Can Wellbutrin improve sexual functioning?

Wellbutrin is in a class of drugs known as serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, or NSRI. It is commonly prescribed as an anti-depressant and well known as a drug that can help people stop smoking. Simply speaking, Wellbutrin works by raising dopamine levels. What many people don’t know is that dopamine levels are closely linked to arousal and orgasm; by increasing dopamine levels arousal and orgasm response may be enhanced in some patients.

The sexual side effects of antidepressants like Zoloft and Prozac — the class of drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRI — are well known. The drugs frequently cause diminished libido, erectile dysfunction in men, and delayed orgasm or an inability to climax at all in women. The same flooding of the brain with serotonin that alleviates depression leads to negative sexual effects in many patients.

Several small studies have shown that Wellbutrin can improve sexual functioning. One of the first studies was performed in 1987 by Theresa Crenshaw, MD (now retired) and was published in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy. 60 men and women suffering from low libido, arousal and orgasm were either given a placebo or Wellbutrin. She expected the placebo group to improve a little and the Wellbutrin group to get worse. However she found that an astonishing 63% of the study participants reported an improvement in sexual functioning. Since then numerous studies have shown similar results; from the research I reviewed I would say on average 40-60% of participants in these studies reported improvement of sexual functioning.

All medications come with some risk of side effects. Some of the most common side effects reported with Wellbutrin include agitation/anxiety, tremor, insomnia, vivid dreams and appetite suppression. These side effects may resolve after a couple of weeks. Wellbutrin is contraindicated in patients with seizure disorders.

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