What Is Wellbutrin?

Wellbutrin is an antidepressant medication used to treat major depressive and seasonal affective disorders. An estimated 300,000 people in the United States are prescribed Wellbutrin per year. Its main mechanism of action involves the neurotransmitter norepinephrine. To learn more about this drug, we reached out to Russell Hamra, Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine and Director of Behavioral Science for Loyola’s John R. Graham Headache Center in Maywood, Illinois.

Q: How does Wellbutrin work?

A: Wellbutrin (bupropion) is considered a norepinephrine (NE) and dopamine (DA) reuptake inhibitor, or NDRI. That means it blocks the reuptake of these neurotransmitters by neurons in the brain, which increases their availability to bind with receptors.

While Wellbutrin is an antidepressant, it has other uses as well. It was recently approved for use as a smoking cessation aid under the brand name Zyban. It’s also effective in treating neuropathic pain and seasonal affective disorder. It’s prescribed less often for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).