Wellbutrin for weight loss: how effective is bupropion for losing weight?

Reviewed by Yael Cooperman, MD, Ro, 

Written by Abbi Havens 

Reviewed by Yael Cooperman, MD, Ro, 

Written by Abbi Havens 

last updated: Mar 05, 2024

3 min read

Key takeaways

  • Bupropion is an antidepressant and smoking-cessation aid that can help promote weight loss.

  • The FDA approved a combination medication containing bupropion and naltrexone as a treatment for weight management in combination with diet and exercise.

  • People taking bupropion combined with naltrexone (Contrave) can lose an average of 5% of their body weight over about a year of treatment.

Wellbutrin (bupropion) is a prescription medication used to treat depression and aid in smoking cessation. And while most medications used to treat depression actually cause weight gain, Wellbutrin is unique in that it actually promotes weight loss for many patients. 

Clinicians actually leverage this side effect and can offer patients concerned about weight gain while on antidepressants bupropion (Wellbutrin) to help them manage their weight while treating depression. Continue reading to learn more about Wellbutrin for weight loss and whether or not the medication could be right for you.

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What is Wellbutrin?

Wellbutrin (bupropion) is a type of drug known as an NDRI (norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitor). It works by increasing the levels of norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain.

Bupropion is sold in generic form and under several brand names, including: 

  • Aplenzin

  • Budeprion SR

  • Budeprion XL

  • Buproban

  • Forfivo XL

  • Wellbutrin

  • Wellbutrin SR

  • Wellbutrin XL

  • Zyban (discontinued)

Bupropion is FDA-approved in different formulations to treat MDD (major depressive disorder) as well as SAD (seasonal affective disorder). It’s also FDA approved under the brand name Contrave which combines bupropion and naltrexone for weight management and was approved under the brand name Zyban as a treatment to help with smoking cessation, though it has since been discontinued. 

Does Wellbutrin cause weight loss?

Yes, bupropion (the generic form of Wellbutrin) can promote weight loss. A 2016 study that analyzed the long-term weight loss effect of various antidepressant medications found that non-smokers who took bupropion lost 7.1 pounds over two years. (This effect was not seen in smokers). Subjects using the other antidepressants in the study actually gained weight.

Bupropion seems to be effective for weight-loss maintenance as well. A 2012 study found that adults with obesity who took bupropion SR in 300mg or 400mg doses lost 7.2% and 10% of their body weight, respectively, over 24 weeks and maintained that weight loss at 48 weeks. A 2019 review of 27 studies on antidepressants and weight gain found that antidepressant use increases body weight by an average of 5%—except bupropion, which is associated with weight loss. 

How long does it take to lose weight on Wellbutrin?

While Wellbutrin can be prescribed to support weight loss, weight loss on Wellbutrin is not a guarantee. Your dosage, lifestyle, medical conditions, age, and more are all factors that may impact whether or not Wellbutrin will help you lose weight. 

That said, in a study examining the use of bupropion for weight loss, 67% of participants lost more than 5% of their baseline body weight within 8 weeks of starting the medication. At 24 weeks, participants lost as much as 12.9% of their body weight.

Who should take Wellbutrin for weight loss?

If you've struggled to meet your weight loss goals with diet and exercise alone, make an appointment with your healthcare provider. They can help you determine if a weight loss medication is right for you. 

Your provider will consider a number of factors to determine if you’re a good candidate for weight loss medication. These factors may include your medical history, any medications you’re currently taking, your lifestyle, and potential benefits and risks of weight loss medication. 

Healthcare providers typically prescribe weight loss medications to people with a BMI (body mass index) of 30 or higher. If your BMI falls between 27 and 29, your provider may prescribe a weight-loss drug if you also have an associated health problem related to your weight, such as hypertension (high blood pressure) or type 2 diabetes. 

Your healthcare provider also might determine your overweight or obesity can be best treated with simple lifestyle changes—such as a healthy eating plan, regular exercise, and better sleep—before prescribing medication. 

Side effects of bupropion

Common side effects of bupropion include mental changes (like hostility or agitation), dry mouth, headaches, nausea and vomiting, and dizziness, and others. Serious side effects of bupropion can include seizures, hallucinations, confusion, hypertension (high blood pressure), and allergic reactions. Seek medical advice immediately if you experience these side effects while taking bupropion.

Bupropion can also interact with other medications, so it’s important to give your prescribing healthcare provider a full list of any medications you are using. Bupropion can interact with (among others): 

This is not a complete list of side effects or drug interactions. If you have questions about taking a drug or supplement while on bupropion, ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist if it’s a safe combination.

Alternative weight loss treatments

If you're having trouble managing your weight with diet and exercise alone, bupropion is one of many options available, but is typically not the first choice for treatment if the only benefit you’re looking for is weight management. There are a range of highly effective weight loss treatments available, including GLP-1 medications like Wegovy and Zepbound, among others. Contact your healthcare provider to learn more about what weight management options are available and which would be the best fit for your lifestyle. 

Wegovy Important Safety Information: Read more about serious warnings and safety info.

Zepbound Important Safety Information: Read more about serious warnings and safety info.


If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on Health Guide are underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and governmental agencies. However, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

How we reviewed this article

Every article on Health Guide goes through rigorous fact-checking by our team of medical reviewers. Our reviewers are trained medical professionals who ensure each article contains the most up-to-date information, and that medical details have been correctly interpreted by the writer.

Current version

March 05, 2024

Written by

Abbi Havens

Fact checked by

Yael Cooperman, MD

About the medical reviewer

Yael Cooperman is a physician and works as a Senior Manager, Medical Content & Education at Ro.

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