Does Wellbutrin help with autism? (+3 approaches)
In this brief article, we aim to provide an accurate and informative overview of Wellbutrin’s role in autism treatment. Research and study results will be discussed. We will also mention other approved and licensed medications for autism and explore other important approaches that can aid Wellbutrin in the treatment of autism.
Does Wellbutrin help with autism?
Yes, Wellbutrin helps with autism. Wellbutrin is primarily prescribed as an antidepressant and smoking cessation aid. It is not specifically approved for the treatment of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
However, Wellbutrin has shown its effectiveness in treating hyperactivity and attention symptoms in autistic patients.
Wellbutrin is mostly used in the case of autism spectrum disorder (ASD )to manage the symptoms of depression, anxiety, aggression and hyperactivity. Wellbutrin can be used as a complementary treatment along with stimulants for managing autism.
What does the research suggest?
Research suggests that the effectiveness of Wellbutrin for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in managing core symptoms is not well-established.
On the other hand, Wellbutrin is typically used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) to improve impulsivity, attention and overexcitation. Research indicates that Wellbutrin is effective in treating depression symptoms and ADHD symptoms in autistic children.
According to The American Journal of Psychiatry, Wellbutrin is considered to be a second-line agent for treating ADHD.
Clinical trials show that Wellbutrin at a dose of up to 6 mg/kg per day is effective in treating ADHD symptoms in the youth population. Otherwise, studies up to date on Wellbutrin show that it does not interfere in the treatment of autism spectrum disorder. (1,2)
How does Wellbutrin work to help with autism?
Wellbutrin increases the levels of norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain. These neurotransmitters play an important role in mood, motivation and attention.
Individuals with autism have low levels of norepinephrine and dopamine which contribute to symptoms such as difficulty paying attention, social withdrawal and repetitive behavior. Wellbutrin helps individuals improve focus and concentration and treat depressive symptoms and lack of energy.
Moreover, Wellbutrin shows potential improvements in social interactions and communication skills. As a result, Wellbutrin can be an important part of a comprehensive treatment plan for autism. (2)
Potential side effects of Wellbutrin when used for ASD symptoms
Wellbutrin alters the balance of neurotransmitters in the brain and its side effects can impact autistic individuals differently. Possible side effects of Wellbutrin in autistic patients can include:
- Seizures: Wellbutrin is an activating medication that has a risk of causing seizures. Individuals with autism already have a high risk of seizures so Wellbutrin must be carefully given to them.
- Sleep disturbances: Wellbutrin alters the sleep pattern, leading to difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep.
- Appetite changes: It can potentially cause increased or decreased appetite.
- Behavioral changes: Using Wellbutrin, individuals may experience changes and improvement in behavior, mood or emotions. However, this also could cause increased agitation and restlessness.
- Gastrointestinal issues: Common side effects include nausea, vomiting and stomach pain. It can also rarely cause heartburn. (2)
Wellbutrin and other interventions in the treatment of ASD
Although Wellbutrin alone is effective in treating impulsivity, hyperactivity and anxiety in autistic patients, other complementary treatments are needed to manage all the other aspects of Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Treatments vary depending on the individual’s needs and strengths. There are other important psychosocial and pharmacological interventions that must be considered such as:
- Applied Behavior Analysis ( ABA): It’s a type of therapy that is specialized for teaching autistic individuals new skills and behaviors.
- Speech therapy: It helps to improve communication skills, such as expressing emotions, taking/giving feedback, active listening, etc.
- Occupational therapy: For the improvement of motor skills, sensory processing and self-care skills.
- Other medications: Medications approved for the treatment of irritability associated with autism include risperidone, aripiprazole and clozapine.
- Social skills training: It’s helpful to train autistic individuals on how to interact with other people in a positive and appropriate way. (3,4)
To sum up, Wellbutrin helps with autism by treating depressive symptoms, impulsivity and hyperactivity associated with it.
Other complementary treatments are needed to ensure the best therapeutic effect. It’s crucial to note that constant follow-up and supervision by a healthcare provider are always needed to assess the situation and identify the progress and the challenges.
Was this helpful?
Alsayouf HA, Talo H, Biddappa ML, Qasaymeh M, Qasem S, De Los Reyes E. Pharmacological Intervention in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder with Standard Supportive Therapies Significantly Improves Core Signs and Symptoms: A Single-Center, Retrospective Case Series. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2020 Nov 16;16:2779-2794.
LeClerc S, Easley D. Pharmacological therapies for autism spectrum disorder: a review. P T. 2015 Jun;40(6):389-97
Lerner MD, White SW, McPartland JC. Mechanisms of change in psychosocial interventions for autism spectrum disorders. Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2012 Sep;14(3):307-18.