If you’re experiencing symptoms of ADHD, you might need to be treated with a prescription medication to ease your symptoms. ADHD medications include stimulants, non-stimulants, and antidepressants, including Adderall and Wellbutrin.

While both medications can be used to address symptoms of ADHD, they have a number of core differences. Keep reading to find out what to expect from each medication and see how they compare for treating your mental health concerns.

7 Essential Differences Of Adderall vs Wellbutrin

Adderall Is For ADHD - Wellbutrin Is Mainly For Depression

Adderall’s primary use is for treating ADHD symptoms along with narcolepsy. It’s commonly used as one of the first treatments used for diagnosed ADHD sufferers. It works to address the lack of dopamine that those with ADHD suffer from by stimulating production and limiting reuptake of the essential neurotransmitter.

Wellbutrin has ADHD treatment as an off-label use. Its primary use case is for those suffering from depression and anxiety where it modulates the reuptake of dopamine so that your brain has enough to perform necessary functions. Wellbutrin may be used as the first line of defense for those suffering from comorbid disorders like depression due to its ability to address both ADHD and depression-related symptoms in one mechanism.

Adderall Is A Stimulant - Wellbutrin Is An Antidepressant

As evidenced by its use in treating narcolepsy, Adderall has a pronounced stimulating effect on users. When you take Adderall, it stimulates the central nervous system (CNS) which increases levels of neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine, epinephrine, and serotonin. This combination of neurotransmitters leads to increasing heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure, and cognitive function so that you’re more alert and focused. These effects may also lead to dizziness, heart palpitations, sweating, and even serious effects like seizures when Adderall is abused.

Wellbutrin doesn’t have the same activating effects as Adderall. It helps your brain to be more efficient with managing your existing dopamine rather than producing more, preventing you from experiencing the strong physical sensations of stimulating your CNS. Instead, you’re more likely to experience side effects of antidepressants like nausea, headaches, constipation, and dizziness as your brain reacts to the changes in dopamine levels.

Adderall Increases Dopamine Production - Wellbutrin Inhibits Dopamine Reuptake

ADHD is believed to be a result of low dopamine levels in the brain that inhibits your memory and focus. This deficiency comes as a result of too many dopamine transporters in the brain that reuptake, or remove, dopamine before it can be used by the brain for cognitive function.

Adderall increases the production of dopamine by stimulating the nervous system to provide your brain with more dopamine to use. It also impacts the dopamine transporters’ ability to reuptake, reducing the rate that dopamine is removed to increase concentrations in the brain.

Wellbutrin’s lack of stimulating effects means that it doesn’t increase the production of dopamine. It does regulate the reuptake of dopamine, but this one-sided approach to treatment isn’t as effective at increasing dopamine concentrations in the brain as Adderall is.

Adderall Works Immediately - Wellbutrin Takes Time

Both medications come in fast-release and extended-release versions which impact how long the drug stays in your system, how long the effects will last, and how often they need to be taken.

Adderall is fast-acting because it stimulates the nervous system, creating an increase of different hormones that flood your body. Both fast-acting and extended-release versions release the chemical into your bloodstream which can be felt far more quickly than the subtler effects of dopamine transporter regulation from Wellbutrin.

Instant and extended-release Wellbutrin can take 1-2 weeks to start producing noticeable effects and may take up to 6-8 weeks to feel the full effects of the medication while it works to change your brain chemistry to allow for greater dopamine availability. Its lack of stimulating effects means that you won’t feel instant changes, but you’ll also experience greater stability as the medication regulates in your bloodstream.

Adderall Is A Controlled Substance

A major limiting factor in the use of Adderall to treat ADHD is its classification as a Schedule II controlled substance. Drugs that fall under this classification have special requirements for prescription that must be met before prescription can be written. Specifically, these drugs need to be prescribed by a doctor in your state and require that a patient-physician relationship be established before you can receive Adderall prescriptions online.

Alternatively, Wellbutrin has no restrictions around its prescription.

Adderall Has A Higher Abuse Risk

Adderall’s classification as a Schedule II controlled substance is, in part, due to its high addiction risk. Drugs like Adderall that can increase concentrations of neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine can cause euphoric feelings that can be addictive to users who abuse the drug. Over time, your brain can also get used to the elevated level of different neurotransmitters available to it and modulate its own natural production, causing you to develop a dependency on Adderall to maintain balanced chemical levels in your brain.

Wellbutrin has a lower abuse risk than Adderall because it doesn’t produce the euphoric feeling that stimulants do. However, your body can become dependent on it over time, so it’s important to talk to your doctor before discontinuing it to avoid potential withdrawal.

Adderall Is Used More Often In Children

ADHD is a disorder that is often diagnosed in children and teens, so effective treatment options need to be safe for children to use as well as adults.

Adderall is approved for use in children as young as 3 (instant-release) and 6 (extended-release), making it a versatile option for treating patients of all ages.

Wellbutrin is not approved for use in children and is generally prescribed to young adults, so it’s more likely to be used for late-onset ADHD manifestations.

Settle Adderall vs Wellbutrin With a Licensed Psychiatrist From Done

There are a number of different medications that can be used to treat ADHD. The right option for you will vary based on a number of factors, so it’s essential that you work with a licensed professional to help you create a treatment plan that delivers results.

Done’s team of licensed clinicians will work with you to evaluate your symptoms, create a treatment plan that works for you, and provide ongoing care to make sure your needs are being addressed. 

From initial evaluation to medication management, Done works with you to help treat your ADHD symptoms so that you can live your best life.

Start with a free assessment today.