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Reconsidering Bupropion in the Treatment of Eating Disorders: Is it Worth a Second Look?

Updated: Jan 24


In recent years, there has been considerable debate among medical professionals regarding the use of Bupropion (an antidepressant) in the treatment of eating disorders, especially bulimia nervosa. Concerns about the risk of seizures associated with Bubropion have limited its usage in this patient population. However, newer research and a closer examination of the available data raise questions about whether Bupropion should be condemned for use in eating disorders. This article aims to re-evaluate the risks and benefits of Bupropion in treating eating disorders, shedding light on potential merits that were overlooked for years.

A Historical Perspective on Bupropion:

Bupropion, the first "second-generation" antidepressant, was introduced in 1985 but was quickly discontinued due to reports of an increased risk of seizures, particularly in patients with bulimia nervosa. However, subsequent studies utilizing different dosages and formulations of Bupropion have not demonstrated the same heightened seizure risk as the initial studies, emphasizing the importance of reassessing its safety in present-day clinical practice.

The Current Safety Profile:

Through a comprehensive meta-analysis, it is evident that the incidence of seizures associated with Bupropion is relatively low, comparable to other commonly prescribed antidepressants. The incidence of seizures due to Bupropion is approximately 0.4%, equivalent to 1 per 2500 patients, a number not dissimilar to the acceptable risk associated with other medications routinely prescribed in clinical practice.

Implications for Eating Disorders:

Despite a lack of recent studies specifically evaluating Bupropion's use in eating disorders, it is important to note that the existing data primarily focus on a now-discontinued form and dosage of the medication. Modern clinical practice commonly prescribes extended-release Bupropion at lower doses, minimizing the risk of seizures. The potential benefits of Bupropion in eating disorders, especially when paired with adjunctive medications like Naltrexone for addiction management, warrant further investigation.

Addressing Co-morbidities:

Eating disorders often coexist with conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and major depressive disorder (MDD). While stimulant medications are frequently used to address ADHD symptoms, and SSRIs and SNRIs are commonly employed for MDD, the response in eating disorder patients is often suboptimal, necessitating additional medications. Bupropion, with its structural similarities to amphetamines, has shown efficacy in managing ADHD symptoms and may offer unique advantages in the treatment of eating disorders not observed with other medications commonly prescribed.

A Potential Paradigm Shift:

It is imperative to re-evaluate our stance on Bupropion in the management of eating disorders. By considering the psychological and addictive components of eating disorders, Bupropion's potential as a treatment option alongside psychotherapy should not be dismissed. Pairing Bupropion with Naltrexone, as demonstrated in recent research on methamphetamine abuse, may offer a novel and promising approach to temporarily treat eating disorders, potentially reducing the need for multiple medications.


With a better understanding of Bupropion's safety profile and the limited data available, it is time to reconsider the potential benefits this medication can offer in the treatment of eating disorders. The modern usage of lower-dose extended-release formulations of Bupropion reduces the seizure risk significantly. Further research is needed to explore the specific applications and efficacy of Bupropion for eating disorders. As we strive for more effective and tailored treatment options, our approach should embrace the possibility that Bupropion, when used judiciously and alongside appropriate therapies, may hold promise in improving the lives of individuals with eating disorders.


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