Why does Wellbutrin take so long to work? (in detail)

In this article, we will answer the following question: Why does Wellbutrin take so long to work? We will talk about the mechanism of action of this type of drug, side effects and the signs that Wellbutrin is working. We will also address a common myth, that of using Wellbutrin as a method for weight loss. 

Why does Wellbutrin take so long to work?

Wellbutrin takes as long as 3 to 4 weeks to work because the way antidepressants affect our nervous system. 

Antidepression drugs prevent the neuron from picking up again the serotonin found in the synaptic space to increase the amount of serotonin between the neurons themselves. 

Once our serotonin levels are finally regulated, we can experience the benefits of consuming these drugs. This explains why Wellbutrin takes so long to work and make changes in our brain, and even though our body has a great capacity to adapt to changes, it does not do so immediately and it takes some time to do so. 

Generally, the time required for antidepressants to take effect in our body is more or less 2 to 3 weeks.

Why does it take so long for antidepressants to work?

When we start a pharmacological treatment to combat depression, it is necessary to follow it to the letter and have the advice of a professional at all times since if it is not well administered it will not have the desired effect and on the contrary, it can reverse the results.

Generally, when you start this drug treatment, it takes several days or even weeks to take effect and this is often a cause of frustration and despair for some people. The drugs used to combat depression are (SSRIs), which means selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.

What is Wellbutrin?

In the United States, Wellbutrin (also known as Bupropion) is already the most prescribed antidepressant. 

Wellbutrin was synthesized in 1969 by an American laboratory, and it was introduced in the country in 1985. Its experience was brief because a year later it was withdrawn from the market due to a significant incidence of seizures related to its consumption. It took three years for the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to re-approve it – for clinical use only and setting a maximum dose of 450 mg/day. 

Initially, it was marketed under the name of Amphebutamona. The prefix “amphe” was removed in 2000 when it was renamed Wellbutrin. The name is generic, in pharmacies it is marketed under very different brands: Odranal, Bupropion, Zyban, Budeprion, Prexaton, Elontril, Aplenzin.

What is its mechanism of action? 

Bupropion belongs to the group of Dopamine and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs.  Chemically it is a phenylethylamine. Their disinhibitory or stimulating actions are considered to be probably related to their structural similarity with powerful psychostimulatory molecules such as methcathinone and methamphetamine.

But, even if it keeps the scientific community in suspense for its possible “misuse”, it is not a drug. Its only two approved indications are the treatment of mild depression and smoking cessation. Yes, the famous Zyntabac that in 2007 became the great hope for repentant smokers had a good proportion of Bupropion among its assets.

The truth is, an antidepressant can only improve mood, happiness is something much more complex and, besides, are there not many people who are not depressed and yet are not happy either?

Weight Loss. Side effect or additional benefit?

It is enough to read the extensive list of possible side effects of any antidepressant to confirm that weight loss is found in most of them, typified as anorexia or loss of appetite. The problem with Wellbutrin is that it is being sold as a bonus rather than as a possible side effect.

Chemistry, in this case, does it a disservice. Wellbutrin is a derivative of diethylpropion, an amphetamine anorectic (appetite suppressant). But, being a derivative, its effects and power of action, both in this aspect and in others, are very different. The incidence of loss of appetite in patients treated with Wellbutrin occurs only in 18% of cases.

There are independent scientific studies that corroborate it and have investigated long and hard about this effect so often associated with antidepressants. And although Wellbutrin was associated with less weight gain (not weights loss) than tricyclic antidepressants, no significant difference was observed between patients treated with Wellbutrin, SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), and placebo.

The largest study was published in 2005 by the Division of Medical Policy and Evaluative Sciences, University of North Carolina. It established a systematic and scientific comparison of the results of 46 studies from both medical laboratories and scientific entities. 

Among its conclusions, the aspect of weight loss is discussed and it affirms that of all the antidepressants analyzed, weight loss “is more frequent with fluoxetine and fluvoxamine, although during long-term treatment, this effect usually disappears.” 

However, the researchers do not cite Wellbutrin on the subject of decreased appetite, “although it does as the one with the lowest incidence rate on the decrease in intimate desire, delayed discharge, and anorgasmia.

In any case, an antidepressant should be prescribed for its suitability as a treatment for the disease in question, the patient’s tolerance to it and its effectiveness for each case. Never based on whether you are going to gain or lose weight or have more or less sexual appetite.

However, the risk of becoming the new “fashion slimming” is there. The black market always manages to overcome the obstacles to buying “prescription drugs.” The vast majority of the time what is sold are dangerous counterfeits that do not even contain the active ingredients of the original drug. On the other hand, consuming an antidepressant without suffering from depression can generate serious adverse effects, including dysregulations of brain chemistry. 

Signs Wellbutrin is working

First of all, it is necessary to mention that not all people react the same to Wellbutrin because each body is different and has different levels of adaptation. That is why there are also different types of antidepressants, which should only be diagnosed by a professional so that he prescribes the one that best suits your needs. 

Despite this, sometimes you have to try different types to know which is the one that causes the desired effect and the least possible discomfort at first. Some of the side effects that antidepressants can cause you the first days of consumption are the following:

  • Decreased sexual appetite (sexual anorexia)
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness and on rare occasions may be accompanied by vomiting
  • Drowsiness
  • Oral dryness
  • Headache (mild)
  • A certain degree of anxiety and restlessness

It is necessary to mention that all these symptoms can be normal to a certain extent since if they are presented exaggeratedly and remain for a long time, it is necessary to consult with the doctor since, probably, as I mentioned before, it should be tried with another type of antidepressant.

In cases of depression, treatments should last for periods of more than 6 months, and you should be aware that the effect of the drug appears gradually, usually after 2 weeks, but may not be evident until after several weeks have elapsed.

If you notice that the symptoms do not improve with the dose that your doctor has indicated, let them know, but do not change the dose on your own, as you may overdose. 

It is also important that you do not stop Wellbutrin or other antidepressant drugs suddenly. You could trigger a rebound effect, appearing intense symptomatology of depression. Consult with your doctor how you should suspend the drug. 

You will know that Wellbutrin is working when your symptoms will become less severe or will happen less often. You will slowly start feeling like yourself again. But you have to be patient, as it may take several weeks before starting to see the effects of Wellbutrin.

Summary

In this article, we answered the following question: Why does Wellbutrin take so long to work? We talked about the mechanism of action of this type of drug, side effects and the signs that Wellbutrin is working. We also addressed a common myth, that of using Wellbutrin as a method for weight loss. 

When we start a pharmacological treatment to combat depression, it is necessary to follow it to the letter and have the advice of a professional at all times since if it is not well administered it will not have the desired effect and on the contrary, it can reverse the results.

Generally, when you start this drug treatment, it takes several days or even weeks to take effect and this is often a cause of frustration and despair for some people. In the United States, Wellbutrin (also known as Bupropion) is already the most prescribed antidepressant. 

If you have any questions or comments on the content, please let us know.

Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.

FAQ on Why does Wellbutrin take so long to work

How long does it take for Bupropion to kick in?

You have to be patient, as it may take several weeks before starting to see the effects of Wellbutrin. Once our serotonin levels are finally regulated, we can experience the benefits of consuming this type of drug.

Why does it take so long for antidepressants to work?

It takes so long for antidepressants to work because of their mechanism of affecting one’s nervous system. The drugs used to combat depression are (SSRIs), which means selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.  Generally, when you start this drug treatment, it takes several days or even weeks to take effect and this is often a cause of frustration and despair for some people. 

Is it possible for antidepressants to work right away?

No, it is nos possible for antidepressants to work right away. Most of them take between 1 to 4 weeks to start working. You have to be patient and combine the treatment with psychotherapy methods.

Is Wellbutrin highly addictive?

No, Wellbutrin is not considered to be highly addictive, nor habit-forming. However, like any other drug, it can be abused and develop into an addiction.

Will I lose weight on Wellbutrin?

According to a 2005 study,  the aspect of weight loss is discussed and it affirms that of all the antidepressants analyzed, weight loss “is more frequent with fluoxetine and fluvoxamine, although during long-term treatment, this effect usually disappears.” 

Further reading

The Anti-Depressant Book: A Practical Guide for Teens and Young Adults to Overcome Depression and Stay Healthy, by Jacob Towery MD 

Lost Connections: Why You’re Depressed and How to Find Hope, by Johann Hari  

The Pill That Steals Lives – One Woman’s Terrifying Journey to Discover the Truth About Antidepressants, by Katinka Blackford Newman 

The Antidepressant Solution: A Step-by-Step Guide to Safely Overcoming Antidepressant Withdrawal, Dependence, and “Addiction”, by M.D. Joseph Glenmullen M.D. 

What we recommend for depression

Professional counselling

If you are suffering from depression then ongoing professional counselling may be your ideal first point of call. Counselling will utilize theories such as Cognitive behavioural therapy which will help you live a more fulfilling life.

References

psychologytoday.com – Number One Reason SSRIs Take Four to Six Weeks to Work

Sciencedaily.com – Why do antidepressants take so long to work?

Nami.org -Bupropion (Wellbutrin)

Drugs.com – Bupropion: 7 things you should know

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