ADD/ADHD Drug Guide – Part 6

You may have heard of Wellbutrin, a common drug used to treat depression and sometimes, back pain.  However, it has been used on people with ADD/ADHD.  It seems to act as a stimulant and its drug manufacturer says that their research shows it is just as effective as Ritalin.  Many physicians prescribe Wellbutrin if a patient is unable to tolerate other stimulant medications.

Wellbutrin has a chemical structure that is different from all other antidepressant medication.  While other antidepressants target the brain chemical called serotonin, Wellbutrin does not.  Some physicians think this drug is ideal for treating ADHD because they think it may act on the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine.

If your doctor mentions the use of Wellbutrin, you cannot combine it with Strattera.  Other drug interactions include Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs), anticonvulsant medications such as Dilantin and Tegretol, and ulcer medications such as Tagamet.

Not everyone with ADHD will want to try this drug.  If you have a history of anorexia or bulimia, seizures or brain damage, you should avoid it.  Twenty eight percent of people who take Wellbutrin experience a significant weight loss.

Wellbutrin can be used for ADHD, with caution, if you have bipolar disorder, have weight loss associated with depression, kidney disease, liver disease, and are over the age of 60 years.  In addition, you can use this drug even if you are addicted to diet pills, narcotics, stimulants, cocaine, or over-the-counter stimulants.

What about the side effects?

  • restlessness
  • agitation
  • anxiety
  • excessive sweating
  • weight loss, decreased appetite
  • insomnia
  • headache
  • ringing in the ears
  • dry mouth
  • dizziness
  • constipation
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • tremors
  • seizures
  • decreased white blood cell count

Wellbutrin has also been associated with a rapid heart beat, mental confusion, and menstrual complaints.  It’s effects during pregnancy are not well understood, so it is best to steer clear.  And if you are breast feeding, you must know that Wellbutrin does pass into breast milk and can cause a serious reaction in your baby.

Some rare side effects that have been reported include a change in hair color, painful erections, no erections, and unusual ejaculations.  Also, the side effects of Wellbutrin in kids under the age of 18 are not known, so this is not an appropriate treatment for them.

In addition to all of the lovely side effects you have just read about, if that’s not enough to cause you concern, consider the issue of withdrawal from Wellbutrin.  Withdrawal from this drug must be done slowly and under the supervision of a physician.  Suddenly stopping Welbutrin can cause unpleasant and potentially serious side effects.

As I write this, I have to wonder why anyone would turn to medication as a first choice of treatment for ADD/ADHD?  Some drug companies will stress that they must list every side effect possible, but that many hardly ever occur.  That may or may not be true.  Pharmaceutical companies prefer to downplay a drug’s side effects, because of course, they want to sell their drugs!  For example, the makers of Wellbutrin have had numerous lawsuits filed against them by patients and their families who suffered from seizures after taking Wellbutrin.  So just how many of the above side effects are you willing to tolerate?  It ultimately becomes a matter of choosing your ADD/ADHD symptoms or to have other symptoms that can prove to be every bit as disruptive!