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Learn more about the results we get at Within

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Bupropion for weight loss (Wellbutrin, Zyban)

Bupropion, also sold under the brand names Zyban and Wellbutrin, is an antidepressant medication. It is available as immediate-release tablets and various extended-release formulations. (1)

Unlike other antidepressants, such as Lexapro, Zoloft, and Prozac, bupropion is not a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). It’s an aminoketone antidepressant, and experts don’t fully understand its mechanism of action. However, they do know that it inhibits dopamine reuptake, increasing and steadying dopamine levels, as well as norepinephrine—although to a lesser degree. It also acts on serotonin and nicotinic receptors in the brain. (1)

 minutes read
Last updated on 
August 8, 2023
August 23, 2023
Bupropion for weight loss
In this article

What is bupropion used for?

Bupropion, a prescription medication, is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of:1

  • Smoking cessation
  • Seasonal affective disorder
  • Depression in adults

Doctors may also prescribe it off-label for bipolar disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anti-depressant-induced sexual dysfunction, and weight loss.1 However, taking bupropion for weight loss can be risky and may be a sign of an underlying eating disorder.

What are the risks of using bupropion for weight loss?

People are increasingly using bupropion for weight loss, which, when done without medical supervision, can contribute to disordered eating behavior. Sometimes individuals are prescribed Wellbutrin for binge eating disorder (BED), a condition characterized by uncontrollable episodes of food consumption. That said, bupropion doesn’t actually treat the underlying issues that cause binge eating disorder or the behaviors that reinforce BED—it is only targeted toward weight loss.3

Bupropion doesn’t treat the underlying issues that cause binge eating disorder. It's important to seek therapy for this.

However, many people who struggle with eating disorders or disordered eating behaviors misuse this medication in order to suppress their appetite, restrict their eating, and lose weight.4 This can be dangerous, especially for people who have bulimia nervosa, who may engage in purging behaviors, because purging, on its own, can lead to electrolyte disturbances and seizures, and Wellbutrin lowers the seizure threshold.5

Bupropion side effects and health risks

Like most medications, bupropion can cause many side effects and health risks, such as:1,2

  • Tremors
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Dry mouth
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Nervousness
  • Constipation
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Delusions
  • Psychosis
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Dizziness
  • Excessive sweating
  • Blurred vision

Using bupropion for weight loss when an eating disorder exists can increase the risk of adverse health effects, especially seizures.5

Bupropion for weight loss

Can you overdose on bupropion?

It is possible to overdose on bupropion, especially in cases of misuse. When someone overdoses on Wellbutrin, they may experience a seizure, which occurs in about 33% of overdoses.1

Other signs of a bupropion overdose include:1

  • Agitation
  • Mental status changes
  • Hallucinations
  • Cardiac arrhythmia

Wellbutrin can cause stimulant-like effects, which means chronic use can be risky and increase the likelihood of an overdose as well.6

If you suspect that someone has overdosed on Wellbutrin, call 911 immediately and stay by the person’s side.

Understanding bupropion and eating disorders

Using bupropion to lose weight could be indicative of disordered eating, especially when other abnormal eating behaviors are present. In fact, using medications like Wellbutrin for weight control significantly increases the risk of being diagnosed with an eating disorder like anorexia nervosa (AN) or bulimia nervosa (BN).7

In one study, a woman with bulimia nervosa reportedly misused Wellbutrin to control her weight and experienced anxiety, insomnia, tachycardia, and grand mal seizures. She eventually needed to seek inpatient treatment for her compulsive pattern of bupropion abuse, which was likely used as a compensatory mechanism for binging behaviors.4

Diet culture is popularizing weight loss drugs

Weight loss drugs, like bupropion, are popular because of diet culture, which is responsible for many of the harmful and critical ideas we have about our bodies, our weight, and our self-worth. Diet culture communicates to us that there is an “ideal” body type, and it causes many people to engage in disordered eating behaviors in attempts to achieve this false ideal. But there is no “ideal” body type, and people can live healthily at different weights. 

Unfortunately, diet culture is everywhere around us and it can be difficult to know what’s healthy and what’s not anymore. Diet culture hijacks our innate ability to recognize and respond to hunger and satiety signals, instead telling us that certain foods are “good” while others are “bad” and that being thin is more important than being healthy and happy. 

Talk to a professional about diet pill use

If you are struggling with your relationship with your body, food, and movement, it may be time to talk to a health professional about your eating or diet pill use as well as other mental disorders. There are many levels of care available, from intensive options like inpatient treatment to flexible outpatient options like intensive outpatient and partial hospitalization.

You can also opt for a virtual treatment program like Within Health, which enables a more flexible treatment schedule. Everything you need is at your fingertips, including individual and group therapy, meal support, nutritional counseling, peer support groups, access to a Care Partner, experiential activities, trauma therapies, and more.

Call us today

Disclaimer about "overeating": Within Health hesitatingly uses the word "overeating" because it is the term currently associated with this condition in society, however, we believe it inherently overlooks the various psychological aspects of this condition which are often interconnected with internalized diet culture, and a restrictive mindset about food. For the remainder of this piece, we will therefore be putting "overeating" in quotations to recognize that the diagnosis itself pathologizes behavior that is potentially hardwired and adaptive to a restrictive mindset.

Disclaimer about weight loss drugs: Within does not endorse the use of any weight loss drug or behavior and seeks to provide education on the insidious nature of diet culture. We understand the complex nature of disordered eating and eating disorders and strongly encourage anyone engaging in these behaviors to reach out for help as soon as possible. No statement should be taken as healthcare advice. All healthcare decisions should be made with your individual healthcare provider.


  1. Huecker, M. R., Smiley, A., and Saadabadi, A. (2023). Bupronion. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing.
  2. Prescribing Information: Wellbutrin (bupropion hydrochloride). (2009). Food and Drug Administration. 
  3. White, M. A., & Grilo, C. M. (2013). Bupropion for overweight women with binge-eating disorder: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. The Journal of clinical psychiatry, 74(4), 400–406. 
  4. Dagan, Y., & Yager, J. (2018). Severe bupropion XR abuse in a patient with long‐standing bulimia nervosa and complex PTSD. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 51(10), 1207–1209. 
  5. Nitsch, A., Dlugosz, H., Gibson, D., and Mehler, P. S. (2021). Medical complications of bulimia. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine, 88(6), 333-343.
  6. Stall, N., Godwin, J., & Juurlink, D. (2014). Bupropion abuse and overdose. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 186(13), 1015. 
  7. Roeder, A. (2019). A gateway to eating disorders. The Harvard Gazette. Retrieved April 10, 2023.
  8. National Institute of Mental Health. (2023). Eating Disorders. Retrieved April 10, 2023.


What is bupropion?

Bupropion is a prescription antidepressant medication that can treat depressive symptoms as well as other conditions.

What is bupropion prescribed to treat?

Doctors prescribe bupropion to treat depression in adults and seasonal affective disorder. They may also use it to help people quit smoking.1

Is bupropion an SSRI?

No, it is an aminoketone antidepressant, and researchers are still investigating its mechanism of action, although they do know that it is a dopamine and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor.1

Further reading

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Further reading

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