Mental Health Home > Bupropion

Bupropion is a prescription drug that is used to treat depression. The medicine works by blocking the reuptake of certain chemicals in the brain that become unbalanced during depression. Bupropion comes in tablet form and is generally taken two to four times a day. Side effects can include nausea, weight loss, and insomnia.

What Is Bupropion?

Bupropion hydrochloride (Wellbutrin®) is a prescription medicine used to treat depression (also known as major depression or clinical depression).
The information in this article refers specifically to short-acting, immediate-release bupropion, not the longer-acting forms (Aplenzin™, Budeprion XL®, Budeprion™ SR, Buproban®, Forfivo™ XL, Wellbutrin SR®, Wellbutrin XL®, Zyban®).
(Click What Is Bupropion Used For? for more information, including possible off-label uses.)

Who Makes Bupropion?

Brand-name Wellbutrin is manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline. Generic bupropion is made by several manufacturers.

How Does It Work?

Bupropion is a norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitor, or NDRI for short. NDRIs, such as bupropion, affect specific chemicals within the brain known as norepinephrine and dopamine. Norepinephrine and dopamine are two of several chemicals used to send messages from one nerve cell to another.
As a message travels down a nerve, it causes the end of the cell to release norepinephrine (or dopamine). The norepinephrine (or dopamine) enters the gap between the first nerve cell and the one next to it. When enough norepinephrine or dopamine reaches the second nerve cell, it activates receptors on the cell and the message continues on its way. The first cell then quickly absorbs any norepinephrine or dopamine that remains in the gap between cells. This is called "reuptake."
Normally, this process works without any problems. But when the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine become unbalanced, it can cause a variety of conditions, including depression and seasonal affective disorder. Bupropion helps to block the reuptake of norepinephrine and dopamine so that more remains in the space between the brain's nerve cells. This gives the norepinephrine and dopamine a better chance of activating the receptors on the next nerve cell.
Currently, the only NDRI antidepressants approved for use are medications containing bupropion. Wellbutrin and generic bupropion are the short-acting versions of bupropion. Bupropion also comes in longer-acting forms, including:


(Note: This article refers specifically to the short-acting version of bupropion. For more information on the other forms of bupropion, please see the appropriate articles for such medications within
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Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
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