How Long Does It Take for Wellbutrin to Work?

Wellbutrin (bupropion) is an atypical antidepressant in the class of drugs known as norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitors (NDRIs). Wellbutrin treatment can be an effective solution that’s FDA-approved to treat symptoms of major depressive disorder (MDD) and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). It’s also used off-label to treat several other mental health conditions, such as bipolar disorder or generalized anxiety disorder. 

Part of taking any new drug means knowing what the expected onset of action looks like — that is, how and when it will work — so you have a good understanding of what to expect from your comprehensive treatment plan. This information can help you determine if this antidepressant medication is working for you. If you’re wondering how long it takes for Wellbutrin to work, keep reading to learn more. 

How Fast Does Wellbutrin Work?

The onset of action of any drug can vary from person to person. Wellbutrin is proven in studies to be typically well-tolerated and can be an alternative solution for people who don’t find successful relief from more traditional antidepressants, like SSRIs and SNRIs. 

For some people who take Wellbutrin, noticeable improvement in depressive symptoms may be experienced within a couple of weeks. Most often, the first changes seen are in improved sleep, energy, and appetite. Keep in mind, though, that you might not experience the full benefits of an antidepressant for 4 – 6 weeks or longer, so patience is important. 

It’s also worth noting that studies found improvement in sleep is often seen before any significant mood changes when taking Wellbutrin. 

Factors That Affect How Long It Takes Wellbutrin to Work

Research supports Wellbutrin’s efficacy in treating depression and other conditions in adults, but it doesn’t work the same way or on the same timeline for everyone who takes it. Several factors can impact how long it takes to be effective. Wellbutrin dosage, symptom severity, genetic factors, comorbid conditions, other medications, and more can all influence how long it takes a drug to fully work. 

Dosage adjustments

Adjusting the dose of a medication will naturally affect how long it takes to work. Your doctor may want to increase the dose if it’s been long enough to know that your current dose isn’t working as it should. Higher doses might lead to a faster onset of action. Decreasing or missing a dose might delay how long it takes Wellbutrin to work. 

It’s important to note that an individual’s weight will also impact the rate at which the body absorbs the antidepressant medication. If you are undergoing a weight management regime, notify your healthcare provider so they can prescribe the proper Wellbutrin dosage.

It’s vital to take Wellbutrin precisely as directed. Never change your dose without your doctor’s or healthcare provider’s guidance.   

Individual factors

Individual factors like body chemistry can significantly impact how long a drug takes to work. Everything from metabolism rate to genetics to overall health can come into play. 

Individual factors include:

How fast (or slow) your metabolism is

Genetic factors like your height, weight, or family history

Previous history of depression or other mental health conditions

Other medications you’re taking or have taken in the past

Interaction with other medications

Every drug can potentially interact with other medications. Some interactions between Wellbutrin and other drugs can have dangerous possible outcomes — this is why it’s so critical that your doctor is aware of everything you’re taking. 

From other prescription medications to over-the-counter (OTC) herbal supplements and vitamins for depression, make sure your doctor has a comprehensive list of anything you regularly take. 

Certain drugs known to interact with Wellbutrin include:

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) 

Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)

Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)

Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs)

Antipsychotic medications

Anticonvulsant medications

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT)


How to Know if Wellbutrin is Working

Because it doesn’t work immediately, monitoring your symptoms over time will be critical. Some initial signs Wellbutrin is working for you include improved mood or energy level, focus, and overall well-being. 

“You can tell your medication is working by examining progress in your main symptoms. Has your energy, sleep, and/or concentration improved? Are you more hopeful? Are you more motivated to get back to your hobbies?”

– Talkspace psychiatrist Dr. Dion Metzger, MD

Improved mood

Consistently taking Wellbutrin can enhance mood over time. You might experience reduced hopelessness or sadness and find a returned interest in daily activities. Overall, Wellbutrin can lead to greater well-being in some people. Some research found Wellbutrin significantly reduced depression scores in 24 out of 27 trials. 

Increased energy levels

Like most antidepressants, studies show that Wellbutrin can increase energy levels. It helps some people feel more alert and awake. It can also improve motivation levels throughout the day. A boost in energy can lead to improved productivity and a renewed interest and engagement in social and other activities.

Restored interest in activities

Depression is intrinsically linked with a lack of interest in things once enjoyed. According to studies, Wellbutrin might help you find renewed joy in hobbies, social gatherings and interactions, and basic daily routines and functioning. Specifically, the drug has been found to decrease negative emotional processing and increase reward processing. 

Improved sleep patterns

Often one of the first improvements felt, healthy sleep habits are commonly reported by people taking Wellbutrin. In research, Wellbutrin was found to be a potential treatment for those with depression combined with fatigue and sleepiness. It doesn’t appear to suppress REM sleep, and sleep disruption isn’t common.  

Increased social interactions

When you feel better, your willingness and desire to be more socially engaged are natural side effects. Sociability can strengthen relationships and enhance the feeling of connectedness, which are important for people with depression. Some research even suggests that Wellbutrin might be an effective treatment for social phobia. 

Overall improvement in quality of life

Wellbutrin may improve the overall quality of life for many people who take it. Improved mood, energy levels, interest in others and activities, and more can all result in an enhanced sense of satisfaction and fulfillment in life. 

Increased sex drive

While many antidepressants are linked to sexual dysfunction, some studies suggest Wellbutrin may actually improve sex drive. More research is still needed, but for now, the drug is associated with a lower risk of sexual side effects and the potential to improve sex drive when compared to most other depression drugs. 

What to Do When Wellbutrin is Not Working

The most important thing to do if you’re worried Wellbutrin isn’t working for you is to be patient. It can be difficult, but try to give it at least a month before trying something different. Stay in contact with your doctor or mental health provider, and be sure to share what you’re experiencing along the way — especially if your symptoms worsen or you’re experiencing side effects of Wellbutrin.

“If Wellbutrin is not working as it should, give it time. It often starts working between 2 – 4 weeks. If you’re not seeing benefit or just seeing some benefit at the 4-week mark, your provider may suggest a dose increase.”

– Talkspace psychiatrist Dr. Dion Metzger, MD

If Wellbutrin isn’t working for you after 4 – 6 weeks, your doctor might:

Change your dosage

Change your depression medication

Add another medication to your treatment plan

Suggest you combine your medication with therapy (if you’re not already seeking it)

Encourage other lifestyle changes (like eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and working out) 

Get Personalized Mental Health Treatment with Talkspace

Talkspace offers expert, skilled mental health advice and support from qualified, licensed mental health professionals. If you have questions like how long it takes for Wellbutrin to work, or if you’re seeking therapy, a diagnosis, or medication management, Talkspace makes getting help simple, affordable, and convenient. 

Start your journey toward improving your life — online prescriptions make it easy. Reach out today to connect with an online psychiatrist and learn about Wellbutrin.


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