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Reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Meanwhile, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders that affects children, and it can last well into adulthood. In 2020, ADHD affected over 360 million adults globally.
If you’re one of the many people who has been diagnosed with one of these conditions, you might wonder about the different treatments for each and whether or not any types of treatment can be used for both.
Wellbutrin and Adderall are two common prescription medications used by healthcare providers to treat anxiety and depressive disorders and ADHD, respectively. But can you use either medication for both conditions?
While there are similarities between these two medications, there are also important differences to know. We go into more detail on everything you need to know about Wellbutrin vs Adderall.
Wellbutrin® is the brand name for bupropion, a prescription-only antidepressant. Wellbutrin is typically sold in a tablet form that works by increasing the activity of natural chemicals called neurotransmitters in the brain.
Along with the Wellbutrin brand, bupropion is also sold under the brand names Wellbutrin SR® and Wellbutrin XL® to treat depression and seasonal affective disorder. Generic bupropion is also used as a medication to help quit smoking.
Wellbutrin prevents your brain from reabsorbing the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine. This can lessen symptoms of depression and anxiety. Because of this, Wellbutrin may also be used to treat anxiety as a result of depression.
Some healthcare providers may also prescribe Wellbutrin off-label as a treatment for ADHD. Although stimulants are the first-line treatment for ADHD symptoms, second-line treatments like Wellbutrin may be more appropriate for some people.
The most common side effects of Wellbutrin include:
Some people also say that Wellbutrin gives them an energy boost. This comes from the increase of dopamine Wellbutrin causes.
As with any medication, Wellbutrin can negatively interact with other drugs, which can be dangerous.
The FDA added a black box warning — the most prominent drug safety warning — to bupropion packaging alerting healthcare providers and patients about potentially dangerous side effects. This is because there are more severe adverse effects that can sometimes occur when taking bupropion, including:
Psychiatric symptoms. Depression itself can raise your risk of suicidality and other serious mental health issues, but in rare cases, antidepressants can too. Mental health issues such as changes in mood, panic attacks and worsening depression or anxiety can all occur with bupropion. Manic episodes can also happen — symptoms include greatly increased energy, severe trouble sleeping, racing thoughts or reckless behavior.
Hypertension. Bupropion can contribute to high blood pressure. Be sure to tell your healthcare provider if you already deal with blood pressure issues before taking bupropion.
Seizures. In rare instances, bupropion can increase your risk for seizures. If you have a history of seizures, be sure to mention it to your healthcare professional.
Wellbutrin comes in the form of an extended-release tablet, meaning the medication is released slowly and remains in the body longer than other medication types. Typically, the recommended starting dosage for Wellbutrin is 200mg per day, with a maximum dosage of 450mg per day. The starting dosage is taken as 100mg twice per day.
Since Wellbutrin can be used for a variety of reasons, the prescribed dosage will vary with each diagnosis.
After three days, your healthcare provider may increase your dosage to 100mg three times daily with at least six hours between each dose. Don’t increase your dosage on your own, as sudden increases can increase the risk of severe side effects.
If you’re prescribed Wellbutrin, make sure to check your medication’s packaging to make sure you know the strength before using the medication.
As with other antidepressants, there is a chance of experiencing withdrawal from Wellbutrin if you suddenly stop taking the medication without tapering. If you want to stop taking Wellbutrin, talk to your healthcare provider first.
Adderall is a brand name for a medication that contains a combination of dextroamphetamine and amphetamine. Most commonly prescribed for ADHD, Adderall can also be used to treat narcolepsy (a sleep disorder that causes excessive daytime tiredness or the sudden need to sleep).
Adderall is a central nervous system stimulant that works to increase the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine and speed up your brain activity. This can help to improve focus, self-control and cognitive function, and treat common ADHD symptoms.
Common side effects of Adderall include:
Loss of appetite
Painful menstrual cramps
Changes in sex drive or sexual performance
Similar to other medications, Adderall can produce more serious side effects. These include:
Heart rhythm problems
Raynaud’s syndrome, a condition where blood flow to fingers, toes, ears or nose is restricted
Psychosis, or hallucinations
It’s possible to become dependent on Adderall or develop an addiction to the medication because of how strong the drug is and how those taking it can easily develop a tolerance. Common signs of an Adderall withdrawal are feeling tired, mentally “foggy,” taking the drug despite knowing it’s causing harm or needing larger doses to feel the effects.
Adderall is available as an immediate-release tablet taken two to three times daily every four to six hours or as a long-acting tablet taken without food upon waking up. If you take Adderall late in the day, you may have trouble falling or staying asleep.
Your healthcare provider will probably start you on a low dosage and increase the dose gradually, no more than once every week.
If you are prescribed Adderall, follow the directions on the packaging closely and ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist any questions you may have.
There is a chance of experiencing withdrawal if you suddenly stop taking Adderall, so talk to your doctor before discontinuing use.
When it comes to Wellbutrin vs Adderall, these two medications do have some similarities, including that they both affect the brain’s supply of norepinephrine and dopamine.
One of the other main similarities between Wellbutrin and Adderall is that they can both be used to treat ADHD.
While Adderall is prescribed more often for ADHD treatment, it’s not always effective for everyone. Research has shown that 20 percent of people don’t respond to stimulants as treatment for ADHD.
But because of how Wellbutrin works to increase norepinephrine, our body’s “fight or flight” response to anxiety triggers, it can be energizing or motivating to those with ADHD or depression.
So, your doctor may consider prescribing Wellbutrin if you can’t handle the side effects of stimulants, they don’t manage your ADHD symptoms or you have an underlying medical condition that could be affected by stimulants.
In small, randomized clinical trials that included over 400 adults, it was found that long-acting forms of Wellbutrin resulted in significant improvements in ADHD symptoms.
Some studies also suggest stimulants may be used as an off-label treatment for depression, as they can provide immediate alertness, energy and attention. However Adderall can cause depression if misused or taken without a prescription.
Although they share some qualities, there are several differences between Wellbutrin and Adderall.
Wellbutrin is an antidepressant prescribed typically for depression and anxiety while Adderall is a stimulant most often prescribed for ADHD.
And although there has been some evidence that Wellbutrin can be useful for ADHD, one small study showed that Wellbutrin may have a minimal effect on ADHD symptoms.
While Adderall can be taken as either an immediate-release tablet or extended-release tablet, the drug leaves your body faster than Wellbutrin, which builds up over a few weeks. This means Adderall works quickly to affect ADHD symptoms while Wellbutrin can take several days to produce benefits.
As a norepinephrine–dopamine reuptake inhibitor (NDRI), Wellbutrin is effective in combating fatigue.Studies have shown that people taking Wellbutrin are less likely to experience drowsiness than those taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) for depression and anxiety. But despite that, Wellbutrin is not considered a stimulant like Adderall is.
Another important question to know the answer to: can you take Wellbutrin and Adderall together?
While both of these medications can be used to help manage ADHD, they have different functions. Some people take both and experience positive effects while others do not find the combination helpful.
Because everybody is different, with different symptoms, you should talk to your healthcare provider before taking Adderall alongside Wellbutrin.
So to answer the question of Wellbutrin vs Adderall: they have some similarities, but they’re not the same, and which one you should take depends on what condition you need to treat.
Does Wellbutrin give you energy? Wellbutrin works to increase the levels of neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine in your brain, which can give some people a boost of energy.
But is Wellbutrin a stimulant like Adderall? No, Wellbutrin is technically classified as an antidepressant.
Comparing Wellbutrin vs Adderall is difficult because ultimately they are in different classes of drugs and have different purposes.
It’s essential to know the difference between these medications and what they can be used to treat.
Medication isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, and your diagnosis or symptoms may change over time as well. When trying to find the right medication, sometimes it’s important to try different ones because things change.
A healthcare professional will both recommend and prescribe the right treatment option for you.
Conditions such as depression and ADHD aren’t one-size-fits-all issues — they can be hyper-individualized and can happen simultaneously.
A great first step to take in treating depression or other issues is talking to someone — which you can do by scheduling a telepsychiatry evaluation today.
Start your mental wellness journey today.