise for me as I started taking it after telling my doctor I was not feeling at the top of my game. I had shared with him in the past that I had some brief anxiety issues, however this visit some years later I spoke more of feeling unmotivated. Once I started bupropion, I found that maybe my problem was add because I instantly became more focused and exceedingly productive.

    So mush so that when I started back at the group sport I had done my whole life, off and on, people I played with told me that I was doing so well and excelling so quickly, more so than I had done my whole life, and this at 47 years old. I had been feeling that was true, but wasn’t sure if it was my imagination or that I had misperceived my own newfound ability to learn quickly and apply what I had learned on my own. It turns out that I like taking bupropion for focus alone about 2 or 3 times a week.

    I don’t take it everyday, (which is good because when I started it initially I did take it everyday and it made my hair fall out), and it give me energy, unbelievable focus and I cant imagine life without it. And because I only take it as needed, I don’t have any withdrawals from it. It has addressed my adhd or add, which I didn’t know I had, amazingly.

  • j September 21, 2016, 6:46 pm

    Meds like adderall put me right to sleep, and make me hostile/angry all the time, stress level go though the roof with any of those kind of meds. The wellbutrin is changing my like. Instead of running around in circles doing nothing (and having chest pains) missing a most appointments forgetting appointments dates and times… the list goes on and on from everyday screw ups to import things like my son’s dental appointments.

    This stuff is a a godsend. I’ve tried all the other meds that you listed above. the side effects on some were so bad that I was zombie like and twitchy all day. I’d count the hours wanting for it to wear off! Wellbutrin is the one! Keep in mind that everyone’s body chemistry is different and that’s why some meds just don’t work for some. I got so much done today it’s crazy. I don’t feel like it’s me doing it but it is. O.O

    Oh, and I’m female with severe ADHD so much so they thought I was bipolar for a while there. (I’m not, the ADHD is just crazy severe.) It’s nice being more relaxed instead of having a trigger temper that comes with the ADHD… actually making some friends now. Best med ever. No side effects so far. :D Let’s all do a happy dance!

  • M November 3, 2016, 8:27 pm

    I was just prescribed bupropion xl titrated at 150mg for 3 days, then 300mg following. I’ve been diagnosed with ADHD and I didn’t feel depressed but I was told I have slight depression due to all the probs ADHD has caused me. So far I’ve only taken it two days and of course no immediate results, 8 knew initially this drug takes 4-6 wks to start working. Both days I’ve gotten horrible headaches and I’m going to take some ibu to help that. Has anyone who had good results experienced headaches?

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