Wellbutrin is one of the most popular drugs to treat depression, but it comes in two versions— Wellbutrin SR and Wellbutrin XL—that are not interchangeable. They actually have different strengths, uses and side effects.
Here’s what you need to know.
What are Wellbutrin SR and Wellbutrin XL?
Both Wellbutrin SR and Wellbutrin XL are antidepressants used to help improve mood by increasing the amount of “feel good” chemicals, norepinephrine and dopamine, in the body. In addition to treating depression, Wellbutrin XL is also for preventing seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Wellbutrin SR is the sustained-release version, whereas Wellbutrin XL is the extended-release version. Both Wellbutrin SR and XR come in affordable generic versions. The generic for Wellbutrin SR is bupropion SR, and the generic for Wellbutrin XL is bupropion XL.
XL versions dissolve more slowly than SR versions, so Wellbutrin and bupropion XL are taken only once a day while Wellbutrin or bupropion SR often need to be taken twice a day. All of these products need a prescription, and the prescription must note which version you need. If not, your pharmacist will likely question it.
Forms and strengths
Wellbutrin XL, Wellbutrin SR and their respective generics come in different forms and strengths. And because they dissolve in the body at different speeds, they are prescribed differently.
- Wellbutrin SR and bupropion SR: 100 mg, 150 mg, 200 mg
- Wellbutrin XL and bupropion XL: 150 mg, 300 mg
Patients are instructed to take Wellbutrin SR and XL according to the following dosing instructions, with or without food. Tablets should be swallowed whole and should not be crushed, split or chewed.
Typical starting doses:
- Wellbutrin SR and bupropion SR: 150 mg once a day
- Wellbutrin XL and bupropion XL: 150 mg once a day
Typical maintenance doses:
- Wellbutrin SR and bupropion SR: 300 mg per day given as 150 mg tablets twice daily
- Wellbutrin XL and bupropion XL: 300 mg once a day
Maximum recommended daily doses:
- Wellbutrin XL and bupropion XL: 400 mg per day
- Wellbutrin SR and bupropion SR: 400 mg per day
Common side effects
Wellbutrin XL and SR have mostly similar side effects. Their common side effects include diarrhea, agitation, constipation, sore throat, dizziness insomnia, dry mouth, anxiety, stomach pain, tremor, palpitation, muscle pain, sweating and rash.
But here’s where their side effects differ: Unlike Wellbutrin XL, Wellbutrin SR and its generic can cause ringing in the ears. And unlike Wellbutrin SR, Wellbutrin XL and its generic can affect urinary frequency.
Both Wellbutrin SR and XL have a black box warning, which is the strongest warning assigned by the FDA, due to an increased risk for suicide in patients taking these drugs.
How much do Wellbutrin SR and XL cost?
Since both Wellbutrin XL and SR come in generic versions, they are affordable. Bupropion SR and XL both cost around $20 for a monthly supply with a GoodRx coupon.
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