What is Bupropion Used For?

Bupropion is a medication primarily used in the treatment of depression, one of the most common mental health conditions. Also, it’s most commonly known for managing seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and helping people stop smoking.

Bupropion is available under several brand names. The most commonly known brand name is Wellbutrin. This is the name you might often hear or see when bupropion is prescribed for depression. Another brand name for bupropion, specifically used for helping people quit smoking, is Zyban.

Bupropion belongs to a class of drugs known as antidepressants. Specifically, it’s a norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitor (NDRI). This means it works by affecting certain chemicals in your brain, like norepinephrine and dopamine, which play vital roles in mood and emotion.

What is Bupropion Used For

Uses of Bupropion

Treating Depression

  • Mood Improvement: Bupropion is primarily an antidepressant. It helps improve mood and feelings of well-being and can increase your energy level. You might notice that you start to feel more interested in daily activities.
  • Mechanism of Action: It works by affecting certain chemicals in your brain that may be unbalanced in people with depression. Unlike some other antidepressants, bupropion does not usually cause sexual dysfunction or weight gain, which can have significant benefits.

Aiding in Smoking Cessation

  • Reducing Cravings and Withdrawal: Bupropion is also used to help people quit smoking by reducing cravings and other withdrawal effects. This can be a tremendous help for someone struggling to kick the smoking habit.
  • How It Helps: It’s not entirely clear how bupropion helps with smoking cessation, but it’s believed to influence neurotransmitters in the brain involved in addiction and withdrawal.

Managing Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

  • Combatting Seasonal Depression: Bupropion is also used to treat SAD, a type of depression that occurs at a specific time of year, usually in the winter.
  • Preventative Treatment: It can be particularly helpful as a preventive treatment started before the onset of the depressive episodes usually associated with the colder, darker months.

How to Use Bupropion

For Depression

  • Regular Use: You usually take bupropion by mouth, generally three times a day, with or without food. The key is consistency – taking it at the same times every day helps maintain an even level of the medication in your body.
  • Dosage Adjustments: Your doctor or pharmacist might start you on a low dose and gradually increase it. This approach helps minimize side effects.

For Smoking Cessation

  • Start Before Quitting: Interestingly, you usually begin taking bupropion while you are still smoking. Your doctor will set a target quit date, often in the second week of treatment.
  • Continued Use: You continue to take bupropion after your quit date to help manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

Special Instructions for SAD

  • Seasonal Timing: For SAD, your doctor or pharmacist might recommend starting bupropion in the autumn before you usually experience depression and continue through the winter months.

Side Effects of Bupropion

  • Common Side Effects: Some people experience dry mouth, sore throat, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, ringing in the ears, headache, decreased appetite, weight loss, constipation, trouble sleeping, increased sweating, or shaking (tremor).
  • Serious Side Effects: In rare cases, bupropion can cause more serious side effects like mood changes (anxiety, agitation, panic attacks), muscle pain, rapid heartbeat, or seizures. If you notice any of these, it’s important to contact your doctor immediately.

Special Considerations

  • Seizure Risk: Bupropion can increase the risk of seizures, especially in certain conditions (like eating disorders or excessive alcohol use). So, you must tell your doctor your full medical history.
  • Suicidal Thoughts: Like other antidepressants, bupropion may increase suicidal thoughts or actions in some children, teenagers, or young adults. It’s crucial to monitor mood changes and report them to your doctor.
  • Monitoring Mood Changes: Especially when used for SAD, it’s important to keep an eye on any significant shifts in mood or behavior.


  • Allergies and Interactions: Always inform your doctor or pharmacist about any allergies or other medications you’re taking. Bupropion can interact with various drugs, including other antidepressants, antipsychotics, theophylline, and steroids.
  • Medical History: Disclose your medical history, especially if you have a history of seizures, brain disorders, liver problems, diabetes, heart conditions, or high blood pressure.

Ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.

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