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Bupropion Alternatives

Last Updated on June 7, 2021 by Carol Gillette

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Alternative to Meds Editorial Team
Written by Diane Ridaeus Published Sep 16, 2018
Medically Reviewed by Dr Samuel Lee MD

Did you know there are many drug-free bupropion alternatives? We continue to be surprised at how few prescribing physicians have learned about these non-toxic and effective treatments.

Did you know that there are medical and physical causes of depression? Such as hormones, vitamin/mineral deficiencies, poor diet, adrenal fatigue, environmental toxins, and many others? Medication can’t fix poor nutrition or your off-gassing furniture.

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Our published evidence demonstrates that over 77% of people who tapered off and discontinued antidepressants in our program along with alternative strategies perform better in terms of fewer symptoms, brighter mood, better sleep, and many other improvements. A pill and a label and a fistful of side effects just can’t compete with that. Find out how our antidepressant alternatives programs may be helpful for you or a loved one who wants to get free of prescription drugs.
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At Alternative to Meds Center, we provide bupropion alternatives and treatment methods that can help you live a life free from antidepressants and their associated side effects.

What is Bupropion?

Although bupropion is classified as antidepressant medication, it is quite different from many other antidepressants on the market. Since its release in 1989, Bupropion’s pharmacological effects have been demonstrated in clinical trials on mice, rats, and in vitro, as a dual norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitor, without significantly affecting serotonin. The classification for this type of drug is NDRI — norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitor.5,6

Compared to other types of antidepressants, bupropion is considered less likely to produce side effects such as weight gain, sedation, and sexual dysfunction. However, according to Pompili et al in their massive review of all available literature from 1965 to 2010 on the subject of suicide risks and medications, published in Pharmaceuticals Journal, the risks of suicide and worsening depression are generally no different than other AD medications including SSRIs, SNRIs, NDRIs, tricyclics, or anti-anxiety medications on the market today. All of these drug classes have black boxes for suicide risk and worsening psychiatric symptoms.5,9,10

Bupropion is sold under the name Wellbutrin© with additional extended-release and sustained release versions. Immediate release is typically prescribed 3X daily, sustained-release 2X daily, and extended-release would be prescribed once daily.5,8

Though FDA bupropion approval is limited to the treatment of MDD or major depressive disorder, physicians also prescribe bupropion “off-label” for insomnia, anxiety, SAD (seasonal affective disorder — depression that is active during fall and winter months, especially in colder climates), and a variety of other uses. While bupropion under the brand name Wellbutrin is not approved for smoking cessation, bupropion sold under the name Zyban© has been FDA-approved specifically for smoking cessation, though neither drugmakers, drug researchers, nor the FDA claim to know or can explain how bupropion would actually work in this regard.13 As a note, the black box warning for suicide risk and worsening psychiatric symptoms also applies to Zyban.7,10

What Are the Bupropion Alternatives?

Natural Alternatives to Prescription DrugsIn conventional medicine, “alternative” antidepressants most often mean trying a different one when the first, second, or third antidepressant is not working.11

There is also a chance a physician or psychiatrist may recommend inducing major motor seizures with electroshock therapy if trial and error drug prescribing does not work.14 At one time, ECT was considered a “last resort” treatment only recommended when drugs did not do the job. Perhaps this was due to brain hemorrhages, memory impairments, and other neuronal damage associated with ECT.17,18 According to an exhaustive review of the medical literature regarding antidepressant efficacy, we find Kirsch et al’s infamous study16 which concludes antidepressants do not work better than placebo when applying strictly clinical standards of measurement, as well as the review by Penn et al which comes to the same conclusion in most respects, but argues that even if the effect is placebo-generated, does it really matter?15 One wonders if the contemporary rise in popularity in prescribing ECT might be due to the documented dismal success rates and drug-induced injuries associated with psychiatric drugs?

According to research done by Keks et al, up to two-thirds of patients diagnosed with MDD fail to respond to the first AD prescribed. Three-quarters of those patients who switched drugs also fail to achieve results with the second AD. This process of switching antidepressants can go on for quite some time. When a person decides to quit antidepressants after 6 weeks or more, antidepressant withdrawals can be expected, whether the drug proved helpful or not.12

At Alternative to Meds Center, we are focused on providing safer, natural alternatives to treat depression that are effective, but not harmful. Clients who come to Alternative to Meds Center are generally looking for two forms of help. One is to ease withdrawals during cessation from drugs such as bupropion and another is to improve their mental health naturally through the use of non-drug-based alternatives to get rid of the symptoms that led to prescription medication in the first place. Bupropion alternatives provide effective help on both counts.

Natural Remedies for Treating Depression

Our treatment center offers comprehensive programs to help individuals who are looking for bupropion alternative treatments and relief from original symptoms using non-drug-based treatments.

The first step is using lab testing and other assessments, discovering the real underlying medical reasons why a person is depressed, suffering insomnia, anxiety, or whatever combination of symptoms is occurring.

Ours is a logical sequence of actions. Once we have an understanding of the root causes, we’ve often found that environment, nutrition, and lifestyle changes are key.

Alternatives to bupropion for depression include:

  • Exercising 19
  • Test for food allergies and adjust the diet accordingly 30
  • Bright Light Therapy 3
  • Eating a nutrient-dense, clean, diet 20-22
  • Vitamin & nutritional supplement therapy, vitamin D, B vitamins, prebiotics, probiotics, etc.23-25
  • Acupuncture, Qigong, traditional Chinese therapies 26
  • Relaxation therapies that minimize stress, i.e., art therapy, yoga, massage
  • Talk therapy, other genres of counseling* 1-4
  • Cleanse toxic accumulations out of the body 27-29

*Studies such as DeRubeis et al’s as published in Nature Reviews Neuroscience1 have shown that counseling gets the same or even better results than medication in treating depression, especially when comparing long-term success.

Natural Alternatives to Bupropion

Behavioral therapists help individuals to learn how they can unlearn the thought and behavioral patterns that contribute to, result from, or cause their depression. Bupropion is FDA-approved to treat MDD, or major depressive disorders, but side effects while taking the medication could make this an unsatisfactory treatment option. Unwanted side effects are the most common reason for discontinuing the medication. Many are simply looking for a more natural way to maintain mental health. Luckily, there are a number of Wellbutrin alternatives that often prove to be highly effective.

Is Bupropion Really Needed?

bupropion alternativesAs mentioned earlier, the most common alternatives suggested in conventional medicine will likely substitute a different prescription drug. So what are the other bupropion alternative natural approaches that do not involve chemically made prescription meds? First of all, people are often put on antidepressants prior to there being substantial investigative efforts to figure out why they have developed depression, anxiety, insomnia, or other problematic symptoms. Are they really just chemically imbalanced in their brain and there are no other reasons why they are depressed? What if they have low thyroid? 32 What if they have accumulated environmental neurotoxins that need clearing out, for example, toxic heavy metals that can damage energy metabolism? Colon hydrotherapy, nebulized glutathione are very often therapeutic. The person might have a diet so nutritionally poor that they are unable to produce what’s required for optimal brain health. Food allergies in which internal swelling slows down metabolism can also play a causal factor.30,31

There is a reason for symptoms to suddenly or gradually appear. We will do everything we can to search out the root causes and resolve them in drug-free, holistic, evidence-based ways.

Alternative to Meds Center Is Licensed to Treat Mental Health

The Alternative to Meds Center drug treatment program focuses on discovering the medical reasons that may be contributing to a person’s depression, anxiousness, or insomnia. Our bupropion alternative medicine program uses lab testing, natural substances to stabilize the neurochemistry, cessation from neurotoxins that have been environmentally accumulated, careful medication withdrawal techniques, peer support, targeted nutritional therapy, amino therapy, massage therapy, personal exercise training, yoga, and other natural therapies to help combat depression.3,4

We urge you to contact us for more information about these types of therapies. We combine these with identifying and treating the root causes of why the individual originally became depressed. We have proven that drug-free bupropion alternatives are safer to use, and can create success that is long-lasting.

Want to learn more about bupropion side effects, withdrawal and FAQs? Continue reading here.


1. DeRubeis R, et al., “Cognitive therapy vs. medications for depression: Treatment outcomes and neural mechanisms.” Nat Rev Neurosci [Internet] 2008 Sept 11 [cited 2021 Jun 8] PMID 18784657 [cited 2021 Jun 8]

2. Anthes E, “Depression: A change of mind.” Nature 2014 Nov [cited 2021 Jun 8]] PMID25391944 [cited 2021 Jun 8]

3. Cunningham JStamp J, Shapiro C, “Sleep and major depressive disorder: a review of non-pharmacological chrontherapeutic treatments for unipolar depression.” Science Direct [online] Sleep Medicine Vol 61 Sept 2019 [cited 2021 Jun 8]

4. Tang TZ, Rubeis R, et al., “Cognitive changes, critical sessions and sudden gains in cognitive-behavioral therapy for depression.” Consult Clin Psychol [Internet] 2005 Feb [cited 2020 Nov 6] PMID 15709844  [cited 2021 Jun 8]

5. FDA drug label Wellbutrin (bupropion) [cited 2021 Jun 8]

6. Stahl SM, Pradko JF, Haight BR, Modell JG, Rockett CB, Learned-Coughlin S. A Review of the Neuropharmacology of Bupropion, a Dual Norepinephrine and Dopamine Reuptake Inhibitor. Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry. 2004;6(4):159-166. doi:10.4088/pcc.v06n0403 [cited 2021 Jun 8]

7. FDA Label Zyban (bupropion hydrochloride [online] 2011 [ cited 2021 Jun 8]

8. Fava M, Rush AJ, Thase ME, et al. 15 years of clinical experience with bupropion HCl: from bupropion to bupropion SR to bupropion XL. Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry. 2005;7(3):106-113. doi:10.4088/pcc.v07n0305 [cited 2021 Jun 8]

9. Pompili M, Serafini G, Innamorati M, et al. Antidepressants and Suicide Risk: A Comprehensive Overview. Pharmaceuticals (Basel). 2010;3(9):2861-2883. Published 2010 Aug 30. doi:10.3390/ph3092861 [cited 2021 Jun 8]

10. Leon AC. The revised warning for antidepressants and suicidality: unveiling the black box of statistical analyses. Am J Psychiatry. 2007 Dec;164(12):1786-9. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2007.07050775. PMID: 18056231. [cited 2021 Jun 8]

11. Keks N, Hope J, Keogh S. Switching and stopping antidepressantsAust Prescr. 2016;39(3):76-83. doi:10.18773/austprescr.2016.039  [cited 2021 Jun 8]

12. Haddad PM. Antidepressant discontinuation syndromes. Drug Saf. 2001;24(3):183-97. doi: 10.2165/00002018-200124030-00003. PMID: 11347722. [cited 2021 Jun 8]

13. Ascher JA, Cole JO, Colin JN, Feighner JP, Ferris RM, Fibiger HC, Golden RN, Martin P, Potter WZ, Richelson E, et al. Bupropion: a review of its mechanism of antidepressant activity. J Clin Psychiatry. 1995 Sep;56(9):395-401. PMID: 7665537. [cited 2021 Jun 8]

14. Thase ME, Rush AJ. When at first you don’t succeed: sequential strategies for antidepressant nonresponders. J Clin Psychiatry. 1997;58 Suppl 13:23-9. PMID: 9402916. [cited 2021 Jun 8]

15. Penn E, Tracy DK. The drugs don’t work? antidepressants and the current and future pharmacological management of depressionTher Adv Psychopharmacol. 2012;2(5):179-188. doi:10.1177/2045125312445469 [cited 2021 Jun 8]

16. Kirsch I, Deacon BJ, Huedo-Medina TB, Scoboria A, Moore TJ, Johnson BT. Initial severity and antidepressant benefits: a meta-analysis of data submitted to the Food and Drug Administration. PLoS Med. 2008 Feb;5(2):e45. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.0050045. PMID: 18303940; PMCID: PMC2253608. [cited 2021 Jun 8]

17. Krystal AD, Coffey CE, “Neuropsychiatric Considerations in the Use of Electroconvulsive Therapy.”  Neuropsychiatric Practice and Opinion, Journal of Neuropsychiatry [online]Volume 9 No 2 Spring 1997 [cited 2021 Jun 8]

18. Sterling, P. ECT damage is easy to find if you look for itNature 403, 242 (2000). https://doi.org/10.1038/35002188 [cited 2021 Jun 8]

19. Belvederi Murri M, Ekkekakis P, Magagnoli M, et al. Physical Exercise in Major Depression: Reducing the Mortality Gap While Improving Clinical Outcomes. Front Psychiatry. 2019;9:762. Published 2019 Jan 10. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00762  [cited 2021 Jun 8] 

20. LaChance LR, Ramsey D. Antidepressant foods: An evidence-based nutrient profiling system for depression. World J Psychiatry. 2018;8(3):97-104. Published 2018 Sep 20. doi:10.5498/wjp.v8.i3.97 [cited 2021 Jun 8] 

21. Huang Q, Liu H, Suzuki K, Ma S, Liu C. Linking What We Eat to Our Mood: A Review of Diet, Dietary Antioxidants, and DepressionAntioxidants (Basel). 2019;8(9):376. Published 2019 Sep 5. doi:10.3390/antiox8090376

22. Xia Y, Wang N, Yu B, Zhang Q, Liu L, Meng G, Wu H, Du H, Shi H, Guo X, Liu X, Li C, Han P, Dong R, Wang X, Bao X, Su Q, Gu Y, Fang L, Yu F, Yang H, Kang L, Ma Y, Sun S, Wang X, Zhou M, Jia Q, Guo Q, Wu Y, Song K, Niu K. Dietary patterns are associated with depressive symptoms among Chinese adults: a case-control study with propensity score matching. Eur J Nutr. 2017 Dec;56(8):2577-2587. doi: 10.1007/s00394-016-1293-y. Epub 2016 Aug 19. PMID: 27543189. [cited 2021 Jun 8]

23. Firth J, Teasdale SB, Allott K, et al. The efficacy and safety of nutrient supplements in the treatment of mental disorders: a meta-review of meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials. World Psychiatry. 2019;18(3):308-324. doi:10.1002/wps.20672 [cited 2021 Jun 8]

24. Hoffmann K, Emons B, Brunnhuber S, Karaca S, Juckel G. The Role of Dietary Supplements in Depression and Anxiety – A Narrative Review. Pharmacopsychiatry. 2019 Nov;52(6):261-279. doi: 10.1055/a-0942-1875. Epub 2019 Jul 8. PMID: 31284313. [cited 2021 Jun 8]

25. Martínez-Cengotitabengoa M, González-Pinto A. Nutritional supplements in depressive disorders. Actas Esp Psiquiatr. 2017 Sep;45(Supplement):8-15. Epub 2017 Sep 1. PMID: 29171639. [cited 2021 Jun 8]

26. Matos LC, Machado JP, Monteiro FJ, Greten HJ. Understanding Traditional Chinese Medicine Therapeutics: An Overview of the Basics and Clinical Applications. Healthcare (Basel). 2021;9(3):257. Published 2021 Mar 1. doi:10.3390/healthcare9030257 [cited 2021 Jun 8]

27. Orisakwe OE. The role of lead and cadmium in psychiatry. N Am J Med Sci. 2014;6(8):370-376. doi:10.4103/1947-2714.139283. [cited 2021 Jun 8]

28. Maximino C, Araujo J, Leão LK, Grisolia AB, Oliveira KR, Lima MG, Batista Ede J, Crespo-López ME, Gouveia A Jr, Herculano AM. Possible role of serotoninergic system in the neurobehavioral impairment induced by acute methylmercury exposure in zebrafish (Danio rerio). Neurotoxicol Teratol. 2011 Nov-Dec;33(6):727-34. doi: 10.1016/j.ntt.2011.08.006. Epub 2011 Aug 18. PMID: 21871955. [cited 2021 Jun 8]

29. Organophosphate Toxicity StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-. Erika L. Robb; Mari B. Baker. [cited 2021 Jun 8]

30. Goodwin RD, Rodgin S, Goldman R, Rodriguez J, deVos G, Serebrisky D, Feldman JM. Food Allergy and Anxiety and Depression among Ethnic Minority Children and Their Caregivers. J Pediatr. 2017 Aug;187:258-264.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2017.04.055. Epub 2017 Jun 5. PMID: 28595764. [cited 2021 Jun 8]

31. Quigley J, Sanders GM. Food Allergy in Patients Seeking Mental Health Care: What the Practicing Psychiatrist Should Know. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2017 Oct 30;19(12):99. doi: 10.1007/s11920-017-0849-8. PMID: 29086043. [cited 2021 Jun 8]

32. Hage MP, Azar ST. The Link between Thyroid Function and DepressionJ Thyroid Res. 2012;2012:590648. doi:10.1155/2012/590648 [cited 2021 Jun 8]



This content has been reviewed and approved by a licensed physician.

Dr. Samuel Lee

Dr. Samuel Lee is a board-certified psychiatrist, specializing in a spiritually-based mental health discipline and integrative approaches. He graduated with an MD at Loma Linda University School of Medicine and did a residency in psychiatry at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle. He has also been an inpatient adult psychiatrist at Kaweah Delta Mental Health Hospital and the primary attending geriatric psychiatrist at the Auerbach Inpatient Psychiatric Jewish Home Hospital. In addition, he served as the general adult outpatient psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente.  He is board-certified in psychiatry and neurology and has a B.A. Magna Cum Laude in Religion from Pacific Union College. His specialty is in natural healing techniques that promote the body’s innate ability to heal itself.

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Bupropion Alternatives
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Nothing on this Website is intended to be taken as medical advice. The information provided on the website is intended to encourage, not replace, direct patient-health professional relationships. Always consult with your doctor before altering your medications. Adding nutritional supplements may alter the effect of medication. Any medication changes should be done only after proper evaluation and under medical supervision.

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